Quarantelli, E. L.
Disaster Research Center
In everyday speech, the word "emergency" usually signifies a sudden and unexpected condition calling for immediate action. In the last four decades, social scientists starting from popular usages of the term, have increasingly attempted to conceptualize emergency as part of the social situation generated by natural and technological disasters or catastrophes. In fact, to a considerable extent, the theoretical work and empirical research on the social aspects of disasters is the equivalent of the social scientific analysis and study of emergencies. Actually whether the term "disaster", "catastrophe" or "emergency" is primarily used, seems to depend on the particular language involved. For example, Italian social scientists have somewhat preferred to use the term "emergency" whereas Americans have been inclined to employ the word "disaster" even though the substantive phenomena -being discussed is about the same in both cases. However, since most of the social scientific literature what exists in the area uses "disaster" rather than "emergency" or "catastrophe", we will in this article mostly but not exclusively use the first term. Part of this tendency and also lack of complete consensus can be attributed to the fact that social science studies in the area are but about four decades old, and until recently, were primarily undertaken in the United States. Consequently, we will first generally describe the sociohistorical development of this area of study. Then the various conceptualizations advanced of the key term, disaster, are discussed. This is followed by an overview of major research codification efforts made up to the present and then selected but important substantive research findings are summarized. We conclude with a brief statement about the general applicability of findings across all societies, and end with a projection of studies needed in the future.
Emergency , Immediate Action , Natural Disasters , Technological Disasters , Castastrophes