USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development

Contents of Recent Issues

Volume 24, No. 1 (March 2006)

Articles by:

    Jean-Christophe Gaillard, “Traditional Societies in the Face of Natural Hazards: The 1991 Mt. Pinatubo Eruption and the Aetas of the Philippines,” pp. 5–43.

      This article explores the response of traditional societies in the face of natural hazards through the lens of the concept of resilience. Resilient societies are those able to overcome the damages brought by the occurrence of natural hazards, either through maintaining their pre-disaster social fabric, or through accepting marginal or larger change in order to survive. Citing the case of the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines and its impact on the Aeta communities who have been living on the slopes of the volcano for centuries, it suggests that the capacity of resilience of traditional societies and the concurrent degree of cultural change rely on four factors, namely: the nature of the hazard, the pre-disaster sociocultural context and capacity of resilience of the community, the geographical setting, and the rehabilitation policy set up by the authorities. These factors significantly vary in time and space, from one disaster to another. It is important to perceive their local variations to better anticipate the capability of traditional societies to overcome the damage brought by the occurrence of natural hazards and therefore predict eventual cultural change. (AA)

    Ricardo Wray, Jennifer Rivers, Amanda Whitworth, Keri Jupka, and Bruce Clements, “Public Perceptions about Trust in Emergency Risk Communication: Qualitative Research Findings,” pp. 45–75.

      Communication to the general public is a critical component of effective emergency response following terrorism events. Trust is essential to effective communication. Four Schools of Public Health conducted focus groups across the country with different ethnic groups to inform development of public messages and strategies in the event of an emergency. Secondary analysis of the transcripts was conducted to explore factors related to trust in government. General lack of confidence in the government’s ability to respond was associated with concerns about preparedness, lack of disclosure, and dedication. Local officials and emergency responders were more trusted than federal officials and were associated with greater levels of disclosure and empathy. Past experience contributed to perceptions of trust. Urban groups were more concerned about officials’ honesty, whereas rural groups were concerned about resource allocation. Local organizations and agencies were most trusted, as well as the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the American Red Cross (ARC). The findings lead to recommendations related to allocation of emergency response resources for underserved areas; integration of local and federal agencies in emergency response preparedness and communication; and an emphasis on full disclosure, action steps, and leadership in emergency response communication. (AA)

    Graham A. Tobin, Heather M. Bell, Linda M. Whiteford, and Burrell E. Montz, “Vulnerability of Displaced Persons: Relocation Park Residents in the Wake of Hurricane Charley,” pp. 77–109.

      Hurricane Charley made landfall in southwest Florida (USA) on August 13, 2004. It caused devastation in several coastal counties before moving rapidly north-northeastwards through the state. While storm surge and flooding were minimal, the destruction from high winds was extensive. Hurricane Charley was the most intense storm to make landfall in Florida since Andrew in 1992; three more hurricanes followed in 2004, creating problems throughout the state and leaving many people homeless. This study looked at the vulnerability of these displaced persons, exploring issues of pre- and post-event behavior, response, and recovery in a relocation park run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Questionnaire surveys and in-depth interviews were used to assess perception of immediate and ongoing needs of park residents and to evaluate how well those needs had been met. Though residents reported that emergency response organizations had met most of their immediate needs and they were generally appreciative of FEMA’s efforts, there were some ongoing concerns. Results indicated that relocation park residents were more vulnerable than the general population prior to the storm and that differences among park residents were associated with variations in perception of needs and outcomes. Specifically, four themes stood out and require further study: special needs, race, access to resources, and social networks. With subsequent events, not least being Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, more attention to long-term sheltering needs and temporary housing would seem appropriate. (AA)

    Alan Kirschenbaum, “Families and Disaster Behavior: A Reassessment of Family Preparedness,” pp. 111–143.

      Disaster researchers have consistently emphasized that the family is a principal conduit for disaster behaviors and critical for its individual members’ survival. Evidence for this claim, however, is problematic as it is based primarily on anecdotal and ethnographic evidence restricted to ongoing or post-disaster coping behaviors. Such evidence should focus on the preparedness stage where family disaster behavior is critical for subsequent chances of survival. Reassessing the primacy of the family-disaster link at the preparedness stage was accomplished by analyzing a representative Israeli sample (n=814) of family household units. Focusing on the household unit provided access to its members, internal familial social processes, and household pre-disaster preparedness levels. The households were divided into traditional, cohabiting, and single-family structures. The initial analysis showed that variations in household structure had inconsistent and in some cases no impact on core disaster preparedness behaviors. Testing a series of alternative explanations related to internal familial social processes found that the extent and intensity of family social networks and gender of the household head did predict differences in preparedness levels. Apparently, the impact of families on preparedness—a vital factor in subsequent disaster behaviors—does not appear to be the result of its structure but the social processes inherent within the household. Being a family in its many diverse forms but lacking these essential familial ingredients is no guarantee of being prepared for disasters. (AA)


    A. J. W. Taylor, “Consolidating the Role of the Fourth Estate in Disaster Work,” pp. 145–167.

      Reflections on the role and function of the press, radio, and television in times of public emergency led to a consideration of the platform of critical independence occupied by the news media as the “Fourth Estate” since its emergence as an important constitutional component of society in the late 18th century. The result showed that while the original raison d’etre was to provide a reputable outlet for criticism of the policies and practices of the agencies of power in an emerging democratic state, vested interests have long compromised the noble purpose. The suggestion is that, were the media to develop and consolidate its post-disaster work, it would improve the service it gives to the community and at the same time begin to reclaim the high standing it once had. (AA)


    Simon Bennett, on Channel Five, Aircrash Investigations


    From: Ilan Kelman

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