USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development
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Contents of Recent Issues

Volume 14, No. 2 (August 1996)


Articles by:

    Gary A. Kreps and Thomas E. Drabek, "Disasters as Nonroutine Social Problems," pp. 129-153.

      The United Nations proclaimed the 1990s as the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. This proclamation, and the activities it generates, highlight the necessity of exploring the conceptualization of disasters. We propose that disasters are best conceptualized as nonroutine social problems: social problems because they involve conjunctions of historical conditions and social definitions; nonroutine because they usually are ignored by the public until articulated as dramatic events. We begin by linking the origins of disaster research to social problems theory and, in particular, the functionalist tradition. We explicate how functionalism has provided the implicit assumptions for most sociologically focused disaster studies, but not an analytical treatment of disasters as social problems. Rather that treatment has been stimulated by the social constructionist tradition within social problems theory. We propose that social constructionism informs rather than undermines the conceptualization of disasters as non-retain social problems. (AA)

    Ana C. Garner, "The Common Disaster and the Unexpected Education: Delta Flight 1141 and the Discourse on Aviation Safety," pp. 155-174.

      News coverage of transportation disasters, such as the crash of Delta Flight 1141, reveal the disaster behavior of passengers, flight personnel, and rescue workers. Within a mystery framework, the Flight 1141 discourse provides clues that readers can use to construct their own disaster behavior awareness. The media must expand their pedagogical role beyond natural and technological disasters and begin providing basic airplane safety behavior information. (AA)

    T. Joseph Scanlon, "Changing a Corporate Culture: Managing Risk on the London Underground," pp. 175-194.

      Although the London Underground has had various types of emergencies since it was constructed more than 125 years ago, it had dealt with them piecemeal. Despite the fact that it transports 2.2 million persons per day, a number which is rising steadily, the Underground act as if major incidents—especially accidents or fires—were the result of human error or were simply unavoidable. After it was severely criticized when 31 persons died at a fire at King's Cross, however, the Underground put together a comprehensive system of emergency management. It includes an internal Emergency Response Unit, staff training, and public information. This unit has won acceptance internally and has improved Underground's status with outside emergency agencies. Despite the success in changing its internal emergency culture, Underground’s managers are still considering all aspects of risk when they make decisions such as the one to buy rather than make power. (AA)

    Michael K. Lindell, David J. Whitney, Christina J. Futch, and Catherine S. Clause, "Multi-method Assessment of Organizational Effectiveness in Local Emergency Planning Committees," pp. 195-220.

      Previous studies of Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) effectiveness have been influenced strongly by the practical tissues of concern to state and federal agency personnel and by theoretical issues of interest to researchers, but not necessarily by issues that concern LEPC members. This problem was addressed by comparing the results of open-ended personal interviews with survey data collected from an LEPC in conjunction with a broader survey of 180 LEPC chairs and 1,196 LEPC members in the Midwest. The personal interviews and standardized surveys generally produced convergent results, but the personal interviews also revealed a significant amount of conflict about members' conceptions of the LEPC’s mission, external role relationships, and staffing. This finding indicates that there are areas in which standardized surveys need to be improved and that LEPCs need to address a number of organizational design issues to increase their effectiveness. (AA)

    Thomas A. Birkland, "Natural Disasters as Focusing Events: Policy Communities and Political Response," pp. 221-243.

      This article explains how large hurricanes and earthquakes influence Congressional agenda activity. By understanding these events as focusing events, we can better appreciate how they induce the news media and Congress to be more attentive to these disasters. While the theory of focusing events outlined here is broadly supported, considerable differences are found between the hurricane and earthquake fields. These differences turn on the political environment in which federal policy to address these disasters is made, and include the nature of the committees charged with policy-making, the nature of testimony offered before the committees, and the nature of the professional communities that are most active in this policy-making. These differences help to explain why there is greater federal involvement in earthquake policy-making than in hurricane policy. The policy implications of these differences are considered. (AA)

Book reviews by:

    David F. Gillespie on Gary A. Kreps and Susan Lovegren Bosworth, Organizing, Role Enactment, and Disaster, pp. 245-249.

    Hélène Denis on Alan Rufmann and Colin D. Howell (eds.), Ground Zero, pp. 251-252.

    Gary R. Webb on Uriel Rosenthal et al., Complexity in Urban Crisis Management, pp. 253-255.

    Robert A. Stallings on Niklas Luhmann, Risk, pp. 257-259.



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