Lessons from disaster: the power and place of story

Carol Mutch (School of Critical Studies in Education, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)
Jay Marlowe (School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Publication date: 11 November 2013



The purpose of this paper is to view the human experiences of the Canterbury earthquakes through a varied set of disciplinary lenses in order to give voice to those who experienced the trauma of the earthquakes, especially groups whose voices might not otherwise be heard.


The research designs represented in this special issue and discussed in this introductory paper cover the spectrum from open-ended qualitative approaches to quantitative survey design. Data gathering methods included video and audio interviews, observations, document analysis and questionnaires. Data were analysed using thematic, linguistic and statistical tools.


The themes discussed in this introductory paper highlight that the Canterbury response and recovery sequence follows similar phases established in other settings such as Hurricane Katrina and the Australian bushfires. The bonding role of community networks was shown to be important, as was the ability to adapt formal and informal leadership to manage crisis situations. Finally, the authors reinforce the important protocols to follow when researching in sensitive contexts.

Research limitations/implications

The introductory paper only discusses the articles in this special issue but it is important to acknowledge that there are other groups whose stories were not shared due to logistical limitations.


This introductory paper sets the scene for the articles that follow by outlining the importance of the human stories of the Canterbury earthquakes, through the eyes of particular groups, for example, medical staff, schools, women, children and refugees. The approach of viewing the experience through different community voices and disciplinary lenses is novel and significant. The lessons that are shared will inform future disaster preparedness, response and recovery policy and planning.



Mutch, C. and Marlowe, J. (2013), "Lessons from disaster: the power and place of story", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 22 No. 5, pp. 385-394. https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-10-2013-0172

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