School of Policy, Planning, and Development




Contents of Recent Issues

Volume 22, No. 2. (August 2004)


Articles by:

    David Mendonça and William A. Wallace, "Studying Organizationally-situated Improvisation in Response to Extreme Events," pp. 5-29.

      Extreme events such as large-scale natural disasters create the need for cooperation within and among responding organizations. Activities to mitigate the effects of these events can be expected to range from planned to improvised. This paper presents a methodology for describing both the context and substance of improvisation during the response phase. The context is described by (i) analyzing communication patterns among personnel in and among responding organizations and (ii) determining the appropriateness of existing plans to the event. The substance of improvisation within this context is described by modeling the behavior and cognition of response personnel. Application of the methodology leads to descriptions of improvisation and its context that may be stored in machine-readable format for use either by researchers, responding organizations or designers of computer-based tools to support improvised decision making. Data collection strategies for implementing the methodology are discussed and selected steps illustrated using a dataset from a large-scale natural disaster. nbsp;(AA)

    C. Dominik Güss and Oliver I. Pangan, "Cultural Influences on Disaster Management: A Case Study of the Mt. Pinatubo Eruption," pp. 31-58.

      Disaster management teams composed of experts from different countries will be more and more common in the future. As natural disasters are most frequent in Central America and Southeast Asia (developing countries with limited human and financial resources), their disaster-management organizations will more frequently seek help from the international community. This article analyzes disaster management before, during, and after the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines. This was one of the biggest eruptions in the past century and one with important lessons for present-day disaster management. Different ethnic groups in the Philippines were affected by this disaster Filipino experts worked together with foreign experts in solving problems that came prior to and after this disaster. This paper argues that disaster management was affected by the cultural norms and values of the people working together to manage the disaster. It is concluded that intercultural competence, like cultural awareness and sensitivity, are important factors for the successful planning and implementation of disaster management efforts among multi-cultural expert groups.  (AA)

    Mary Margaret Shaw, "Group Flood Insurance Program and Flood Insurance Purchase Decisions," pp. 59-75.

      This article describes a research project focusing on flood insurance purchase decisions of low-income residents of eastern North Carolina who are obliged to purchase an NFIP flood insurance policy as a result of having accepted a disaster assistance grant following Hurricane Floyd. A survey was sent to a random sample of these disaster assistance recipients, and results show that, despite the obligation, as many as 41 percent do not purchase flood insurance. People say that they do not purchase flood insurance because they cannot afford it. The only significant predictor of flood insurance purchase for this population is the purchase of homeowner insurance.   (AA)

    Ann Marie Major and L. Erwin Atwood, "Assessing the Usefulness of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Terrorism Advisory System," pp. 77-101.

      This study reports the results of a national survey of 1,023 U.S. adults and their evaluations of the usefulness of the color-coded U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Advisory System. The study explores the relationships among information sources, risk perception, demographics, and preparedness behaviors within the context of the social amplification of risk. Half of the respondents (48.8 percent) rated the advisory system as useful and half (47.0 percent) rated it as not useful; however, far fewer respondents reported having made any preparations for a future attack. Strong support was found for the social amplification of risk model with 87.1 percent of the respondents reporting that terrorism was an important problem and two-thirds of those respondents reporting that news reports had influenced how important they believed the problem was. The findings also underscore that information sources were not of consequence for all respondents and that it was the perceived utility of the advisory system, not risk perception, that impacted whether or not respondents made preparations.  (AA)

Critic’s Corner:

    Aguirre, Benigno E., "Homeland Security Warnings: Lessons Learned and Unlearned," pp. 103-115.

      The paper examines the Homeland Security Advisory System in light of existing knowledge about effective warning systems in the social science of disasters. It firsts describes an integrated warning system model and what is known about effective warning messages. The Homeland Security Advisory System is then contrasted to the successful hurricane warning system in the United States, to point out the existing difficulties with the former. It concludes with a section advocating an alternative all hazards approach to increase the resilience of communities.""(AA)

Feedback from the Field:

    Havidán Rodríguez, Tricia Wachtendorf, and Carla Russell, "Disaster Research in the Social Sciences: Lessons Learned, Challenges, and Future Trajectories," pp. 117-135.

      The Disaster Research Center (DRC) at the University of Delaware, with the financial support of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the College of Arts and Sciences, held a two-day conference titled "Disaster Research in the Social Sciences: Lessons Learned, Challenges, and Future Trajectories." The conference highlighted the interdisciplinary and international nature of the disaster research field and focused on: (1) the growth and development of the field of disasters from the perspective of the social sciences; (2) theoretical, methodological, and public-policy contributions of the field (3) lessons learned and best practices that have emerged from this area of research; and (4) future trajectories or opportunities for social science research in the study of disasters.

      Conference participants included leading scholars and researchers, practitioners, representatives from funding organizations, and graduate and undergraduate students. The conference allowed participants to discuss substantive, theoretical, and methodological issues and concerns relevant to the field as well as to generate new research initiatives that will contribute to our understanding and knowledge regarding the study of disasters. Substantive and critical issues discussed during this two-day conference included: the growth and development of disaster research in the social sciences; theoretical and methodological contributions and challenges in disaster research; impact of disaster research for practitioners; the role and importance of multi- and interdisciplinary research in the disaster field; the development of an international research agenda; the role of research centers in training the new generation of researchers; funding disaster research and priorities for the future in a post-9/11 environment; major research areas and issues that need to be developed and explored over the next decade at both the national and international level; and efforts to establish collaborative research initiatives across disciplines and geographical boundaries.

      DRC was the first social science research center in the world devoted to the study of disasters, so it was appropriate and timely that a conference of such magnitude was held at the University of Delaware at a particularly historical moment for the DRC and the field of disaster studies. This conference not only provided a stimulating intellectual environment, but it also presented an opportunity to celebrate DRC’s 40th anniversary and to examine the impact and contributions of the Center to the field of disaster research both nationally and internationally. Moreover, during the two-day event conference participants had an opportunity to pay tribute to Enrico L. Quarantelli and Russell R. Dynes, two of the founding fathers of DRC and disaster research from a social science perspective.  (AA)

Book Review by:

    Simon Bennett on David Pascoe, Airspaces, pp. 137-141.

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