School of Policy, Planning, and Development




Contents of Recent Issues

Volume 23, No. 1. (March 2005)


Articles by:

    Celesta Kofman Bos, Susann Ullberg, and Paul ’t Hart, "The Long Shadow of Disaster: Memory and Politics in Holland and Sweden," pp. 5–26.

      Many big disasters such as the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, the Bhopal chemical disaster, or major oil spills in Alaska, France, Spain, and elsewhere have a major and lasting impact on public health, the environment, and the social and economic fabric of the communities affected. Still, despite such objectively recognizable footprints, not all disasters become equally deeply rooted, in collective memory. Why are some mass catastrophes more or less "forgotten"—a case in point is the Chicago heat wave of 1995 that claimed more than 700 lives, but has been practically erased from American public memory, which has retained much more vivid images of much less deadly disasters such as Hurricane Andrew and the Lockerbie Pan Am tragedy, and more recently has been mesmerized by "9-11"—whereas others are so vividly remembered in monuments, commemorations, and public discourse? This general question inspired the research reported in this article. Specifically, we wanted to study how and to what extent people and communities victimized by disaster are able to shape and correct "official," governmental efforts at disaster investigation and remembrance.

      Our key claim is that the extent and nature of disaster remembrance is not solely a question of physical characteristics such as the number of casualties, nor of the degree of social disturbance they cause at the time of their occurrence; instead it should be viewed as a product of a political encounter between grass-roots memory and the elite-level, political "processing" of disasters. To elaborate this claim, we connect ideas and concepts from memory studies, which focus mainly on how victim communities remember disasters at the local level, with the literature on the politicization of disasters that concerns itself with the governmental responses and processing of disasters.

      Our argument is exploratory, based on qualitative case studies of disaster aftermaths: the 1992 El Al plane crash in Amsterdam, and the M/V Estonia ferry tragedy in the Baltic Sea in 1994. These two cases were selected because they both gave rise to conflict between grass roots and governmental recollections and interpretations of the events. Even though the cases differ in the speed to which the conflict intensified and the duration of the conflict, the governments in both cases were unable to "forget" the disaster because of continued bottom-up pressures to address unresolved questions. At the same time, the nature of the disaster was such that quite different types of victimization occurred. Hence comparing these cases allows us to study similar outcomes produced by seemingly dissimilar contextual and actor constellations, a strategy that would hopefully enable us to generate ideas about the key variables and mechanisms at work. Data on both cases were obtained from government documents, parliamentary and council proceedings, victim's organizations, mass media, and interviews. Data gathering was targeted especially at chronologically and/or politically significant episodes in the post-disaster phase, including formal commemoration ceremonies, informal commemoration rituals, the (impending) publication of investigation reports and parliamentary debates. In the final section, we shall infer some preliminary theoretical implications from the comparison of both cases.   (No abstract available; edited author introduction)

    Jim P. Stimpson, "Flood and Psychological Well-Being: Direct, Mediating, and Moderating Effects," pp. 27–47.

      Recent attention to terrorism and natural disasters has shifted public attention toward understanding how disasters shape our lives and affect our mental health. The major challenge of stress research is to study acute stress using prospective designs that make use of major theoretical models such as the stress process model. Using prospective, representative data (N = 1,735), this study measures the direct, mediating, and moderating impacts of the 1993 Midwest floods for three major outcomes typically associated with natural disasters: depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Using the stress process model as a guiding framework, regression analyses revealed that the flood significantly elevated symptoms of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress. Adding social-psychological resources such as social support and sense of control into the equation reduced the impact of the flood on well-being, suggesting evidence for a mediating effect. This study also found evidence that social-psychological resources modify the relationship between flood and well-being.   (AA)

    Thomas E. Drabek, "Predicting Disaster Response Effectiveness," pp. 49–72.

      What social factors best predict the relative effectiveness of community disaster responses? This question is explored through interview and questionnaire data obtained from 62 local emergency managers whose communities were impacted by some type of disaster event. Various coordination strategies used in the year prior to the event and during the response were assessed first. These and numerous other potential sources of constraint were used in regression analyses to determine predictors of response effectiveness (both as perceived by the local emergency manager and through ten evaluative criteria). Results indicated that both measures of response effectiveness were predicted by seven factors: (1) high level of domain consensus; (2) use of more coordination strategies by the local emergency manager during the response; (3) more lengthy period of forewarning; (4) more frequent disaster training activities and actual responses during the prior two years; (5) more frequent participation by local emergency manager in local service organizations; (6) high community growth rate; and (7) use of more managerial strategies by the local emergency manager during the prior year.    (AA)

    David M. Neal,, "Higher Education and the Profession of Disaster Management: A Brief Commentary on Past, Current, and Future Directions"  (Introduction to the Special Section), pp. 73–75.

    Arthur Oyola-Yemaiel and Jennifer Wilson, "Three Essential Strategies for Emergency Management Professionalization in the U. S.," pp. 77–84.

      Emergency management in the United States today is not yet a profession, but as a trade it has reached the necessary institutional maturity to advance toward a profession. Emergency management is professionalizing by pursuing the principal characteristics of a profession, namely autonomy or self-regulation and monopoly or exclusiveness. We have analyzed the current status of emergency management professionalization by investigating the efforts of various organizations at the U. S. national and state levels to organize the trade as a profession. In particular, we have examined the processes of structural formation, accreditation, and certification. In essence, professional status relates directly to the institutional and individual acquisition of autonomy and monopoly to exercise the trade. We conclude that hierarchical structure, individual certification, and institutional accreditation are essential strategies for emergency management to develop as a profession.  (AA)

    Leanna Falkiner, "Availability of Canadian Social Science Disaster Management Education," pp. 85–109.

      Scientific evidence indicates that as the climate changes, the frequency and intensity of weather-related hazards will rise significantly. In addition to a more volatile natural environment, aging urban infrastructure and an increasingly complex and interdependent network of technological systems have created a multitude of hazards to which humans are vulnerable. However, the number and types of hazards are only part of the equation. Human factors such as the proximity of people and property to hazards, failure to incorporate resiliency in design and construction, and general apathy towards emergency management play an equal or greater role in the sharply rising impacts of disasters.

      Increasing vulnerability has been starkly demonstrated through global annual losses from natural disasters, which have swollen from $3.9 billion (U.S.) to $40 billion (U.S.) between the 1950s and the 1990s. If unabated, projections for future losses look bleak, estimated to reach as high as $100 billion a year over the next century. In addition to the economic losses, the 1990s witnessed 2,500 natural disasters killing more than 650,000 people and directly affecting 2.1 billion people.

      It is clear that active efforts are required to curb the upward trend in disaster losses, but in many cases environmental hazards cannot be physically controlled or contained. Therefore, a focus on reducing vulnerability through pre-hazard mitigation and public education is needed to ensure the safety of Canadians and protect the integrity of critical infrastructure systems. Decision-making must include an assessment of whether actions augment or abate vulnerability.

      It is the position of this paper that disaster management education can provide the foundation on which this goal can be realized. Through disaster management education, awareness of hazards and their impacts can be enhanced, along with fostering leaders to spearhead Canadian hazard vulnerability reduction. If delivered within the context of a particular academic discipline, disaster management education can be used to cultivate a contextual understanding of vulnerability reduction, as well as help the student understand how he or she can contribute to this goal within his or her chosen area of study.   (No abstract available; edited author introduction)

    Brenda D. Phillips, "Disaster as a Discipline: The Status of Emergency Management Education in the U.S.," pp. 111–139.

      At the July 2003 Boulder, Colorado (U.S.) Natural Hazards Workshop, Dennis Mileti declared that since people talked about emergency management as a discipline, "therefore it is." Though he was not the first to so state, he did so in a timely manner as the number of emergency management programs continues to grow. Such disciplinary designations are not so easily conferred. To consider if emergency management education can rightfully be called a discipline, this paper reviews the words used to name degrees and how the main term (i.e., emergency management) has been defined, identifies the implicit core curriculum, and compares how introductory textbooks present the history of the profession. The paper then supports adding theory and methods courses to curricula, a disciplinary standard mandated by accreditation agencies in the U.S. . The paper concludes by looking at instructional delivery modes and suggests how faculty might further establish their claim to a place in the academy.   (No abstract available; edited author introduction)

Feedback from the Field:

    Rohit Jigyasu, Sarah La Trobe, Juan Carlos Villagran Da Leon, Mark Pelling, Havidán Rodríguez, Rajib Shaw, Ben Wisner, Louise K. Comfort, and Sávano Briceño, "Comments on the World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR), Kobe, Hyogo, Japan, 18–22 2005," pp. 141–160.

Book Review by:

    Simon Bennett, on Gary Pomerantz, Nine Minutes, Twenty Seconds: The Tragedy and Triumph of ASA Flight 529, pp. 161–166.

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