Disaster Theory & Emergency Management Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

As Nielsen and Lidstone (1998) note,

It is ironic that the public demands safety yet a number of cost-effective and feasible measures to mitigate disasters are not adopted by many... Such a failure of the public to adopt disaster mitigation measures has a long record in Australia

(Nielsen and Lidstone 1998)

This attitude is one of the reasons given for the greater emphasis on public education. In theoretical terms, the view is put forward that an educated public will be able to deal with emergencies and disasters more effectively and that this should form an integral part of emergency and disaster management and planning. This in turn has resulted in a "...renewal of focus, at both a national and global level, upon public education as a means to disaster mitigation" (Nielsen and Lidstone 1998). To this end the Federal Emergency Management Agency of the United States (FEMA) has collected data from more than 15,000 participants from Federal State, regional, tribal, and local government agencies, as well as from private industry, academia, non-profit research, professional, trade, environmental, and disaster response organizations and individual citizens. The study that resulted from this intensive data collection found dominant view that the public can become better informed about its vulnerability to natural hazards and more knowledgeable about ways to mitigate these hazards via electronic and print media, displays and brochures, presentations by Federal, State, and local agencies and professional organizations

(Nielsen and Lidstone 1998).

This study therefore tends to emphasize the importance of public education in emergency and disaster management and also suggests that courses as well as school curricula be utilized in this educational process. (Nielsen and Lidstone 1998)

As has been referred to, the emphasis of much of the literature is on the integration of various aspects of emergency management. This also applies to the integration of public education with the intentions of emergency planning. This includes aspects such as the contemporary trend towards lifelong learning and an understanding of modern world views and preferences in disaster education. (Nielsen and Lidstone 1998) However, the study by Nielsen and Lidstone also notes that, while here is a need for an integrated theory of public education in a disaster management context, "There has been a lack of research investigating hazard and disaster managers' interpretations of public education as a management strategy and a lack of sound underlying educational theory"

(Nielsen and Lidstone, 1988).

Family and other theoretical variables

There are also other important aspects of emergency management theory that needs to be considered from a comprehensive and holistic perspective. An important variable that is considered in the literature is the family. Alan Kirschenbaum in an article entitled Families and Disaster Behavior: A Reassessment of Family Preparedness (2006) considers the view that the family is a "....principal conduit for disaster behaviors and critical for its individual members' survival." (Kirschenbaum). This refers particularly to the issue of preparedness in emergency planning. While there are experiential and anecdotal evidence to support this theoretical contention, studies also point out that there has been little empirical research on this aspect. The study by Kirschenbaum does however find that, "...the extent and intensity of family social networks and gender of the household head did predict differences in preparedness levels" (Kirshenbaum 2006).

Among the many other aspects of emergency management that are considered in the literature on this subject is the issue of modular integration and the necessity to develop theoretical models that incorporate the different variables that influence and affect management and planning. An article that deals with this topic is a dynamic integrated model for disaster management decision support systems by Asghar et al. This article refers to the fact that while there have been many studies of decision support needs for disaster management there has not been enough focus on how these systems can be integrated. As the author's state,"One of the limitations however is that they cannot be readily modified to adapt to the dynamic needs of disaster management area. Secondly, particular attention has not been paid on commonality of decision support needs in the area" (Asghar et al.). This view again places emphasis on the cardinal aspect of integration that has been emphasized throughout this paper as a central concern in modern emergency and disaster management.

Other areas of theoretical concern that are also related to the issue of management and planning are the issue of stress and psychological well-being. A useful article in this regard is Flood and Psychological Well-Being: Direct, Mediating, and Moderating Effects (2005) by Jim P. Stimpson. This study analyzes the affect and impact of the 1993 Midwest floods for three major outcomes; namely, depression, anxiety, and PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder. The study found that this form of analysis was relevant in the overall understanding and assessment of emergency and disaster management and was an important element in the planning stages. The study 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

(Stimpson 2005)

Therefore, the understanding of how disasters and emergencies affect people on a psychological and stress level has an important bearing on management praxis and theory.

Another noteworthy area of theoretical concern is the response capability by the public to the disaster or emergency situation. A useful study in this regard is Predicting Disaster Response Effectiveness by Thomas E. Drabek (2005). This is an important study in that it explores the various social factors that can be seen to affect disaster management. In other words, this area of concern provides a means of determining which social areas and aspects can be positively utilized in terms of disaster management and planning and those which are negative and could retard effective management. The results of this study indicated that emergency response effectiveness was predicated by a number of factors; these included a high level of domain consensus; use of more coordination strategies by the local emergency manager during the response; frequent disaster training activities; and the use of better managerial strategies. (Drabek 2005).

In conclusion, there are many areas of theoretical concern that are discussed in the literature and which derive from the basic components of disaster theory. However, what becomes clear from the literature is that while there are many innovative theoretical insights into the way that emergency management can be improved and better implemented, yet research is still needed in the all - important ways in which these aspects can be fruitfully and effectively integrated. Furthermore, as was noted in the various studies discussed, the concern is that this integration should also be fluid and dynamic, so that the different variables and components of emergency management can be effectively applied according to differing and changing circumstances and situations.

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