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Recovery From Disasters  

Jane Kushma

Recovery from disasters is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon. The impacts of disasters are felt by individuals, families, business and industry, communities, regions, and countries. Many factors influence the quality and pace of recovery, and recovery processes will vary widely. Scholars from many academic disciplines (e.g., anthropology, economics, political science, public administration, geography, planning, psychology, sociology, social work) study various aspects of recovery, which makes the discovery, integration, synthesis, and application of findings more challenging. While research about recovery has been limited as compared to other phases of the disaster cycle, research has progressed to make analytic distinctions for various disaster impacts, recovery activities, and recovery outcomes (National Research Council, p. 147). This conceptual clarification has expanded the knowledge base for recovery in a number of important areas. As recovery scholarship has evolved, research has examined such areas as synthesis research and emphasized the connection between recovery policy and practice, but critical needs remain on the horizon.


The Poliheuristic Theory of Crisis Decision Making and Applied Decision Analysis  

Inbal Hakman, Alex Mintz, and Steven B. Redd

Poliheuristic theory addresses the “why” and “how” of decision making. It focuses on how decision makers use heuristics en route to choice by addressing both the process and the choice related to the decision task. More specifically, decision makers use a two-stage process wherein a more complicated choice set is reduced to one that is more manageable through the use of these heuristics, or cognitive shortcuts. In the second stage, decision makers are more likely to employ maximizing and analytical strategies in making a choice. Poliheuristic theory also focuses on the political consequences of decision making, arguing that decision makers will refrain from making politically costly decisions. While poliheuristic theory helps us better understand how decision makers process information and make choices, it does not specifically address how choice sets and decision matrices were created in the first place. Applied decision analysis (ADA) rectifies this shortcoming by focusing on how leaders create particular choice sets and matrices and then how they arrive at a choice. It does so by first identifying the decision maker’s choice set or decision matrix; that is, the alternatives or options available to choose from as well as the criteria or dimensions upon which the options will be evaluated. ADA then focuses on uncovering the decision maker’s decision code through the use of multiple decision models. Combining poliheuristic theory with ADA allows researchers to more fully explain decision making in general and crisis decision making in particular. An application of poliheuristic theory and ADA to decision making pertaining to the Fukushima nuclear disaster reveals that even in this high-stress crisis environment decision makers followed the two-stage process as predicted by poliheuristic theory. More specifically, in the first stage, decision makers simplified the decision task by resorting to cognitive heuristics (i.e., decision making shortcuts) to eliminate politically damaging alternatives such as voluntary evacuation. In the second stage, decision makers conducted a more analytical evaluation of the compulsory evacuation options.