Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Publisher’s note From: Disaster Prevention and Management, Volume 24, Issue 1
Alfred Zelma Keller PhD, BSC, CEng, FSRS, FBCS, FIQA, MORS 1924-2014 Director: Disaster Prevention and Limitation Unit, University of Bradford, UK Founding Editor, DPM
Alfred Keller was a theoretical nuclear physicist who had a desire and passion to see a much safer prepared society that would be free from the horrors of man-made and disasters associated with natural hazards. It was this desire that eventually led him to the forefront of disaster management research in the UK and to work with Emerald to establish Disaster Prevention and Management in 1992.
Alf’s academic life was spent at the University of Bradford where he rose to be a Reader in Industrial Reliability but like many of us at the time he became involved in the field of emergency planning and disaster management when it had very little theoretical underpinning and was not seen by many as an academic discipline. The 1980s in the UK is known as “the decade of disasters” and it was one of those disasters, the Bradford City Fire in May 1985 which led Alf into the field. In the aftermath of the fire which killed 56 people Alf established the Disaster Prevention and Limitation Unit (DPLU) at the University of Bradford (the first of its kind in the UK) with the sole aim of providing an internationally recognised forum and research centre that would help build an evidence base and lead to a better understanding of disaster prevention, preparedness and mitigation. To achieve this he gathered together renowned experts in the field and senior members of the response agencies in a Steering Committee to guide the Unit: took on a number of PhD students and initiated the annual DPLU conference. The conferences regularly attracted 300-400 international and UK speakers and delegates including international high-profile academics; policy makers from the UK and Europe and practitioners from the response agencies, local government and the voluntary sector. They were a melting pot of research, good practice and opinion and truly fostered knowledge exchange.
In my opinion, Alf’s biggest contribution to DRM was his overriding ethos of prevention and preparedness. He made great efforts to expound his philosophy whenever he could and none more so than during the annual DPLU conferences and ultimately with the founding of DPM. Yet, it is perhaps his controversial “Bradford Disaster Scale” that Alf will be remembered by many. In those early years of the DPLU and as a typical scientist/engineer he had faith in the power of mathematical modelling to accurately predict the occurrence of disaster and to measure their impact on society. Indeed a paper on the topic was published in the very first edition of DPM. However, his view did widen considerably with the input of speakers and delegates to the DPLU conferences and he came to appreciate the significant importance of vulnerability and social issues in determining disaster impacts on communities and society in general.
Alf Keller was a “concepts” man, a visionary who saw the need to understand and be better prepared for crisis and disaster and worked hard with all manner of stakeholders to make that vision a reality.
Eve Coles, Visiting Fellow in Civil Protection, Cabinet Office Emergency Planning College