Governmental Systems for Disaster Management

Dynes, Russell R.
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Disaster Research Center
While the focus here will be on the development of governmental systems for disaster management, it is appropriate to provide some initial remarks about the rather confusing concepts of “disaster.” It has many different meanings in popular discourse. A number of years ago, (Dynes, 1974), I noted at least four different meanings: (a) the designation of a disaster agent, such as a flood or an earthquake; (b) the indicator of physical damage, such as a hundred houses destroyed; (c) an indicator of social damage, the uprooting of family living or the destruction of family relationships and (d) an indicator of a negative evaluation, such as a failed culinary effort or a troublesome friend. Unfortunately, these different meanings have little consistent relationship among them. Even considerable physical damage does not automatically translate into social damage. This can be illustrated by the 1988 earthquake in Armenia. That earthquake, 6.9 on the Richter Scale, killed approximately 25,000, injured more than 3 1,000 and left 514,000 homeless. The next year, an earthquake of greater magnitude (7.1) occurred in the United States; the Lorna Prieta earthquake killed 62, injured 3,757 and left more than 12,000 homeless. Floods and earthquakes have social consequences only as a result of the actions of human beings and societies. In effect, all “natural disasters” are social.
disaster management , disaster event , natural disaster