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Discuss why is it difficult to define the concept of disaster? Is it a moving target?

Difficulty in defining disasters by cause

One of the most problematic concepts to extensively define is the aspect of the disaster. Over the years, various attempts have been done by several social scientist researchers in order to define this existing concept. However, these attempts have proved futile (Flanagan, Gregory, Hallisey, Heitgerd, & Lewis, 2011).  Conversely, it is very significant to define and explain the meaning of disaster. The works of Dombrowsky, L.Cutter, Britton, and Jigyasu view events of disaster as results of scientific issues. They positively contribute to approaches regarding the perception of disaster topic. This paper reflects mainly on the disaster and roles of culture and civilization in managing disaster issues.

According to Borkosheva (2013) various existing disaster researchers and planners mostly identify disasters in terms of cause such as through natural origins and not as a result of technological advancements. On the other hand, researchers rarely see disasters as agent specific (Janssen, Lee, Bharosa, & Cresswell, 2010).  Therefore it is extremely problematic to define this concept due to the challenge of incorporating all the available causes within the succinct evaluation and meaning and also due to the existence of multi-hazards.These involve the issues within a single hazard such as an earthquake and landslide.

Many researchers and disaster managers opt not to define this concept by its cause hence attempting to define it according to its nature or characteristic. These domains revolve around the following;

  • Length of forewarning
  • The magnitude of the negative effect
  • The existing scope of effect
  • Time horizon of the disaster impact.

These particular researchers typically agree that a certain incident negatively impacts individuals as catalogued in accordance with the overall number of casualties injured or dead victims. Studies have developed this definition to offer a reflection based on main losses to the entire population and physical environment or structures (Flanagan et al, 2011). Evidently, disaster is a highly moving target since, in the developed countries, the effects of disasters occurrence are clear in their psycho-social and politico-economic effects than in their average death rates. But, since the effect of such an event can be quite unanticipated and tremendously varied, it is problematic to include all the potential negative impacts within any one definition of the concept.

It is a moving target since as technology levels advance, many incidents have continued to happen. The issue of local authority ability to respond immediately in times of disasters event is critical to U.S definition. Mercer et al (2013) usually differentiate emergencies and disaster events in terms of the total number of agencies needed to respond to the issue.

Disaster can be defined as a non-routine event that maximizes the ability of the impact failed to respond to it in a manner that saves lives of victims, to protect property and maintenance of a social, economic, political and financial environment of the area affected.

Analyze and discuss the role of culture and the design of civilization on the way disasters are perceived

Culture is viewed as a set of traditional value, norms, shared beliefs and customs that are upheld in society.

They play a huge role in offering guidance for people to survive the impacts and occurrence of a particular disaster in society. It also helps to solve external adoption and internal disaster integration thus redeeming is validity.

Defining disasters by characteristic

Cultural values have extensively taught society members the effective manner to perceive, think and feel when dealing with these challenging disaster issues (Mete & Zabinsky, 2010).

Culture plays a role in the sustainability of community livelihood and helps people appreciate nature. It also improves people’s ideology with regards to the disaster perception as witnessed in the Merapi volcano incident in Indonesia. By creating a positive mindset people are able to perceive this issue differently hence important in disaster risk reduction (DRR) activities.

Having indigenous knowledge regarding tsunami sharpens people increasing their survival rate. Communities are thus able to contain a variety of perspectives and event vulnerabilities that there is a possibility of incident occurrence hence increasing their awareness to react positively during the survival of distinct scenarios and natural hazard incidents.

Civilization design for instance in the developing countries have brought about westernization and religion. Focusing on religion civilization, it has the role to influence a lot of individuals regarding placing their religious beliefs in them and linking the occurrence of any disaster event to gold-making. The civilization improves the perception of disasters to carry out risk mitigation practices (Poser, & Dransch, 2010). Civilization has brought about technological advancement which helps detect disaster management hence make people aware of the vulnerabilities.

It has improved their skills and knowledge ensuring disaster management. The continuous flow of information from one country to another reporting occurrence of disasters through social media platform enables people to come together and assist each other during such a crisis. It plays a big role in enhancing the understanding of nature and perception of such an event.

The term reality is always a general word used to describe the perceptions, the beliefs and those attitudes which are towards the reality. The term is usually used to indicate that parties can agree or can either agree (Boon, 2013). Through this then it shows that one's reality is always different from what other people are thinking or believing. For instance, if one tries to think on the aspect of reality by basing his or her arguments to the religious perception, we can notice that we have individuals who believe they will go to heaven while don't believe so. The aspect of reality to me is that everyone will go to heaven.There are those concepts of science and philosophy which are entirely defined socially and culturally (Boon, 2013). The concept of reality in everyday activity is always important and human consciousness need to be completely aware on the attentive basis of reality.

In order to determine whether the aspect of reality exists or not let's consider some of the issues which describe the nature of reality (Atkinson, 2014). For example, if one thinks in the field of science we tend to have some concepts which reveal reality. If we carry out the experiment and then the results conform to what we know then that is the reality. After testing the criticism in the concept then we come to realize the issue of reality since the concept is being described as actual facts hence showing the real concern. People tend to differ on the ideas meaning they have different realities. If we all believe the earth is round then that is the reality but when one of us deviates from the idea the aspect of reality does not exist. Therefore the issue of reality exists but it depends on a number of factors (Ladyman, Lambert, Wiesner, 2013). For reality to exist then there must be interactions of a certain thing with what is intended to become to that thing. Secondly, reality all the times must contain all the realities and the nature of reality should include the explanations or description of the reality.

The role of culture in disaster perception and management

Generally, the word respondent describes an individual who replies to something special person who is giving information for a questionnaire or participating in giving a response to an advertisement (Oleson & Hora, 2014). In an academic discussion, respondent has a lot of roles which assist in imparting adequate information to the group. Some of the roles of the respondent in academic discussion include;

Making the appropriate remarks in the academic discussion so as to summarise what has been spoken. This is always done simultaneously and sequentially so as to impart adequate knowledge to the available participants (Fullwood, Rowley, Delbridge, 2013).

Serves as the controller in the discussion. Respondents provide adequate data with a number of statements which serves as the evidence on what should be included in the discussion platform. The data s always provided in a logical manner with a number of statistics and facts about a certain aspect in academic discussion.

Also, respondent coordinates the academic discussion. They act as the referee in the sense that all participants in discussion get adequate time to air their issues when in academic discussion. Respondent keeps the discussion calm and they provide a discussion mood that helps others members to synthesize the information optimally.

In addition in order to describe the value of the respondent in the academic discussion, then one must appreciate the qualities of a respondent. When in the discussion there is a need for a leader. Therefore, through the necessity, one can say that respondents portray features of leadership meaning they influence others to solve and understand certain aspects. In addition, respondent assists in clarifying facts in the academic discussion (Turnhout, Stuiver, Klostermann, Harms, Leeuwis, 2013). Also, respondent adds the sign of direction. Those individuals who enlighten others in the academic discussion by sharing out information helps in giving a sense of direction. Guiding someone on certain basics in discussion phenomenon helps in getting the utmost idea being communicated by a certain concept. The importance of the respondent in the discussion is more important since he or she assists the audience to gain knowledge of a particular phenomenon.


Atkinson, P. (2014). The ethnographic imagination: Textual constructions of reality. Routledge.

Boon, W. R. (2013). Attention and interpretation: A scientific approach to insight in psycho-analysis and groups. Routledge.

Borkosheva, N. (2013). Local nonprofit and government organization conceptualizations of disaster response effectiveness (Doctoral dissertation, North Dakota State University).

Flanagan, B. E., Gregory, E. W., Hallisey, E. J., Heitgerd, J. L., & Lewis, B. (2011). A social vulnerability index for disaster management. Journal of homeland security and emergency management, 8(1).

Fullwood, R., Rowley, J., & Delbridge, R. (2013). Knowledge sharing amongst academics in UK universities. Journal of knowledge management, 17(1), 123-136.

Janssen, M., Lee, J., Bharosa, N., & Cresswell, A. (2010). Advances in multi-agency disaster management: Key elements in disaster research. Information Systems Frontiers, 12(1), 17.

Ladyman, J., Lambert, J., & Wiesner, K. (2013). What is a complex system?. European Journal for Philosophy of Science, 3(1), 33-67.

Mercer, J., Gaillard, J. C., Crowley, K., Shannon, R., Alexander, B., Day, S., & Becker, J. (2012). Culture and disaster risk reduction: lessons and opportunities. Environmental Hazards, 11(2), 74-95.

Mete, H. O., & Zabinsky, Z. B. (2010). Stochastic optimization of medical supply location and distribution in disaster management. International Journal of Production Economics, 126(1), 76-84.

Oleson, A., & Hora, M. T. (2014). Teaching the way they were taught? Revisiting the sources of teaching knowledge and the role of prior experience in shaping faculty teaching practices. Higher Education, 68(1), 29-45.

Poser, K., & Dransch, D. (2010). Volunteered geographic information for disaster management with application to rapid flood damage estimation. Geomatica, 64(1), 89-98.

Turnhout, E., Stuiver, M., Klostermann, J., Harms, B., & Leeuwis, C. (2013). New roles of science in society: different repertoires of knowledge brokering. Science and public policy, 40(3), 354-365.

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