Monday, December 7, 2009

Human Side of Disaster

The current issue of the Disaster and Social Crisis Research Network Electronic Newsletter has just been released. It is edited by Eduardo Runte, a former graduate student in Sociology at UNB whose MA thesis dealt with the experiences of electrical linemen during the ice storm of 1998. Eduardo is now in the PhD program at the Ecole des Mines in Paris. The contents of his thesis are summarized here and a description of his PhD work, dealing with the social processes involved in the creation of safety, can be found here.

The newsletter has a blurb for a new book by Thomas Drabek, The Human Side of Disaster, which it describes as follows:

When disaster strikes, people react, and usually, fear levels rise. Temporarily, however, one motivation supersedes all others: survival of self and those nearby, especially loved ones. Based on the author’s years of research and teaching experience, The Human Side of Disaster scientifically evaluates human responses in the face of disasters. This examination informs emergency managers and response teams and teaches them how to anticipate human behaviors in-crisis.

The book begins with four scenarios based on interviews and real events that introduce the human side of disaster. The stories examine how attention to, or lack of, preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation affect outcomes. Each subsequent chapter refers back to the original Experiences chapter and provides insights that can be applied not only to events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods, but also to man-made threats including industrial accidents and acts of terrorism. The author explores how people’s responses can be predicted, the long term effects of disaster on the psyche, and the key issues involved in recovery.

A balanced interpretation of research, results, and experience, the book demonstrates how traditional warning methods and high-tech systems can work together to improve communications, evacuations, and reconstruction efforts. It highlights the role of the human element in any disaster situation and demonstrates how to use that element as part of a planned disaster response.

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