The Human Dimension Of Disasters: How Social Science Research Can Improve Preparedness, Response, And Recovery

Monday, October 27, 2003

Room 2154 Rayburn House Office Building

2:00 – 3:30 pm

Being trained as an engineer, I'm wishing I'd taken more sociology classes in college. Wayne Hale, the new head of NASA’s space shuttle teams, following the official report on the Columbia crash (9/17/03)

Hurricane Andrew. 9/11. The Challenger and Columbia explosions. The Northridge earthquake. The Chicago heat wave. Chernobyl. The Exxon Valdez. TWA Flight 800. What do we know about human and social relationships and structures that could help prevent or mitigate the consequences of disasters? A large body of sociological research disproves common myths about disasters, analyzes common mistakes in developing responses to disasters, and identifies the mismatch between citizens’ needs and government and private industry responses.

Dr. William Anderson of the National Research Council (The National Academies) will moderate presentations by three distinguished sociologists: Dr. Kathleen Tierney, Director, Natural Hazards Research Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, whose latest book is Facing the Unexpected: Disaster Preparedness and Response in the United States; Dr. Eric Klinenberg, author of the awardwinning Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago; and Dr. Lee Clarke, an expert on organizations, culture, and disasters whose latest book is Terrorism and Disaster: New Threats, New Ideas. The panelists will discuss how social science research can help governments and private-sector organizations improve preparedness for, response to, and recovery from human and natural disasters. Dr. John F. Harrald, Director of The George Washington University’s Institute for Crisis, Disaster, and Risk Management, will offer concluding remarks.


American Sociological Association

Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management (GWU)

Natural Hazards Caucus Work Group