Arizona societal response to disaster.” Explain what that

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CPP 510 Online

Hazards Governance

Spring 2018

Instructor: Jeremy Rodrigues and Kimberly

Reaction Paper #1



Name: Michael Friedmann


Essay Question A: The NRC book “Facing Hazards and Disasters” presents, in
Chapter 1, something it calls a “conceptual model of societal response to
disaster.” Explain what that model is (i.e. its basic components) and discuss
your thoughts on how this model relates to any (or all) of the three essays
about governance in Unit 1 (Tierney, Stoker, Ahrens and Rudolph) – specially
the proposition that the model might not be as clear as it should be in terms
of how governance affects the ways in which community’s deal with hazards and


The NRC book “Facing Hazards
and Disasters” discusses a “conceptual model of societal response to disaster” by
which it directly references “Figure 1.1” which denotes a paralleled
correlation between 1) hazards research and 2) disaster research, with the
unifying element to both being “disaster preparedness.” The NRC book asserts
that “components of hazard and disaster research have evolved historically with
different emphases, depending on the types of hazards and disasters studied and
research topics related to them.” The discussion indicates that there is a need
for “further integration of hazards and disaster research” which is “depicted”
in Figure 1.1 “by the overlapping circles and two-directional arrows.” The
model depicted in Figure 1.1 is “adapted from Tierney et al. (2001) and the NRC
book asserts that it “is a fundamental future requirement for the social sciences.”
It should also be a “fundamental…requirement” to any emergency management
preparation, at all governmental levels, as recognizing the key elements
provided by Tierney et al. (2001) in “Figure 1.1” by integration of hazards and
disaster research, “vulnerability, mitigation, response and recovery” being key
elements to effective preparedness in any emergency situation.

It is necessary to understand the
basic elements of “Figure 1.1” in order to understand the discussion the NRC book
attempts in regard to “Figure 1.2” which is much more complicated in how it
depicts “societal response to disaster.” The figure itself is confusing at
first glance, and requires some understanding of the emergency response system
as well as how communities and societies response to emergencies and/or
disasters. “Figure 1.2” could have been simplified or created in a manner with
better applicability and more manageable interpretation, although the NRC book
asserts that it “has been constructed to represent a more refined conceptual
model developed by the committee to complete its charge from the NSF.” It seems
that the model has been adapted from three separate sources Kreps (1985),
Cutter (1996) and Lindell and Prater (2003), over a span of time measuring
nearly two decades, which perhaps explains why the model itself, in the “figure”
format, appears so confusing. Societal perceptions change over time. Societies
change over time. The impact of disasters are mitigated over time as we learn
to better respond and gain a better grasp of the world around us. The threats
around us change with time. A lapse of twenty years between Kreps (1985) interpretation
of society and disasters to Lindell and Prater’s (2003) interpretation of the
same, could be problematic. There are an additional fourteen-years between Lindell
and Prater’s (2003) interpretation and our examination of the NRC’s model today
(and a span of three years between Lindell and Prater’s (2003) interpretations
and the publication of the NRC).

The interpretation taken from
the “figure” is that “societal response” is cyclical and perpetual (denoted by
the circular arrows which create a circle), when in fact, it is not always so. Drastic
failures in “societal response” were witnessed following Hurricane Katrina. Failures
in “societal response” can be attributed to several factors, 1) people not
caring, 2) information not reaching people, 3) an inability to respond (to name
only a few). When we discuss “societal response” we can examine the events
following the 9/11 attacks on New York City. There was a tremendous and almost immediate
“societal response” to that “disaster” yet there was NO “preparation” for such
an attack, as the perception persisted that the United States was NOT
vulnerable to such an attack. The simple fact that the events of 9/11 occurred in
real time, and were witnessed by people at ground zero, as well as people
throughout the world, established a compelling “societal response” which was
almost instantaneous. In emergencies and disasters there are two kinds of people,
those who respond and react, and those who flee or freeze. At ground zero,
people responded. They reacted. In doing so, many lost their lives. The
aftermath was tantamount to a city under siege, the heart of New York City lay in
shambles, search and rescue parties worked endlessly seeking survivors, the
city unified, strangers became friends, recovery became a process of healing as
well as clean-up and reconstruction. In stark contrast, there are still places
in Louisiana which are uninhabitable following the destructive impact of
Hurricane Katrina, and governmental failures at preparation and mitigation and

While the NRC book asserts that
“the mainstream research topics depicted in Figure 1.1 appropriately remain
central to Figure 1.2” the fact is that the “fundamental” and key elements
denoted within “Figure 1.1” (which are very easy to interpret in Figure 1.1) are
confusingly swallowed up in “Figure 1.2.” The NRC book explains that “represented
in Figure 1.2, specific disaster events (whether environmental, technological,
or willful) are placed in the center circle as social catalysts of collective
action before, when, and after they occur.” These “disaster events” include: 1)
frequency, 2) predictability, 3) controllability, 4) length of forewarning, 5)
magnitude of impact, 6) scope of impact (spatial and social), 7) and duration
of impact. Despite the fact that the NRC book relies on “Figure 1.2” to establish
its model for “societal response to disaster” it fails to address how, despite
the “disaster events” it applies to its model as “social catalysts of
collective action” society has continuously and repetitively failed to engage
in “collective action” on what the NRC book defines as “social catalysts. In
the case of Hurricane Katrina, there was a very clear understanding as to the “frequency”
of the disaster or disasters of that very nature, there was also an understanding
and applicability as to “predictability” and as the levies were constructed and
could have been modified or built-upon in order to further address the potential
hazards posed by Hurricane Katrina, “controllability” was present, yet ignored.
There was an understanding of the potential “magnitude of impact” and there was
“forewarning” preceding the event. There was also an understanding of the “scope
of the impact” both before and during and following the event. Society, sat
back and watched. Emergency responders, under policy, left the area, yet never
returned to render aid and aid in recovery. Therefore, the NRC model asserted under
“Figure 1.2” which denotes “social catalysts of collective action” are subject
to additional variables within communities and are not equivocally capable of
being called a “societal response to a disaster” rather, they are a model which
may or may not occur in any of numerous hazard or disaster events, based upon
resources, the community in which the event occurs, the political climate, the
nature of that community, and unfortunately, the economic status of that
community and the race of that community. All of these are factors and variables
which directly affect and impact a “societal response to a disaster” and
further affect and impact “social catalysts of or for collective action.”

The article “The Importance of Governance in Risk
Reduction and Disaster Management” by Joachim Ahrens and Patrick Rudolph examines
different elements of “governance” such as “accountability, participation,
predictability and transparency” with a focus on the 2004 tsunami disaster
which struck southern Asia (Indonesia). The examination by Ahrens and Rudolph
focused specifically on a third-world country or area, impacted by a severe
natural disaster and when applying the models of the NRC book, primarily “Figure
1.2” and the idea of “social catalysts of collective action” it is easily recognizable
that following that tragic event, there was a very limited ability for “collective
action” and the idea of “societal response to a disaster” was no longer
something which was capable of being achieved at the micro-level (central
location of the disaster, i.e. community), and required a greater applicability
to that of the macro-level (the world, i.e. United States, the World). The
vulnerability of small nations, countries, and communities, should be clearly evaluated
and effective responses formulated to address significant issues such as
resource availability including an examination of response times for such
resources and the assets available for recovery. While the article discusses “poor
institutional arrangements and poor governance” and how those may “lead to
ineffective risk reduction and poor disaster management” models such as those created
by the NRC was greatly inadequate when denoting their applicability to certain
or specific demographics and/or communities or largely rural areas with limited

While the NRC book asserts that “practically, collective
actions related to these constructs and their interactions increase or decrease
the human harm and social disruption of disaster” that is not always the case.
There is truly no method by which we can measure the effectiveness of a model
which must always be applied differently in every situation, or event or
disaster, based upon a variety of variables, from human nature, to societal
prejudices, to political climate, to race, to economy, to location, to expenditures,
to compassion and empathy. If the NRC truly believes that their model is
effective enough to be applied successfully across the board in every disaster,
then they have failed tremendously to grasp the diversity which exists within
the realm of disasters as they occur daily. The fact is, that the NRC is
correct in its assertion that “research on hazards and disasters has important
implications for both basic science and public policy” but so does the
application of a community’s inability to respond, or a community’s failing
desire to respond. The reality is that some communities choose to die.
Reference Detroit, and the swaths of neighborhoods which once flourished, which
are no longer inhabited and resemble something out of “The Walking Dead.” It is
clear, upon examination of the model produced by the NRC, that it fails to find
applicability to all communities prior to, during and following a disaster, and
in that failing, the arrogance of survivability of a greater community renders
smaller communities and their inability to survive an issue without relevance
to the model itself.


Facing hazards and disasters understanding human
(2006). Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.



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