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A theoretical perspective of man‐made system disasters: Social‐technical analysis and design

J. Michael Tarn (Department of Business Information Systems, Haworth College of Business, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Missouri, USA)
H. Joseph Wen (Department of Accounting and Management Information Systems, Harrison College of Business, Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA)
Stephen C. Shih (Department of Information Management Systems, College of Applied Sciences and Arts, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois, USA)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 25 April 2008




The purpose of this paper is to study major man‐made system disasters and to suggest a solution for filling the noted gaps in control systems interfaces and to render those vital considerations for the next‐generation disaster management control systems.


This research analyzes the nature of large‐scale disasters and observes that most man‐made system disasters are composed of many related events that interact with one another.


The findings show evidence of a common path to catastrophe. These functional failures resulted from the information gaps that eventually contribute to the development of a tragedy. Because of the intricate interconnections among related events of a developed calamity, an integrated approach to man‐made disaster detection and prevention as well as emergency management is required.

Practical implications

Conducting an analysis of the typical contingency control structures, the authors suggest that disaster or emergency managers adopt a pessimistic and quasi‐intelligent orientation to monitor and control critical systems.


This research presents a generic threat‐driven disaster management control system design with advanced model bases and decision support technologies to enhance conventional disaster management control systems and to supplement management responses so that the sphere and magnitude of damage can be minimized.



Tarn, J.M., Wen, H.J. and Shih, S.C. (2008), "A theoretical perspective of man‐made system disasters: Social‐technical analysis and design", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 256-280.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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