The Human Side of Disaster

Thomas E. Drabek

August 26, 2009 by CRC Press
Textbook - 288 Pages - 2 B/W Illustrations
ISBN 9781439808641 - CAT# K10428

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  • Identifies the range of behaviors that comprise the typical response set
  • Discusses the need for increased community warning systems and the role of government in developing warnings that work
  • Explores the importance of unofficial warning systems and response patterns
  • Provides a clear understanding of the evacuation process and the complexities of large-scale evacuations
  • Outlines a new theory for effective disaster management based on a multiorganizational network


When disaster strikes, people react, and usually, fear levels rise. Temporarily, however, one motivation supersedes all others: survival of self and those nearby, especially loved ones. Based on the author’s years of research and teaching experience, The Human Side of Disaster scientifically evaluates human responses in the face of disasters. This examination informs emergency managers and response teams and teaches them how to anticipate human behaviors in-crisis.

The book begins with four scenarios based on interviews and real events that introduce the human side of disaster. The stories examine how attention to, or lack of, preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation affect outcomes. Each subsequent chapter refers back to the original Experiences chapter and provides insights that can be applied not only to events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods, but also to man-made threats including industrial accidents and acts of terrorism. The author explores how people’s responses can be predicted, the long term effects of disaster on the psyche, and the key issues involved in recovery.

A balanced interpretation of research, results, and experience, the book demonstrates how traditional warning methods and high-tech systems can work together to improve communications, evacuations, and reconstruction efforts. It highlights the role of the human element in any disaster situation and demonstrates how to use that element as part of a planned disaster response.