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- ItemThe Earliest Interest in Disasters and Crises, and the Early Social Science Studies of Disasters, as Seen in a Sociology of Knowledge Perspective(Disaster Research Center, 2009) Quarantelli, E. L.Today, the social scientific study of disasters is a very flourishing area. There are around five dozen research centers and institutes in the world, as well as hundreds of researchers whose major professional work is focused on disasters and collective crises. These groups and scholars have conducted field studies numbering in the four figures and have written thousands of publications. The result of such activities is a body of findings, setting forth many well data-rooted propositions about individual, group, organizational and community behaviors in disasters and catastrophes. Major inventories of these findings have been set forth in monographs, books, handbooks and encyclopedias. In addition, this area of study has its own infrastructure in the form of newsletters, journals, websites and professional associations as well as regularly scheduled domestic and international meetings. Multidisciplinary research involving the non-social sciences is increasing, and within the social sciences disciplines such as management science, political science, public administration, social geography and sociology, more researchers are involved and more studies are being conducted than ever before. (See End Note # 1 for web sites that currently have much information on what is mentioned in this paragraph). Is everything perfect? Most everyone would say, of course, no. Recently there have been critical reviews and evaluations (e.g., National Research Council, 2006; Tierney, 2007) 3 which have identified significant issues and problems that the field will have to deal with if the future is going to be better than the present. That granted, the present is markedly better than the past. Today, as just indicated, the field has never been more active and promising. It might be asked, from whence has come this vibrant research-related activity? It has not been the result of a slow development over a very long period of time. Almost all of what we have just mentioned came into being only since the early 1950s. At least in terms of continuous and systematic scientific activities, the area is barely half a century old. However, disasters and crises were of major interest to human beings and their societies much prior to the last five decades. In fact, this essay initially looks at the very earliest happenings with respect to disasters and ends with the institutionalization of disaster research in the 1950s and 1960s. Thus, we start a very long time ago in prehistory, and conclude with the establishment in 1963 of the Disaster Research Center (DRC), the first social science research center anywhere in the world focused on disasters and catastrophes.
- 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.
- ItemSIGUCCS Conference Presentation(Disaster Research Center, 1989-03) Crawford, Bruce D.
- ItemLooting In Disaster: A General Profile Of Victimization(Disaster Research Center, 1984-08) Gray, Jane; Wilson, Elizabeth A.
- ItemDecision Making Under Conditions Of Uncertainty: Civil Disturbance And Organizational Change In Urban Police And Fire Departments(Disaster Research Center, 1973) Kreps, Gary A.