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Behavioral Dimensions of Disaster Definition

Disaster is defined as a sudden occurrence that causes serious economic, material, environmental damage, and loss of life (Thomas & Fordham, 2011). Both plants and animals, including human beings, might die during disasters. The disaster category chosen for this discussion is a natural calamity, for instance, Hurricane Katrina. This is the disaster that occurred as a result of natural forces beyond human control. Concerning the disaster above, the applicable phases of emergency management include the evacuation phase, counseling phase, and resettlement phase.

Evacuation Phase

This phase is the initial stage of responding to the disaster. It is considered an emergency if there is no warning from scientists or the government. During this phase, people and property trapped in the mess are evacuated to safety as soon as possible to avert further loss of life and damage to properties (Wilson & Oyola-Yemaiel, 2002). The survivors are also given the necessities such as food, water, clothes, beddings, and medicine during this phase.

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Counseling Phase

During this phase, people who sustained injuries but survived death, lost family member(s), and/or relatives are counseled to minimize the psychological trauma that they may be undergoing (Wilson & Oyola-Yemaiel, 2002). Necessities are also provided during this phase, whether the survivor is staying at home or in a rescue camp.

Resettlement Phase

During this phase, the survivors of the disaster are resettled either in their homes or in different places if the former is perceived as not safe (Wilson & Oyola-Yemaiel, 2002). It involves providing the survivors with the necessities that would bring their lives back to normal.

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Theory of Fate

A sociological theory that must be considered in this case is Fate Theory. This is also referred to as the Act of God Theory. The theory postulates that the Supreme Being or extraordinary human beings are believed to be the cause of disasters among some communities, e.g. among the Christian community (Sutton & Tierney, 2006).

Literature Review

Disaster research is available to emergency management practitioners from a variety of sources. Therefore, the source that I find valuable is Kirschenbaum, A. (2006). Families and disaster behavior: A reassessment of family preparedness. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, vol. 24(1):111-143. The source is important because it views disaster as an emergency occurrence that needs urgent action. It also indicates that managing disasters is a policy issue that needs proper guidelines in terms of dealing with its impacts.

In the article written by Kirschenbaum (2006), he noted that disasters have impacts on the economy, material world, environment, and humanity. Economically, the author noted that a lot of funds that would otherwise be used in various economic activities are used in financing rescue operations and the post-crisis period, for instance, counseling and resettlement. As for material impacts, he noted that disasters lead to the destruction of roads, railway networks, vehicles, and other movable or immovable material properties such as buildings (Kirschenbaum, 2006). Environmentally, disasters could lead to massive landslides that shape the physical environment.

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The issues above relate to scriptural and biblical principles in the sense that God has a plan for everything that happens on Earth. Christians believe that they can be prevented from disasters through divine intervention. Some people also view disasters as a means of communication between man and God, whereby these disasters are resultant of man's misdeeds and failings (Fothergill & Peek, 2004).

However, the theoretical aspect simply indicates that disasters just happen only when they have to occur due to changes in the environment. Thus, people should just accept and get on with them (Rodriguez & Barnshaw, 2006). From personal experience, I do uphold the theoretical view that disasters are God's plans, and that no human being can either perceive their cause or prevent them from occurring. This leaves the role of humanity only to taking precautions by responding to warnings and moving to safe places despite the survivor's economic status when the disaster hits (Fothergill & Peek, 2004).

Conceptions of Behavioral Dimensions of Disaster

Some of the misconceptions associated with behavioral responses to a disaster are the resultant of worldview variations. Using Hurricane Katrina as an example, I consider different views about their occurrence. First, the survivors of the disaster equated it to a misfortune befalling the community. Second, Christians believed that God could be punishing people for misbehavior, especially those living in the community hit by a disaster. The third misconception about the disaster is that nature is on course, thus unstoppable.

There are certain cases where humanity does not have an explanation that justifies the disasters or cannot predict their occurrence by certainty, and the reasons can be real or fictitious (Drabek, 2005). Usually, the real reasons are merely attributable to various human activities while assuming nature that leads to disasters. This indicates that the causes of disasters are never reliable as they keep shifting from one individual to another. Ideally, the meaning of reality changes from person to person, based on ideas and personal feelings.

In terms of emergency management, the management team should understand the differences between myth and reality. This is because the reality is bound to happen, and the management team must be adequately prepared to handle its consequences (Wilson & Oyola-Yemaiel, 2000).

On the other hand, the myth is simply a cultural belief that may or may not happen. It may be a justification of a pattern in society that forms cultural beliefs of the people, even though they cannot behold as truth. The emergency management team may prepare to handle the myth causing wastage of resources that had been put in place to handle the crisis (Drabek, 2006).

However, the team must adequately prepare to handle the impact of reality, especially after its occurrence. The management team must also indicate quantitatively that disasters lead to the destruction of plants and loss of human lives and those of other beings.


Since there is no scientific proof of the myth's existence (e.g. paranormal activities) as a fact in mass media, the opinions that have been reported for the existence of such occurrences depend on one's psychological status, behavior, and level of reasoning (Kirschenbaum, 2006). Literally, something that science cannot explain is a myth that is subject to human manipulations and misinterpretations.

For example, paranormal activities are similar to elusive and fictitious stories, which a person might develop to convince others of a unique occurrence. Scientists accept that there is no applicable methodology for interpreting paranormal occurrences. Therefore, some of the factors related to the reporting of myths include globalization, modernization/technology, and culture.

Globalization is a factor in reporting because different people across the world have varying trends that they need to report so that other people could get the knowledge of such occurrences. It can be reported in print media such as newspapers, magazines, and pamphlets. In terms of modernization, the use of technology has significantly improved information dissemination as people across the globe find it easier to spread the myths related to their background.

They use the internet, especially social media, to make the information being transferred easier and becoming more accessible to different people who use the same platform. Local cultural values are different and form rich sources of myths. Therefore, the need to inform other people about specific cultural attributes treated as myths in a given society makes it easier to report them (Marx, 2007).

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The reporting of facts and myths affects the general population and decision-makers in the way that the former becomes aware of the occurrence and gets prepared to counter its impacts. The decision-makers will also have enough information about the occurrence so that they become able to make proper decisions regarding policy issues and advisory on such occurrences (Sylves, 2008). In case it is a myth, its reporting may instill unnecessary fear into the population.

Mostly, it is so because of the religious or cultural beliefs that people might use to explain such mythical activities despite their variations. Typically, one would argue that since culture varies across different groups of people, the explanation of myths or paranormal activities takes different directions according to the people's religious beliefs and target audience.

Disaster Planning, Intervention, and Provision of Social Services

An emergency organization is an institution that deals with disaster planning, intervention, and provision of social services to people affected by disasters. In this section, I will focus on the Red Cross. The organization believes in the Fate Theory and notes that when a disaster occurs, human beings can do nothing about it and any efforts to reverse the event or trying to manage the situation will be regarded as greed to outdo the powers of the Supreme Being or the extraordinary human beings (Red Cross, 2012).

A good example is when the organization was handling the Chinese drought disaster. The population in China who believe in their society, are wise people having been appointed to be divine beings that control events such as climate and weather, and nobody else can do the same. This belief affects the operations of the Red Cross in intervening during disasters since the Chinese believe that the organization and its management team do not form the part of wise people (Perrow, 2005).

The Red Cross applies the nature theory during the response to disasters. Using this theory, the organization believes that disasters can be managed by the use of money, engineering, and technology. The occurrence of the most disastrous hurricanes such as the one that occurred in China and New Orleans lead to the death of more than 30 million people as estimated perhaps due to the organizational failures within the country (Perrow, 2005).

Scientific research conducted by the Red Cross is also underway in inventing materials for construction that are resistant to forces such as tsunamis, hurricanes, and tornados. The invented materials have to be designed in the way of preventing or minimizing the damages that the disasters cause. In addition to this, the Red Cross noted that similar occurrences among different ethnic groups would be explained differently in line with the traditional beliefs of the affected.

For example, in terms of a question related to astral projection, Mayan prophesies, mutual dreams, precognitive dreams, crop circles, and remote viewing, one would be perplexed with the diverse responses, which the people from different religious and ethnic groups would provide (Havidan & Russell, 2006).

Religious Organizations Help

Carefully examining Case Study 3, the purpose of it was to determine the extent to which religious organizations could help in managing the impacts of disasters. Notably, religious people would cognitively attribute horrible disasters to the works of the devil towards the affected. Moreover, the scientists would lack an explanation for the occurrence of Katrina because they are not able to either measure or determine precisely such occurrences or replicate them (Piotrowski, 2006).

Now, which argument can a person believe? Often, the people would be confused and forced to rely on their instincts to make out the reality. Some would relate the occurrence to the religious and/or traditional teachings.

The researchers conducted the study using interviews. They interviewed some top religious leaders to get their views about various forms of disasters that befall people in different societies. In terms of the achievement, the researchers got an insight into the differences in the disaster occurrences and areas prone to such incidents. This made it possible for researchers to understand the religious aspects of disasters and justify their occurrences in specific locations around the globe (Tierney, 2005).

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The study could be improved by using reliable methodologies of collecting data such as using questionnaires and surveys to increase the level of precision in data collected. In this regard, using such methods would limit biases caused by fear of saying things that one would not feel free to share with other people. Additionally, the researchers could expand the study by establishing the scientific reality of such disasters and the extent of damage or loss of lives they cause other than relying on assumptions and opinions of the selected interviewees (Stallings, 2006).

For example, the disasters caused by the intersection of society and natural theory can be resolved by making human adjustments using scientific findings. This would include making and implementing policies and regulations such as those related to building, land use management, food insecurity, and environmental degradation.

Variations of the Worldviews

The elements and issues presented in Case Study 5 and Case Study 6 from the textbook are significantly different due to the variations of the worldviews. For instance, in case study 5, it is claimed that science does not have the capability of measuring mystery in a disaster. This indicates that the scientist would not offer any explanation using the scientific methodology because the latter requires the researcher to collect data, analyze it, and explain the findings (Van & Ultee, 2006).

Sometimes, the scientist might be forced to replicate the occurrence to determine if similar cases in other parts of the globe would yield the same outcomes. Therefore, the traditional explanation would rely on the use of intrinsic but not scientific knowledge.

In case study 6, the focus was on traditional views. Here, the case noted that the traditional believer associates the occurrences of disasters either to the ancestral requirement on the people or community affected. The argument is that the people or entire community might be in the need of making some sacrifices to appease the dead or gods. Precisely, the differences in ideology between the two case studies resulted in a unique explanation about a similar occurrence that is beyond the scientific limits (Van, & Ultee, 2006).

Could that be related to magic, fallacy, unknown? This is the essence of more research on the matter as presented by two case studies.

The notable similarity presented in the case studies is that the religious believer would refer to the Biblical, Quran, or Torah teachings and personal experiences about such occurrence in different geographic regions, and this could affect the overall outcome of the study. Based on the cases, cultural and worldview perceptions are different as they relate to emergency response (McCorkel, 2006).

The rationale is that a mysterious occurrence has differences in interpretations from various faith groups, racial backgrounds, and scientific researches (William & Rodriguez, 2008). This indicates that there is no universal explanation for paranormal occurrences or disasters.

The Future Research

In terms of the future research needs provided in the textbook, three of the most critical topics of the research include magical issues about disasters, fallacy regarding disasters, and unknown about disasters.

Magical Issues about Disasters

The current problem in this topic is the failure done by scientists and non-scientists in distinguishing between magic and disasters. The issue that will be studied is whether the supernatural powers play a role in determining the occurrence and the outcome of disasters (Wenger, Quarantelli & Dynes, 2010). The topic is important as it will enable us to differentiate between magical actions and the occurrence of disasters.

Fallacy Regarding Disasters

The current problem with this issue is that we cannot differentiate reality from fallacy on matters related to the occurrence of disasters. The most important issue that will be studied is whether the scientists or traditionalists tell the reality or mere fallacy regarding disasters in particular geographic regions. The topic is important because it will broaden our understanding of disasters, thereby enabling us to distinguish between false statements and reality in terms of different disasters.

Unknown about Disasters

The current problem in this topic is that a lot of things are still unknown about disasters, thereby necessitating research. The issue that will be studied is whether the determination of the unknown can help us understand better the disasters. This topic is significant because it would eliminate rumors about disasters by establishing the unknown and their impact on the topic (Nicholson, 2005).

Finally, knowing or establishing the reality of the specific study being conducted issues a great challenge to the scholars and the clergy in trying to understand magic, fallacy, and the unknown about disasters (Wenger, Quarantelli, & Dynes, 2010). It indicates that the decisions made concerning disaster management can be effective when we address the root causes of social injustice and human vulnerability to hazards rather than relying on assumptions.

For instance, the deadliest tsunami that occurred in 2004 in Asia and extended even to Tanzania could be used as an example to show the vulnerability of poor persons to disasters (Rodriguez, Wachtendorf, Kendra, & Trainor, 2006). Most of the victims were poor people living along the Indian Ocean coastline with some carrying out fishing for a living.

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