USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development

Contents of Recent Issues

Volume 19, No. 1 (March 2001)

Articles by:

    Benjamin Cornwell, Wendy Harmon, Melissa Mason, Brian Merz, and Mike Lampe, "Panic or Situational Constraints? The Case of the M/V Estonia," pp. 5-25.

      This paper evaluates behavior among individuals during the sinking of the M/V Estonia in 1994, which caused the deaths of 851 people. Survival rates of those on board indicate a drastically higher proportion of men surviving than women (.22 vs .05), and a higher proportion of crew members surviving than regular passengers (.23 vs .12). These patterns suggest that intense competition and panic may have ensued during the escape, since it appears that individuals with (socially-defined) role obligations (e.g., crew members) disregarded others' (e.g., regular passengers) need for aid during the emergency. However, we believe that the unusually tumultuous physical constraints effectuated by the disaster may have made it difficult for these individuals to help one another escape from the ship. Thus, unlike previous research on disasters, this paper treats the situational environment of the disaster as a factor that can influence survival rates differentially across groups. The usefulness of reaching conclusions about the existence of panic based solely on observations of overt action and/or covert emotional states (especially those based solely on quantitative analyses) is thus called into question. (AA)

    Simon A. Bennet, "Not Context-Contexts: An ‘Outside-in’ Approach to Understanding the Vincennes Shoot-down," pp. 27-57.

      On July 3, 1988, the U.S. warship Vincennes, on patrol in the Persian Gulf, fired two missiles at an Iranian airliner en route to Dubai. The airliner was destroyed. All on board were killed. Despite being exonerated, the incident effectively terminated the career of the Vincennes's commanding officer, Captain William Rogers III. While the immediate cause of the shoot-down was the decision by the captain to fire, this paper argues-following the work of Reason, Blockley, and others-that only a systemic and holistic analysis, in which all salient historic factors are described, can provide a full and objective explanation of the shoot-down. The paper concludes that the incident originated in a multiplicity of factors-geopolitical, technical, cognitive, and others-that, in some cases, originated decades before the shootdown.(AA)

    Marieke Van Willigen, "Do Disasters Affect Individuals' Psychological Well-Being? An Over-Time Analysis of the Effect of Hurricane Floyd on Men and Women in Eastern North Carolina," pp. 59-83.

      Studies find that psychological distress is common after disasters and that women experience more stress than do men. These studies have relied mainly on cross-sectional data, sometimes using case matching and respondent recall to infer causality. They have not directly assessed whether disasters cause psychological distress. Using data from a survey of two representative samples of community residents-one before the hurricane and one shortly afterwards-, I assess whether levels of well-being changed within the same community and if women and men were differentially impacted in this natural quasi-experiment. I find that levels of social support and the sense of purpose to one's life did decrease on average after the hurricane, although the sense of control did not While women's well-being decreased on average after the hurricane, men's perceptions of social support and sense of having a purpose to their lives increased. Differential impacts on women were not explained by gender differences in social roles or socioeconomic status. (AA)

    Seong Nam Hwang, William G. Sanderson, Jr., and Michael K. Lindell, "State Emergency Management Agencies' Hazard Analysis Information on the Internet," pp. 85-106.

      This study examined hazard analysis information on state emergency management agencies' (SEMAs') Internet Web sites. The results showed that 3 of the 51 SEMAs in the United States did not have Web sites accessible to the public, and another 13 provided no hazard analysis information on their Web sites. Among those that do provide information about hazards, most address relatively few of the hazards to which their states are vulnerable. Moreover, there is poor correspondence of the hazard agents addressed on SEMA Web sites with either long-term vulnerability determined from hazard maps or recent impacts defined by federal major disaster declarations. This suggests that states are missing a major opportunity to educate local emergency managers and the public about the hazards to which they are vulnerable. Several recommendations are made for improving the content and format of hazard analysis information on SEMAs' Web sites. (AA)

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