Browsing Disaster Research Center by Author "Barnshaw, John"
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ItemThe Characteristics of Catastrophes and Their Social Evolution: An Exploratory Analysis of Implications for Crisis Policies and Emergency Management Procedures(Disaster Research Center, 2008) Barnshaw, John; Letukas, Lynn; Quarantelli, E. L.Disaster and crisis researchers and theorists have struggled for more than half a century trying to define and conceptualize their central object of study. The very first team of social science “disaster” researchers was put together in 1950 at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. One of its first collective products was a definition of “disaster”. It came to be known as the Fritz definition, named after the original writer of the concept. It advanced the notion that a disaster was an event concentrated in time and space, in which a society or one its subdivisions undergo physical harm and social disruption, such that all or some essential functions are impaired (Fritz, 1961 although his earliest written versions go as far back as Fritz, Gorden, Krauss and Quarantelli, 1950; Fritz, 1952). The definition was widely used in the literature (and still is to some extent even today), but by the 1970s it started to be modified as well as replaced by other formulations (see Quarantelli, 1982 for seven different major conceptions that had emerged by the early 1980s; see also Perry, 2007 for a very good and up-to-date discussion of changes in the current conceptualization of the term “disaster”). One of the earliest and ever present criticism was that while there always has been an implicit recognition that the term was used to cover a wide range of phenomena, there nevertheless had been a strong tendency to label everything within that range, “disasters” (see examples by different theorists in Quarantelli, 1998; Cutter, 2002; Perry and Quarantelli, 2005). However, in recent years, there has been an increasing explicit call to separate out everyday disasters from mega disasters or catastrophes. Any even rather surface observation will, for example, conclude that a tornado which only impacts a single neighborhood in a metropolitan area is simply a qualitatively different social phenomenon than a tsunami such as the one in 2004 in the Indian Ocean that impacted hundreds of communities in at least a dozen nation states that were thousands of miles apart. The need to develop a meaningful distinction has not only been pushed by theorists interested in researching disasters, but also by operational personnel, emergency planners and management trainers in educational institutions (e.g., in March 2008 the FEMA National Training Center at Emmitsburg developed a course for its own use on Catastrophe Readiness and Response where the first session was entitled “Definitions, Background and Differences Between Disasters and Catastrophes”, see Blanchard, 2008). The Public Entity Risk Institute published in 2008 the proceedings of an earlier conference where experts from industry wrote papers on what had been learned for practice and teaching from the Hurricane Katrina mega disaster (see PERI, 2008). In addition, from a policy viewpoint, that hurricane became the subject of numerous US Congressional hearings which struggled to try and see in what way that occasion was different from prior collective crises that had affected American society. For example, the US House Homeland Security Committee concluded that the Department of Homeland Security had strengthened the wrong policy of federalizing the response to a possible “major U.S. catastrophe” (McNeil, 2008:1). Outside of the United States, reconsideration of what might be new was also triggered by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which led many bureaucratic and governmental leaders elsewhere in the world to ask whether different crisis management policies needed to be considered (it did lead to the initiation of a multi-nation Indian Ocean tsunami warning system similar to what has existed for decades in the Pacific, modifications in the national warning system in Japan for tsunami, and changes in planning in some European countries how mass casualties in collective crises would be handled in the future). Our intention is to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. In the words of the title and subtitle to this paper, we intend to say first of all something relevant about the characteristics of catastrophes, including why we single them out for attention. After that we address the implications these characteristics have for crisis policies and emergency management. The paper concludes with a discussion of the social evolution of the phenomena of catastrophes from the past to the present and likely changes in the future. Hopefully, our contribution will not only be in what substantively we say, but also in how we went about developing our observations, not all of which were reached by standard orthodox procedures. ItemSocial Scientific Insights on Preparedness for Public Health Emergencies(Disaster Research Center, 2008) Trainor, Joseph; Aguirre, Benigno E.; Barnshaw, JohnIt is common for governmental agencies to plan for emergencies. It’s human nature that we want to reduce our exposure to the dangers around us. While risk reduction happens at many levels (e.g. individual, family, organizational, community, and state) government agencies play a key role in ensuring the safety and security of the citizenry. The Delaware Health and Social Services agency (DHSS) is no different. With a mission to: "improve the quality of life for Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations," disaster response neatly falls into the agencies prevue. Equally important, the agency strives to be a self-correcting organization working to retool and keep pace with changing client needs and a changing service delivery environment. Such a vision requires informed decision-making. As a result the Division of Public Health’s Disaster preparedness section contracted the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware to produce a document that provides sound knowledge from evidence based assessments of planning and response to public health emergencies. The goal of this effort is to maximize the ability of DE officials to prevent, avoid, respond, and recover from major public health emergencies through a review of the evidence based research related to this topic. This report will cover a number of issues, but it focuses most directly on social science insights that can be of value to planning and response processes. Pursuing to contract specifications, this report consists of three parts. The first part presents some of the most important research themes in disaster science. The second part presents an annotated bibliography of public health and disaster. The third part provides answers to a series of questions Division of Public officials asked DRC to answer. The first two sections are based on research findings. In the final section we provide our expert opinions based on scientific knowledge, but not in every instance drawn exclusively from research findings. ItemSolidarity Trumps Catastrophe? An Empirical and Analytical Analysis of Post-Tsunami Media in Two Western Nations(Disaster Research Center, 2009) Letukas, Lynn; Olofsson, Anna; Barnshaw, JohnThis paper explores how newspaper accounts in Sweden and the United States, two geographically non-impacted nations, frame the short term response and recovery phase of the Indian Ocean tsunami. Utilizing 594 newspaper articles from four of the largest print media sources in Sweden (n= 370) and the United States (n= 224) we code for social solidarity, donor relief, geographic location as well as emergent themes salient in explaining how social solidarity is fostered and maintained. We find that social solidarity in geographically non-impacted nations was fostered through an intensively narrow and nativist focus and maintained through a collective response of assistance. Findings support Durkheim’s ( 1997) theory of social solidarity but go beyond prior descriptive theoretical accounts by offering a predictive theory of social solidarity.