“History shows that human-made disasters have consistently been caused, not by individuals, but by errors, misjudgments, failures or even negligence by senior management because they have failed to instill a culture of safety within an organization.”
Critically discuss this statement, giving examples where appropriate.
This essay question revolves around the one of the most pressing questions asked by media organizations at the scene or onset of a disaster, ‘what/who caused it?’ Was the disaster due to human error or a systems or a technological failure? This essay will attempt to identify some of the factors that are involved in anthropogenic error and give examples of occasions when the failure to react appropriately or make effective decisions has lead to a disaster. Specifically it will look at case studies where disastrous events have been attributed to human error when, in fact, they may well have later been proven to be caused by a much wider, deeper and systemic malaise that exists and affects the organizational culture and senior management at large.
It is necessary to first understand what is meant by the term ‘human made disaster’, a credible answer may hypothesis that these events are actually better defined as anthropogenic hazards that through errors, misjudgments, failures or negligence of one or more parties have lead to disasters. These anthropogenic hazards show a threat from both human intent, neglect and error that involves the collapse of an anthropogenic system. Anthropogenic disasters are human made, ‘anthropogenic’ in nature (caused by man), as opposed to natural disasters which result from natural hazards. Carter, defines human made disaster as, ‘A sudden or progressive event caused by a human, which impacts with such severity on a community that the emergency services or, in their absence, the affected community have to respond by taking exceptional measures’. Examples might include; Sociological Hazards (Crime, Arson, Civil Disorder, Terrorism or War), or Technological Hazards (Industrial, Structural, Power Outage, Fire, Hazardous Materials, Radiation Contamination (CBRN), Transportation Networks (Road, Rail, Sea, Air or in Space). There is a third type, environmental disasters, these can in fact be both anthropogenic and/or natural in cause. In the 21st century we face many challenges as a species; achieving water security, food security, energy security and environmental security, these exponentially expanding challenges bring with them even greater risks of complicated anthropogenic disasters. Wisner suggest that human disasters are a product of social, political, as well as economic environments, which differ from natural environments.
The concept of disaster management was first introduced at the start of the Cold War in the 1950s. Decisions were made and planning drawn up for the preparation for nuclear war and the construction of shelters to protect small percentages of mankind. These early ideas of disaster management were subsequently used to reduce the impact of natural disasters. “Disaster recovery is a process of loosely related activities that takes place before, during, or after a disastrous event to restore order in communities affected or that could be affected by a disaster.” (Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, 2001). The activities mentioned in the article range from warning and ongoing public information announcements through to the construction of shelters for survival in the short term, search and rescue, re-development planning, and preparation for the next disaster, to damage assessments and environmental assessment. Usually these activities are delivered under an emotional, reactionary, time-sensitive, expensive, and politically charged atmosphere and are based upon incomplete information, disproportionate needs, and poor working conditions.
It is very common place that following any human-made disaster, for...
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