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Wolf Dombrowsky’s View on Disaster as a Concept

Introduction

It is difficult to define what a natural disaster is. It is assumed that influences from nature have an effect that is catastrophic such that t a great impact is experienced on human beings (Barton 1969 and Drabek 1986). The traditional understanding of disasters is that disasters are divided into two groups namely man- made or natural disasters (Ursano et al, 1994). According to Quarantelli (1987) disasters were non- existence before thte evolution of human beings. However calamities were experienced in the course of the earth’s evolution. Catastrophes foundation are not from ordinary danger, however the convergence of ordinary danger and individual susceptibility (Rozario 2007, Blake et al 1994). According to Dombrowsky (1998) man is the cause of disasters. The contemporary view gives an introduction of human beings as the cause of danger while the traditional approach ignores this (Bolin, Jackson, and Crist 1998).

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Disasters could lead to various effects that affect people’s lives whereby the effects could be extensive or diminutive. Dombrowsky argues that the word disaster has a transient importance since it is useful in understanding the proceedings which lead to activities which help alleviate the effects of disasters.

The aim of this paper is to investigate the cultural and social influence on how the public understands disasters according to Dombrowsky’s analysis. This study will also look at how people have been dealing with disasters since time in memorial. In a bid to discuss this topic it is imperative for one to describe the word disaster.

Definition

Disaster refers to the proceedings leading to annihilation as well as suffering. The term disaster has varying connotations since a disaster can be described as both an effect and cause (Sorokin, 1942). Therefore it depends in the context one is using this term. The disparity linking a condition that could be defined as a disaster and another one which is not is mainly the result as well as the effects on human beings plus the surrounding (Dombrowsky, 1995).

No matter the cause of a disaster it has damaging effects on people’s feelings, discernment, and anticipation as well as the capability to go ahead with their lives in the normal way. Moreover an individual has different discernment on their duty, in the period of the occurrence as well as after the occurrence. It is important for the victim to understand that the occurrence of a disaster will bring about interruption in the normal functioning of a person in his/her daily activities. This interruption could be permanent or temporal since one is not used to these occurrences plus one may not have the capability to adjust to the modification brought about by the incident. In order for one to recover and get rehabilitated, one needs to develop the capacity to adapt.

Dombrowsky’s argument on the definition of disaster

According to Dombrowsky (1995) it is the consequence as opposed to the source or the consequence as well as the source, of an incident which can be said to be really catastrophic. He argues that the word disaster is subject to a sociological inquiry. This study will seek to examine the contention that it is the consequence as opposed to the source that best describes a disaster. In order to understand this statement two incidences will be discussed namely the Towyn Floods which occurred in February 1990 as well as the Chernobyl occurrence that occurred in April 1986.

As opposed to the common definition of the word disaster which mainly looks at the proceedings taking place in order for an episode to be regarded as disastrous. Dombrowsky posits that it is the impact experienced by certain episode which is regarded as a disaster. This study will therefore on Dombrowskys view of disasters in order to give a clear view of what constitute a disaster.

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Expected outcomes

It is expected that any significant study of disasters, has to embody a wider perspective starting with the beginning which grip the range of input preceding the event at the period when the event occurs as well as subsequent to the event occurring. It has also been acknowledged that despite the focus of disaster from a sociological point, its focus will still be based on the consequence. A lot of thought will also be put in place in a bid to make a significant description of the word disaster. It is worth making a determination of the differing resemblance of circumstances that lead to a catastrophic occurrence, during the time preceding the results (Turner, 1978).

Effect of language on people’s perception of the world

Language plays a big role in the way people look at their surrounding. This may in turn affect the way they deal with certain incidences that could be tragic. Human beings communicate in various ways which could be verbal or non- verbal communication. The way different people understand a certain word could not be same way another person understands this word the same case goes with the non- verbal communication. Therefore it is important for disaster managers to have knowledge of the kind of communication used in a certain area where a disaster has occurred. This would ensure that they overcome language barrier that would hinder their operation of effective disaster management.

Transformation of reality into problem solving, solutions used by victims

Upon the occurrence of the disaster, victims are at loss on the next move to deal with their predicament. In order to deal with the harsh reality of the disaster the victims should not panic but deal with the episode in a clear mind to avoid aggravating the situation (Torry , 1979). The victims should also pay attention to the disaster managers to ensure that the rescue operation is a success.

Effect of disaster conceptualization by sociologists

Most of the sociologists view disasters in terms of the effects arising from a specific episode. This would have an effect on the way they view disaster since they do not pay attention to the cause of the said catastrophe (Alexander 2000, 2002). This would then translate on to ignorance of the aftermath of supposed disaster in terms of disaster management, and the effects to the victims on how to deal with disasters in future.

The two disasters

Chernobyl

A calamity occurred in Chernobyl in 1986 April 26th. The outcomes of this calamity were great and were felt all over the world. The results of the tragedy were caused by human. The harms experienced did not only occur at the site of the blast, fire and deaths in the forth reactor, but also the off-site repercussion in the process of evacuating people from the neighboring town of Pripyat plus the defect experienced in the nearby regions. Additionally the other impacting constituent was the effect to Russia’s political as well as industrial stature together with the fact that this disaster was to be made public to the world under glasnost. This would constitute some of the direct impact in South- Western parts of Russia which were both severe and incessant impact that would be wide. A case in point would be the fleeing reindeer herders in South Norway. In this case an estimated four per cent of the radio- Caesium expelled by the blast at Chernobyl (Tveten, Brynildsen, Amudsen and Bergan, 1998) saw the condemning, as unfit for human consumption. More than eighty per cent of reindeer production was sold in 1998 at a price of four million dollars. The total amount lost in 1986 amounted to twenty six million dollars. This is the amount incurred by Norway in its bid to respond to the impact of the disaster in that part of the world. Within a period of ten years that is between 1986- 1995, the simple financial cost to Norway was estimated to be approximately seventy one million dollars (Tveten et al, 1998). The question arising from this incidence is whether it was a disaster. The answer to this would revolve around the possibility of Norway’s economy to absorb the financial impact whether acute as well chronic. Secondly is there a chance that the farmers as well as the producers lost their livelihood through an error that was not their own making. Thirdly would the markets of the affected products manage to recover from their market share afterwards and finally would the environment manage to recover satisfactorily such that it can return to a condition that is comparable with or better, that prior to the accident.

It is worth noting that twenty nine people lost their lives due to the Chernobyl incident. It can however be argued that the ultimate death rate will rise to higher level. The million or so extra deaths from cancer that have been approximated across Europe over the next forty years could not be noticeable in any statistical logic though they may be expected.

The above effects symbolize basics of a community, personal, national as well international disaster and as such support the definition that Dombrosky argues for. Some of the effects were circumstantial for example the Norwegian reindeer farmers who were affected due to deaths of the reindeer caused by the socio- technical systems failures (Turner).

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The cause of the 1986 Chernobyl reactor incident was the by-passing of six separate reactor safety systems in order to carry out a test that was meant to improve the safe operation of the reactor (Sagan,1993). Sagan argues that the increasing use and reliance on built in redundancy as well as security of the system to which they are practical. In particular with more multifaceted systems it may be that multiple simultaneous failures are not as unlikely as thought and that over-reliance on protective systems at the design stage fails to take into account the way in which operators may choose to use and test the system(s). Questions arise as to whether any failures should be included in the definition of the word disaster. Also how do these failures make a contribution to the unavoidability of the calamity? That is to say that the study of the Chernobyl incident may be troubled by putting a lot of emphasis on the consequence only as a representative of a calamity, as opposed to focusing on the episode that led to the blast as well as what happened after the blast. In order to make an attempt in answering this question it would be wise to look at another occurrence.

Towyn occurrence

Similar to the Chernoybl incident, the floods in Towyn were brought about by unanticipated malfunction of an industrial structure existing in the sea wall that contributed to definite disdain for the well-known latent risk linked to it. This catastrophe was regarded as the Towyn Floods due to the wide media coverage set up in nearly 3,000 possessions in the hardest hit areas of Belgrano, Pensarno, Kinmell Bay and mainly Towyn. According to a council’s review on their engagement in the floods experienced in Towyn on the February of 1990, it noted that the there was growing complacency for some time when nothing noticeable comes up (Gough,1993; Lupton 1999).

The greater brunt experienced was due to the deficiency in insurance cover (Fordham & Kettridge, 1995). A fraction of the damaged buildings had no insurance cover for the buildings. About forty per cent had no insurance cover for the contents (WCC, 1992; Adams, 1995; Spiegal, 1957). The poor conditions were experienced due to the poor earnings of the residing population in these areas (Fordham & Kettridge, 1995; EPCA, 1994; Fink, 1986). This was a representation of the nurturing phase that led to a high degree as well as the scope of the outcome following the occurrence of the incidence that were rapid and linked to the subsequent outcome.

A series of harmful sociological consequences following the floods were as a result of language barrier experienced between the people responding and also those carrying out the evacuation activity, which were as follows:

The official council that is the, dealing with the Towyn incident gave a memo to every inhabitant of that region a radiation scare televised on S4C TV channel. According to the report the levels of radiation in that region was greater than the common acceptable measure for the surrounding. This memo did not refute the information being transmitted by the S4C TV channel. However they assured the residents of these areas that measures were being undertaken to establish a possibility of any harm emanating from radio active emissions in that region. Secondly people residing in this area got related letters from the Borough Council pertaining flawed water as well as an advice on possibility of infection from diseases, breathing in dust plus the common advice on how they should clean water sourced from Wales. Thirdly the population going back to their homes were given advice on various issues. The first was that they should not make any entrance to a building whose condition has not been verified by the British Gas and MANWEB. Secondly they had to ensure that remains from the affected areas were taken away, their homes were sterilized as well as every bit of food being eliminated. The residents of the affected areas were only expected to go back to their homes when they had an assurance that their homes were hygienically safe. Majority of the unexpected calamity outcomes was due to lack of adequate preparation.

A combination of the rudiments before the episode as well after the episode as discussed above had a great contribution to the character of the Towyn as well as the Chernobyl incident where in some cases the condition worsened. To this extent the effect of the catastrophe emanates from rethinking the meaning of the term disaster from a sociological point of view which would limit studies on disasters to the consequence of an important impact occurrence.

Dombrowsky’s methodology analysis on the two case studies

According to Dombrowsky when you finally consider glut of the various meanings given to the term disaster, elicits a banner indicate a certain denotation, a motivation to generate a precise response, instead of giving a clear definition that is broadly tacit as multifaceted and vibrant. It is obvious that catastrophes occur in the presence of individual or ecological outcomes. As a result it is important to put a consideration on the outcomes as opposed to the source, or possibly outcome as well as the source. There seems to be no tragic outcome devoid of rapid episode plus the character of this episode contributes in the character of the outcome. Additionally one has to consider the origin of the accident which could have an effect on the nature as well as the degree of the episode that accelerates the outcome plus a number of the effects (Dix, 1997). The issue that arises is whether the word disaster should be limited to the outcomes only.

The consequence of a catastrophe could be experienced after some years but nevertheless continue accelerating the episode due to the follow up on the causes of the tragedy by auditors. Consequently a person as well as institutions will need to specify whether they are indisposed to danger and put aside assets meant to alleviate, avert such a tragedy in the years to come.

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Dombrowsky argues that it would be wrong to suggest that tragedy hits as if to suggest that it just happens. He also assumes most of the populace utilizing this expression practically know what it means. It is completely sensible to try to get rid of a word from the common dialect and possibly give it a new meaning to ensemble the intellectual quest of a lucidunderstanding, to the point as well as the general meaning of a disaster. Verbal communication can be compared to an organism in the society, similar to all living things that show the large amount of pertinent function to its surroundings is likely to endure as well as take over.

Conclusion

Situations like famine could be viewed as rapidly causing a humanitarian catastrophe since large populations experience tough outcomes as a result of famine, hunger and negligence, while uniformly harsh famine in depopulated areas of the world for example in the Antarctica have no tendency to be regarded as catastrophes as the impact is not felt world wide. The reaction to catastrophes is the reaction to the impact but only as far as the study catastrophes that is non- inclusive. In the study of catastrophes scholars have to look beyond the incident to the conditions leading to the disaster, actions taken plus the impact of the actions taken it is worth noting that disasters are not only about the effects but the activities taking place after an incidence has occurred.

References

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