What is Likely to Occur Following a Disaster?

As disasters are usually sudden and unexpected events, there is likely to be chaos and confusion, particularly in the early stages when initial information and details are incomplete and reports may be conflicting or inaccurate. Communication breakdowns are also common. Communications equipment may fail (e.g. cell lines are likely to be over-loaded or the impacted area may be in a dead spot, response agencies may not be able to communicate with one another because of incompatible equipment/frequencies). Along with communications failures experienced during the event, there may be multiple information failures. There is often a breakdown in information flow and lack of certainty in the information available. Both communications and information failures impede overall management and co-ordination of response efforts. In the hours and days following the event, convergence (e.g. of emergency responders, volunteers, resources, equipment, etc.) from within and outside of the community commonly occurs. This can present major challenges for those charged with managing response efforts, particularly when the resources are unsolicited, overwhelming and not part of emergency response procedures.

Suggested additional reading: (see References)

1.      E.L. Quarantelli, Organizational Behavior in Disaster and Implications for Disaster Planning

2.      E.L. Quarantelli, Major Criteria for Judging Disaster Planning and Managing and their Applicability in Developing Societies

3.      Auf der Heide, Disaster Response: Principles of Preparation and Coordination   

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