Thursday, September 24, 2009


There is a tendency to think that when attempts are made to prepare adequately for disaster or crises and they do not materialize, that it is overreaction. This is why preparation is done to ensure nothing happens and so if it did not, particularly given past experiences, then the preparation may have worked. The Government of Dominica's recent decision to close schools and businesses in the face of an impending stormed was framed as overreaction. The overwhelming police presence in Pittsburgh as the G20 gets on the way, and the decision to close large parts of the city reduce the number of people in town, remove innocent people from the scene, allowing the officers to focus on protesters. Imagine trying to differentiate the innocent from those bent on social mischief in the name of peaceful protest with the world watching.

The mountainous terrain in Dominica amplifies the orographic lifting and results in torrential rain; that terrain also results in landslides and other slope failures often with disastrous consequences (recall Hurricane Dean in which a mother and her son perished in a landslide; remember Bagatelle in which an entire section of the community was buried alive). The nature of disaster or crisis is to be disruptive and it happens when we caught unguarded. It is is when social and cultural protection collapse that disaster and crisis results.

Pittsburgh learnt from London and Seattle and their G20. Besides the city and the University of Pittsburgh have one of the nations top disaster expert and schools in the US. It is not uncommon to turn on the television on any given day and hear discussions on disaster preparedness and management and as a student of disaster, I am so pleased with the city's approach. overreaction until something bad happens and we search for those to blame. When It comes to disasters or crises, I prefer overreaction, At least it is much easier to recover from that than having to explain as Mayor Nagin had to after Katrina what happened and always what happened - we did not prepare enough, did not take it serious enough and since we cannot tell with certainty when it can go all wrong, as 9/11 taught us. We need to leave no stone unturned to avert disasters and crises and so I say overreaction all the way