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Hurricane Maria: Disaster Response in Puerto Rico  

Havidán Rodriguez and Marie T. Mora

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria struck the island of Puerto Rico with great ferocity. The impact and outcomes of this event were devastating for the population of over three million American citizens. The electrical grid was decimated, the transportation infrastructure was significantly impacted, and an already deteriorating healthcare system was further eroded. Furthermore, the local, islandwide, and especially the federal response to Hurricane Maria failed to meet the emerging and critical needs of those impacted by the catastrophic event and left island residents and isolated communities on their own. Official estimates placed the death toll close to 3,000. Hurricane Maria also accelerated the largest migratory movement in Puerto Rico’s history from the island to the continental United States and decimated an already weak and deteriorating economy after more than a decade of a severe economic crisis. Recovery efforts remained slow in many parts of the island, and the social, economic, and healthcare impacts of the hurricane will be felt for decades to come. The disaster research literature shows the disasters are not “natural,” but socially constructed or produced events. Indeed, a number of preexisting factors contributed to the disaster situation in Puerto Rico, including the severe economic crisis, which was also reflected in high levels of unemployment and poverty; the island’s complicated relationship with the U.S. mainland; massive net outmigration; and a frail and deteriorating healthcare system. Furthermore, the political relationship between Puerto Rico and the mainland affected federal-level disaster response and recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria.

Article

Disasters and the Theory of Emergency Management  

David A. McEntire

Disasters and the theory of emergency management are vibrant subjects for scholars. Researchers have focused on a variety of topics, including the definition of disasters, human behavior in extreme events, the nature of emergency management, ways to make the profession more effective, the pros and cons of various paradigms, and new areas of research. In studying these subjects, scholars have employed a variety of methods, including observation, field research, and comparison, among others. Findings from research reveals that humans are responsible for disasters and that vulnerability must be reduced. Studies reveal that antisocial behavior is less likely to occur than more common activities to support victims of disasters. The principles of emergency management have been elaborated, and scholars have argued that the phases of disasters are more complex that initially meets they eye. Research also reveals that bureaucratic approaches to emergency management are based on false assumptions and are too rigid. Scholarship also explores how to make emergency management functions more effective, and a number of articles have been written to explore paradigms to guide research and practice. Theoretical work on disasters and emergency management has examined planning, improvisation, and spontaneous planning. Research has also explored humanitarian logistics, the use of social media, the scholarship of teaching and learning, cultural competency and the culture of preparedness. Going forward, more research is needed on the complexity of disasters and the use or impact of technology in emergency management. A greater understanding of public health emergencies is warranted due to the challenges of Covid-19.