Message to the “Journal of Disaster Research”
Past President, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, Oakland, California
Publication of the new “Journal of Disaster Research” is most timely. The last two years have wreaked death and destruction around the world with a savagery that has caused widespread discussion, recrimination and concern for the future. It is clear that, in spite of the great progress in knowledge in the last few decades, much remains to be discovered about the characteristics of nature’s forces and how we can design, construct and retrofit to combat them. This work is the traditional role of scientist and engineers.
It is also clear that much of the new found knowledge is not being implemented and our social and economic institutions are ineffective at ensuring that the best information is put to use. Preparing for and responding to nature’s extreme events is a social, economic and political problem and research in these areas must parallel the traditional areas of scientific and engineering research.
The expressed viewpoint of the Journal of Disaster Research as multidisciplinary for both technology and social systems is right on target. Neither system can solve the problems on its own: we need true multidisciplinary approaches in which both research and practice are conducted by integrated teams that encompass the whole range of technological, social, economic and political issues. We need to improve communication between the public, the experts, the response officials and workers, the scientists and the politicians.
Japan is located in a key position within the Pacific Rim. This region is both a critical area for a wide range of natural disasters, including earthquake, tsunamis, floods and high winds. As such, it is world laboratory for studying the effects of these events and our attempts to respond to them to reduce casualties and economic losses.
Japanese researchers and response officials have gathered invaluable information over the last few decades in both the technological and social fields which they have shared at many international conferences, seminars and private discussions. In the United States we have instituted a number of joint research programs with our Japanese colleagues and visited each other’s cities to share information on preparing for and recovering from these inevitable events. The Journal of Disaster Research, with its distinguished board of editors, will be an invaluable resource in sharing our knowledge.
The advent of international terrorism has added a new and unwelcome dimension to the disaster scene. The field is still in its infancy and much research is needed. Some of the lessons from combating natural disasters can be used in the terrorism situation, but also many new problems are introduced. We must come to terms with the difference between the deliberate attempts to provoke a disaster compared to nature’s random initiation of disastrous events.
Palo Alto, California, USA, June 7, 2006