Lecture Seven: Natural Disasters [October 23, 2013]
- Disaster: Taken from the Latin and Greek words “bad star” and “unfavorable aspect of a
star or planet”
- How sociologists think about and measure disasters:
o Significant loss of life
o Significant property damage
o Damage to the environment
- When research in disaster began years ago, the first two was the main factors used to
define the event, the third has been on the rise
- When sociologists look at responses to natural disasters, key factor they consider is time.
CB as a spontaneous reaction to an event, so response to a natural disaster should not
have too much time to prep for
The J Curve of Disasters
- There are many cases of damaging events in which there is very little damage.
- The more damage inflicted by a single event, the more rare such event would occur
- Plane crashes are natural disasters with a technological basis.
Features of Disasters
- Disasters: Disorganization or organization? – More chaos is a myth/stereotype.
o Research shows there is far more likely to bring society together, reinforce social
structure, and strengthen organization and cohesiveness of society. When
natural disaster occurs, it is more likely to see strangers help each other, etc.
- Unscheduled events – unexpected, no time to plan
- Natural vs. Technological Disasters
o Natural disaster is something that based on natural and physical environments.
Events based on technology – i.e. nuclear meltdown, train/plane crashes, etc.
- Violent natural phenomena vs. disasters
o In order for an event to be a natural disaster, it needs to have an impact on
human life, or something created by humans.
o i.e. a hurricane occurs on an inhabited island would be a violent natural
phenomenon but not disaster because no life/property damaged
- Disasters and human influence
o Human beings can have an impact on natural phenomenon that happen.
Disasters can intensify or created by humans. o i.e. cutting down trees can facilitate floods
- Planning for disasters
o Mt. St. Helen – Predicted the volcano eruption there saved many lives,
evacuated before actual occurrence
- Social impact – Huge.
Disasters and Formal Organizations
- Studies has been undergone since 1940s-1950s, with increasing research on how
organizations can play a role with disasters
- Established Disaster-related Organization
o Key is established. An organization that exist and operates on a day-to-day basis.
They repair, respond, prevent, mitigate year round. – i.e. Firefighters
- Expanding disaster-related organizations
o Like an established organization, their role is to prepare for disaster. But the
difference is the organization needs to expand before they begin their work on a
disaster – i.e. Red Cross