USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development

Contents of Recent Issues

Volume 14, No. 3 (November 1996)

Articles by:

    T. Joseph Scanlon, "Not on the Record: Disasters, Records, and Disaster Research," pp. 265-280.

      It is conventional wisdom that record-keeping falls apart in disasters. Yet that is not documented in the research record. Drabek’s (1986) exhaustive review of empirical studies has no reference to records. Quarantelli’s (1983) work focused on a narrow subset of records: medical records in mass casualty situations. There are, in fact, problems with records in disasters. Some records which would be useful have never been made. Others are lost or damaged, inadequate, or inaccurate. Even backups may not be available. There is also a problem with toxicity. The increasing links between humans and toxic events raise issues about the safety of records after an incident. This paper explores the types of records that would be useful to have about disasters and looks at how they should, or could, be created. Attention is also given to the question of records research strategies, as a means for—among other things—tapping the knowledge of disaster research pioneers before their information is lost. (AA)

    Habibul Haque Khondker, "Women and Floods in Bangaladesh," pp. 281-292.

      This paper examines the consequences of a flood disaster on rural women in northern Bangladesh. Based on fieldwork, it is argued that floods affect rural women more adversely than rural men. Floods destroy the household resources, undermining the economic well-being of rural women. Researchers and authorities in charge of rehabilitation have not paid enough attention to the uneven impact of flood disasters on gender groups. Women are rarely involved in the decision-making process regarding disaster response. The lack of participation of women in particular and the local community in general in the planning and execution of counterdisaster plans insure that such issues are not noticed. Bureaucratic disaster response tends to be short term in its scope and fails to link disaster response and rehabilitation with development activities. Various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operating in rural Bangladesh seem to have closer ties with the local community and a better understanding of the linkage between rehabilitation and development. However, because of the limited scope of their operations and constraints on resources, the influence of these NGOs are not sustainable. The rural women cope on their own. The status quote ante is achieved, a continuation of impoverished existence which makes them vulnerable to the next flooding or other such disasters. Successful counterdisaster strategies need to take the gender dimension into account and link crisis response and rehabilitation strategies to development initiatives. This would entail participation of women in counterdisaster plans and assuring the economical well-being of rural women. (AA)

    Paul Driscoll and Michael B. Salwen, "Riding Out the Storm: Public Evaluations of News Coverage of Hurricane Andrew," pp. 293-303.

      South Florida residents who experienced Hurricane Andrew evaluated the credibility of the hurricane-related information from television as more trustworthy than that from other sources. Contrary to what was hypothesized, the broadcast medium of television (but not radio) was evaluated on the dimension of expertise as being higher than newspapers. As predicted, interpersonal sources were judged high on trustworthiness, but much lower on expertise than any of the mass media sources. The findings indicated that when people wanted factual information and self-help information, they expressed reservations about the credibility of other people (friends, neighbors, or relatives). In such cases, there was a marked tendency to place emphasis (or faith) in television. (AA)

    Jennifer M. McKay, "Reflecting the Hazard or Restating Old Views: Newspapers and Bushfires in Australia," pp. 305-319.

      This paper illustrates that in the response and recovery phases of the 1994 bushfire disaster in New South Wales, Australian and overseas newspaper reporting of the causes of bush fires focused on scapegoating. The popular scapegoats were arsonists or failure of a public authority to provide fire-breaks. Thus two items were featured, whereas the causes of most bushfires are multidimensional, and official reports really attribute a cause. This paper applies an existing seven-theme classification of the content of newspaper reports to the 1994 event. Newspapers from the local community were examined as were two other papers from fire-prone communities in Australia. In addition, reports in two international papers were examined for accuracy. This paper establishes that causes are scapegoated but that accuracy of impact figures is preserved despite the distance. (AA)

    Srinivas Emani and Jeanna X. Kasperson, "Disaster Communication Via the Information Superhighway: Data and Observations on the 1995 Hurricane Season," pp. 321-342.

      Although both researchers and practitioners have been using the Internet to communicate information on disasters, few systematic studies have assessed the type of information that is or should be communicated via this medium. This paper presents an exploratory, yet systematic, study of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) coverage of the 1995 hurricane season via e-mail and the World Wide Web. An overview analysis of the 1995 season shows that FEMA distributed 184 e-mail messages of which 138 were hurricane-related and 46 were nonhurricane-related. Following this overview analysis, a case study is presented of FEMA’s coverage of Hurricane Opal, which was associated with significant impacts in Florida. The focus of analysis in the case study is a type of e-mail message called the situation report (sitrep) which is used by FEMA to communicate information on disasters. The number, timing, and content of sitreps issued by FEMA for Hurricane Opal are analyzed and the results used to discuss the agency's communication efforts via the Internet. (AA)

    Ellen N. Junn and Diana Wright Guerin, "Factors Related to Earthquake Preparedness Among Child Care Professionals," pp. 343-359.

      With increasing numbers of children enrolled in childcare, the safety of the childcare environment and the preparedness of personnel to prevent injuries and fatalities in the event of disasters becomes an important public policy issue. In this study, earthquake preparedness and its correlates were examined and 25 childcare centers located in a southern California community adjacent to the San Andreas Fault. Extensive survey, interview, and on-site observational data were collected. Findings indicated a wide range of preparedness in childcare centers. Half of the childcare centers lack basic essentials required to cope in the aftermath of a major quake. Several hazards were also common: unsecured book shelves, open shelves, rolling furniture, large and unprotected windows, and heavy objects stored on high shelves. In addition, many directors had misconceptions about the role of local agencies (e.g., fire department, police, Red Cross) following an earthquake. Findings are considered in terms of risk assessment theory and implications; public policy and legislative courses of action are discussed. (AA)

Book reviews by:

    Robert Stallings on Elke M. Geenen, Soziologie der Prognose von Erdbeben, pp. 361-363.

    Lynn Dreenan on John Handmer et al., New Perspectives on Uncertainty and Risk, pp. 365-366.

    B. E. Aguirre on Jesus Manual Macías and Georgina Calderon Aragon, Desastre en Guadalajara, pp. 367-368, and on Robert Bolin, Household and Community Recovery After Earthquakes, pp. 369-370.

    Susan Bosworth on Thomas E. Drabek, Disaster Evacuation and the Tourist Industry, pp. 371-373.

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