presents several different ways of thinking about information and communication needs in disasters, which together provide a framework for understanding the various roles that IT plays in disaster management; and places the issue of IT use into the broader social context of disasters and disaster management.
Disasters are events that disrupt the normal functioning of the economy and society on a large scale (for more on terminology, see Box 1.1). Natural, technological, and willful (terrorist initiated) sources of disasters all cause dramatic losses of life and property.
Terminology Used in Disaster Management
A variety of terms are used in the fields of emergency and disaster management. Over time, a fairly standard set of definitions has emerged, as reflected in a series of reports from the National Research Council and other groups. Emergencies, disasters, and catastrophes, for example, are distinct events with important differentiating characteristics.1 This report does not specifically consider “emergencies”—a term that connotes “everyday” events that can be handled within the normal operational limits of public safety agencies—nor does it distinguish between disasters and larger-scale events that might be called catastrophes, even though it is likely that the value of IT capabilities increases as the complexity and scale of communication problems become greater. Throughout this report, the term “disaster” can be read as “disaster and catastrophe.”
This report uses the following set of definitions, adapted in part from Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions: 2