While elements of disaster preparedness have long been a social adjustment to environmental hazards, both the art and science of disaster preparedness are relatively new courses of study in business, non-profit, government, and academic sectors (Fox, 2006). As with any new course of study, the beginnings of established practice will have inherent weaknesses and areas for improvement. To date, a multitude of issues that should be addressed by stakeholders have been introduced. Some of the issues pertain to 11 problems created by the theoretical aspects of disaster preparedness, while others relate to the practice and application. Some of these issues have been resolved, while others have been neglected or ignored.
John Twigg of Benfield Gregg Hazard Research Centre, University College London, presented eighteen disciplinary and institutional groups involved in disaster reduction during his presentation at the International Conference on Climate Change and Disaster Preparedness (2002). Each of these eighteen groups represents broad stakeholder classifications and can be further divided by disciplinary and institutional boundaries (Twigg, 2002). The many factions of independent researchers and stakeholders can complicate advancements where collaboration is an essential aspect. Cooperation and collaboration tends to lag when groups vie over limited available funding and strive to become the premier group of its respective area.
Each discipline and organization involved takes its own approach to disaster preparedness, tailoring its metrics, data, works, and products to its specific needs. In general, however, there is a lack of uniformity of data, which further decreases the potential for cooperation among the stakeholders.
The lack of cross-compatibility also affects the consistency of the language, as definitions are aligned with organizational needs (Kirschenbaum, 2002). Definitions are created that take on additional characteristics to make them more appealing to social, business, academic, or other groups. The variance in taxonomies makes it difficult to extract a particular topic, such as disaster preparedness, from the existing literature. Many authors use such terminology as disaster preparedness, hazard mitigation, and disaster reduction interchangeably where each term could be perceived as distinctive. Other 12
authors provide definitions that may suffice for one field, but would be fundamentally inadequate in another.
Examining the existing definitions of “disaster preparedness” demonstrates this point. The literature does not provide a “definition” of disaster preparedness the way that a dictionary might. Instead, the literature states what disaster preparedness entails from the perspective of the author/s. If taken literally, disaster preparedness would mean being satisfactorily prepared for a catastrophic event. However, a sufficient definition of disaster preparedness would also need to include ways in which persons and organizations can be satisfactorily prepared for such a circumstance. It is in this way that “definitions” of disaster preparedness can be extracted from the literature. Several authors touch on potential “definitions” of disaster preparedness. Many of the definitions contain a piece of the meaning, without stating precisely what disaster preparedness should contain wholly.
Christopolis, Mitchell, and Liljelund emphasize the
importance of including “efficiency, effectiveness, and impact of disaster response” as a central goal of disaster preparedness (2001). The development of local response, such as early warning systems, is also a central part of disaster preparedness (Integrated Regional Information Networks, 2005).
McEntire, Twigg, and the United Nations Development Programme all have definitions with similar attributes, but add their own spin on disaster preparedness. The United Nations Development Programme views hazard mitigation as a core...