Article Index

what is a Disaster? An Ecological-Symbolic Approach to Resolving the Definitional Debate

Authors
Stephen R. Couch, J. Stephen Kroll-Smith
Issue
November 1991
Description
The definition of disaster remains a contested issue in sociology. Two contrasting definitions vie for attention: the generic and the event-quality. One definition ignores the physical dimension of disaster focusing exclusively on social consequences. Another definition includes physical dimensions, but proponents of this approach cannot agree on just hat physical features to include. This essay evaluates these two definitions, suggesting the strengths and limitations of each. It offers a third definitional strategy that adds an environmental and symbolic dimension to the event-quality definition. We offer this ecological-symbolic approach as a necessary corrective to the limitations of both the generic and the event-quality definitions. A concluding section demonstrates the utility of this third perspective by applying it to an important discussion in disaster research.

What’s Gender “Got to do With It”?

Authors
Brenda Phillips, Betty Hearn Morrow
Issue
March 1999
Description
A-1\r\nMarch 1999, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 5-11\r\nTitle: What’s Gender “Got to do With It”?\r\nAuthor(s): Betty Hearn Morrow, Brenda Phillips\r\n

What's the Matter with Those People: Rethinking TMI

Authors
John Schorr, Karen S. Goldsteen, Raymond L. Goldsteen
Issue
November 1984
Description
This paper examines the long-term psychological effects of the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island (TMI) on a community situated almost entirely within five miles of the reactor. Data were collected in October-November, 1979 (Time I) from 391 residents 25 years of age and older and in October-November 1980 (Time II) from a subsample of these subjects. The findings of the study indicate that: 1) the community can be characterized as distressed at Time I and at Time II; and 2) in general, perceived threat to physical health is more highly associated with distress than personal or demographic characteristics. The relationship of these findings to previous research findings regarding long-term psychosocial effects following other types of disasters is discussed.

What We Tweet About When We Tweet About Disasters: The Nature and Sources of Microblog Comments During Emergencies

Authors
Fred Vultee and Denise M. Vultee
Issue
November 2011
Description
This study examines messages sent by users of the microblog service Twitter during natural and technological disasters. A constant comparison model is used to generate categories of content in an attempt to build an inductive picture of the kinds of messages microblog users seek and send during disasters. Results offer insights for communicators, planners, responders, and other professionals about how messages differ depending on disaster type, disaster size, and whether users are communication professionals or “citizen journalists.”

When Shall We Leave? Factors Affecting the Timing of Evacuation Departures

Authors
John H. Sorensen
Issue
August 1991
Description
Very little work has been conducted on the dynamics of human behavior in evacuations. This paper documents what is known about the timing of departures in different emergency events. This is followed by an effort to model individual variations in warning receipt and evacuation departures in the Nanticoke, PA hazardous materials fire. Among the factors which are significantly related to the time of warning receipt are the most of the first warning the proximity to the site of the emergency and the type of structure inhabited. The only significant variable related to mobilization time is the personalization of the warning. Perceived threat, age and family size were not related to mobilization time. The analysis points to the need for additional research to help understand the variability of human behavior in evacuations.

Whither the Emergency Manager?

Authors
Neil Britton
Issue
August 1999
Description
A-6\r\nAugust 1999, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 223-235\r\nTitle: Whither the Emergency Manager?\r\nAuthor(s): Neil R. Britton\r\n

Why Do People Sometimes Fail when Adapting to Danger? A Theoretical Discussion from a Psychological Perspective

Authors
Claes Wallenius
Issue
August 2001
Description
During life-threatening danger, people may react in ways that decrease their chances of surviving or coping with the event. Several empirically demonstrated reactions have a potentially maladaptive effect on performance, due to limitations in our cognitive and emotional processing capacity or the activation of obsolete adaptive mechanisms. The possible psychological explanations for this are discussed in terms of assumptions derived from three major psychological paradigms: Darwinian, Freudian, and cognitive psychology. These theoretical models all illustrate useful concepts and assumptions, which do not logically exclude one another, necessary to understand more thoroughly how psychological adaption occurs in danger situations. However, no theory alone explains the empirical findings, and the various theories should be integrated into a model that includes different levels of psychological function, from consciously controlled processes to emotional and automatic process.

Winners and Losers: Some Thoughts about the Political Economy of Disaster

Authors
Joseph Scanlon
Issue
March 1988
Description
While it is obvious disasters are negative events causing injury and death, damage and destruction, macro-economic studies show little long-term economic effects from disaster. That is because disasters create both losers and winners and these balance out.

Women, Aging, and Post-Disaster Stress: Risk Factors

Authors
Graham A. Tobin, Jane C. Ollenburger
Issue
March 1999
Description
The goal of this research was to model the relationship between stress and natural disasters, with a view to explaining levels of stress among women. Following flooding in Iowa in 1993, two in-depth questionnaire surveys were administered, one to residents in high flood exposure areas, and another to the general population as a control. Results indicated that gender plays a significant role in interpreting stress responses to natural hazards, with women consistently exhibiting greater stress than men. However, it was evident that a complex web of factors influenced stress levels including marital status, structure of the family unit, age, socio-economic status, health, levels of social involvement, and degree of hazard experience. These findings suggest that more research should focus on determining structural constraints that exacerbate stress levels for women.

Women and Floods in Bangladesh

Authors
Habibul Haque Khondker
Issue
November 1996
Description
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 respondents 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 of resources, the influence of these NGOs are not sustainable. The rural women cope on their own. The status quo ante is achieved, a continuation of impoverished existence which makes the vulnerable to the next flooding or other such disasters. Successful counterdisaster strategies need to take 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 economic well-being of rural women.