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Wolf Dombrowsky’s View on the Term ‘Disaster’

If I was to base this as my case point of interest, I would try to understand what a disaster is. A disaster is defined as a sudden event that occurs causing damage. Damage may mean loss of life or property and other related hardships. It may be a natural occurrence or man-induced. (Quarantellie 5). We have seen that disasters mostly occur suddenly which means that there were no prior prevention measures put in place and if there are, it could be that the disaster may or might have occurred again. For example, if there was an earthquake before, it is most likely that buildings or other structures put up would be reinforced to prevent such an occurrence though with no due cause as to when it hit again. (Stallings 2).

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We are most likely to see routine training of a given populace on how to act in case an earthquake was to strikes again. This gives us a notion that when a disaster strikes, it signifies a change in the perspective of a given society. It should be noted here that disaster and society have a connected existence. Different patterns of approach towards a given disaster vary with the time and place. (Dynes 4). This puts in light the existing social systems and ideals in a given place. It has always been told that natural disasters such as storms, earthquakes, tsunamis have been God’s way of disclosing his displeasure towards a given place.

This perception may make us view disaster as a signal to bring a certain people towards the ways of God. There is then a general agreement that if the society were to retrace their footsteps, the chances of a repeat of such a phenomenon will be vague. If disaster here has to be recounted as just an ephemeral significance then we would relate this in terms of responsiveness of the society towards a disaster. (Drabek 9).

If we would base this remark on ephemeral significance on the term ‘disaster’ it would be of prime importance for us to gauge the weight of the term itself. Usually, there is always a general objective related to the events before, amidst, and after an occurrence of a disaster. (Slovic 1). They are bent mostly on the shock and aftershocks of a disaster. For example, after numerous earthquake-related disasters, the United States opened up a National Centre to deal with issues related to such occurrences and invented Geographic information systems. (Sorokin 47).

The invention of Meteorological Stations was most likely driven by untold disasters in the shape of Floods and Storms. We have also witnessed the global formation of Disaster Response Research Centers in various countries all with the objective of researching on. In other scenarios where natural happenings are not a cause for a disaster, we find man’s inventions as agents of disasters. (Barrett 29).

A case study is the Chernobyl accident, man learned how to prevent such leaks in one of his energy inventions; nuclear energy. (Burton 18). Another case is the Challenger incident where a United States space ship exploded into flames after takeoff in full view of the world. (Hood 54).There were lessons learned from these accidents that have marked an improvement in the way things are conducted. (Turner 7). Man has learned ways of coping with disasters. In cases where there has been flooding, there has been the construction of dykes and dams. Governments have learned that disasters, both natural and man-made, can hamper drastic improvement and development, hence the advance of policies and guidelines in case they were or are to occur. (Toft 65).

If this is the case then, Wolf Dombrowsky’s perception of the term disaster as one of ephemeral significance can only be supported in policies after a disaster occurrence. When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the United States emergency response units were tested. There was a large outcry from the public and the government promised to come up with policies on efficient response. (Moore 60). To date there has been little talk on the projected policies; after all, it was a hurricane that is long gone. These policies though not fully operational serve as signals or pointers or a meaning; a stimulus of specification.

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Works Cited

Barrett, Feldman. The wisdom in feeling: Psychological processes in emotional Intelligence. New York: Guilford Press, 2002:25-30.

Burton, I. G. F. White. The Environment as a Hazard. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985:6-18.

Drabek, Thomas. The Human Side of Disaster. Colorado: CRC Press, 2009:1-15.

Dynes, Russell. The Symbolic Uses of Disaster and the Lessons of Disaster. Delaware: Disaster Research Centre, 1989:4-8.

Hood, Christopher, David Jones. Accident and Design. London: UCL Press Ltd, 1996:50-65.

Moore, Harry. Tornadoes over Texas. Texas: University of Texas Press, 1958: 56-60.

Quarantellie, E. What is a disaster? London: Routledge. 1998:1-5.

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Sorokin, Alexandrovitch. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia: Columbia University Press, 2008:47.

Slovic, Paul. Modeling the societal impact of fatal accidents. 1201 Oak Street, Eugene, Oregon: Decision Research Inc, 1984:1.

Stallings, Robert.Delaware: International Research Committee on Disasters, 2002:1-5.

Toft, Brian. Learning from Disasters. Leicester: Perpetuity Press, 2005:60-70.

Turner, Barry. The Statesman’s Yearbook 2010: The Politics, Cultures and Economies of the World. Palgrave: Macmillan, 2009:5-10.

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