Disasters, Hazards and Law: Volume 17

Cover of Disasters, Hazards and Law

Table of contents

(17 chapters)

In view of the global warming that has increasingly been plaguing the earth, it should be no surprise that the world has been witnessing an unprecedented wave of natural disasters over the past decades. Among the most important of these natural calamities in recent years, mention can be made of the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami of 2004, hurricanes Katrina and Irene in the United States in 2005, cyclone Nargis in Burma in 2008, the Haiti earthquake of 2010, the Russian heat wave of 2010, the 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri, and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Ranging from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, avalanches, and floods to heat waves, storms, and epidemics, the field of disaster research presents a myriad of questions for social-scientific exploration.

Purpose – Everyday human behavior is complicated and difficult to understand. When a disaster event is factored in, human behavior becomes even more complicated. Much like during routine times where resources are unequally distributed, so too are the impacts of a disaster. That is, people are more and less vulnerable to disaster and the damage a disaster inflicts has more to do with the social context (type of housing, level of urbanization, average level of education) of the impacted community. Part of the social context of a community that is not considered part of vulnerability analysis is rates of crime. Indeed, there is reliable evidence that demonstrates lawlessness and crime do not happen after “typical” disasters (e.g., see Quarantelli, 2005). However, we are beginning to see antisocial or conflict behavior, such as looting, price gouging, and violence, especially in more recent events like Hurricanes Hugo and Katrina.

Design/methodology/approach – Using the case studies of Hurricanes Hugo and Katrina, this chapter applies conflict and structural strain theories to lawlessness post-disaster, and makes call to consider these theories as part of disaster studies.

Findings – There are emerging patterns of lawlessness that are happening after contemporary disaster events.

Value of the paper – Considerable research posits that people, for the most part, act in consensus following a typical disaster event. However, current events like Hurricane Katrina are by no means typical, and, in fact, trigger new typologies for understanding acute crisis events. These new events are showing us that what have traditionally been called disaster myths may be becoming more of a reality than we once thought. Therefore, criminology of disaster is important to develop further. Little research does this, outside of Harper and Frailing (2010).

Purpose – This study explores legal justifications for applying an enhanced criminal sanction to wrongs committed before, during, and after disasters.

Design/methodology/approach – This study uses recent social science evidence to evaluate the need for criminal statutes covering looting, price gouging, and other disaster-related offenses. Further, this study considers a broader historical context, identifying intersections of disaster crime and the common law's treatment of riots and public disorder.

Findings – Although individual disaster victims and communities are vulnerable to criminal harm, and this vulnerability often appears to motivate the punishment of disaster-related crimes, it is not the only or even the strongest justification available. As an alternative approach, one could focus on the public dimension of the harm – disaster-related crimes are particularly pernicious because they threaten to undermine the legitimate governing authority of the state.

Originality/value of paper – The public-order thesis yokes current legal doctrine to longstanding common law themes and, in so doing, departs from conventional justifications for the enhanced punishment of disaster-related crime. The critical perspective offered here could be extended to criminal penalty enhancements more generally. Moreover, because the rationale for identifying and punishing wrongful conduct is the fundamental question of criminal law, even a modest reassessment has potentially far-reaching implications.

Purpose – In this chapter, we expand the definition of disaster through combining the tenets of disaster studies with the literature on risks and consequences of war and conflict-related displacement and dislocation, with a focus on the challenges that drug misuse and changing drug markets present in these contexts. We conclude with policy recommendations for successful community rebuilding with relation to drugs and drug markets following various forms of disaster, gleaned from the combination of these areas of inquiry.

Design/methodology/approach – We discuss the concepts of risk, social vulnerability, and consequences as related to traditional conceptualizations of disaster, and highlight how they can also be applied to the study of veterans returning from war. We focus the on the similarities related to drugs and drug markets.

Findings – Overall, the similar vulnerabilities, potential for trauma, and drug-related consequences experienced by both disaster survivors and veterans suggest that the experience of war and return from such an event could be considered a disaster and analyzed as such.

Originality/value of power – Few scholars have examined how to expand the definition of a disaster and what is examined in the field of disaster studies. This chapter does this by examining how war could be analyzed as a disaster. It demonstrates the parallels between war and traditional disaster.

Purpose – This study explores the relationship between federal, state, and local governments in regard to evacuation policies. The issue of evacuation enforcement by force is explored from a practical as well as moral perspective, and the overarching question of whether mandatory evacuation policy is merely symbolic is examined. Last, implications of policy making for vulnerable and marginalized populations is explored, and the question of whether criminalization of failure to comply with evacuation orders carries ill effects for certain segments of the population is examined.

Design/methodology/approach – This chapter first evaluates the legal logistics and policy foundation of evacuation orders at the national and state level. The chapter then explores the implications for local governments, notably first responders in implementing evacuation policy. Finally, policy recommendations related to improvements to existing evacuation policy for all levels of government are offered.

Findings – There is a gap in public policy between the expectations of the federal government and the implementation of evacuation policy at the local and state level. Policy and law changes that improve the ability of local governments to more effectively warn communities about the risks of noncompliance should occur in a way that minimizes the social disparities inherent in existing policy schemes.

Originality/value of paper – Evacuation policy is often considered as an afterthought to disaster planning and does not rise to the top of any government agenda until after a catastrophic event. This chapter encourages policy makers to be more proactive in developing evacuation policy that capitalizes on the effects of federalism to minimize the risks associated with natural and human-caused hazards.

Purpose – This chapter provides an overview to the challenges of policing both natural and man-made disasters. Questions surrounding police preparedness to respond to large-scale disasters as well as the causes of failure are likely one of the single biggest system threats faced by police today.

Design/methodology/approach – The chapter starts out with a short discussion about the important impact the 9/11 attacks as well as both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita had on policing in the United States. The materials presented also provide a conceptual framework for understanding the meaning of “disasters,” as well as making sense of the effectiveness of the police response. Finally, this chapter provides an overview of the role of police in disasters, and more importantly, their role in “creating order out of chaos” (Punch & Markham, 2000).

Findings – After more than 10 years of substantial attention to problems associated with responses to natural and man-made disasters, significant barriers remain in the level of communication and coordination among first responders. These barriers are best understood as cultural and not technical in nature.

Originality/value of paper – The conceptual role of police in both pre-disaster planning and post-disaster responses has been largely ignored in the literature. This chapter provides a strong framework for conceptualizing these roles. We argue that police, as core members of the first responder system, must continue to break down cultural barriers that diminish their capacities to effectively serve communities in the wake of disasters.

Purpose – This research explores how social movement activists work to influence the framing of oil spill impacts, and related scientific and political processes. It focuses on the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB), an environmental justice organization that has worked in the Gulf Coast, and looks particularly at the experience of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

Design/methodology – Research is based on qualitative interviews, ethnographic observations, and video data with local social movement organizations, grassroots groups, spill workers, fishermen, local residents, scientists, and government representatives during three time periods, in 2010 within five months of the spill, Fall of 2011, and Summer of 2012.

Findings – Legal institutional constrictions inherent in official oil spill assessments and cleanup processes fostered a transformation in activist tactics and the communities they seek to represent.

Originality/value of the paper – Social movement activism has not often been studied in response to an oil spill. This chapter demonstrates how such an event shapes activism, and how activism has an effect on local responses to the event.

Purpose – This chapter explores the policy formation process for chemical pollution in the An-Shun Plant case. Two major policies including the closing policy and the 1.3 billion NT dollars’ compensation were studied.

Design/methodology/approach – This chapter first analyzes the background of the An-Shun Plant case, the closing policy, and the compensation policy. Analytically, a comparison of the closing policy and compensation policy are offered using Kingdon's (1984) theories of policy formation.

Findings – It was found that both inside and outside government factors were important from the analysis of the two formed policies. For the closing policy, inside government factors were more important than outside government factors. On the contrary, outside government factors were more important for the compensation policy.

Originality/value of the chapter – Environmental policies, especially compensation policy processes, were often ignored. This chapter signifies the importance of environmental policy formation.

Purpose – This study seeks to identify the factors that made Hurricane Katrina the worst disaster in American history. Although the inefficiency of the centralized government is often cited as the primary reason for failure in disaster mitigation and recovery, more fundamental reasons are left unexplored.

Design/methodology/approach – This study points out that comparative case analysis is inadequate to substantiate the claim that private actors are better responders to disaster than public agents. Instead, it takes a single case study approach of hurricane response in New Orleans. This method allows for two things: first, extending the temporal scope helps to understand that disaster management is not a single event but a cumulative result of the past responses. Second, one can trace the interplay between public and private agents rather than their separate reactions.

Findings – A series of legal conditions within the federalist framework have discouraged effective disaster management by the federal government. Using both legal and extralegal means, local actors tried to avoid the federal government's involvement in land use and building control that may prohibit local economic activities. Instead, the federal government was pressured into providing structural protection such as levee construction, which is costly yet ineffective in preventing a mega-disaster like Hurricane Katrina.

Originality/value of paper – This study warrants caution in conducting a comparative case analysis in evaluating the role of the federal government in disaster response and recovery. By conducting an in-depth case study of New Orleans hurricane response over the past 50 years, it reveals that the current government failure stems from structural and legal conditions rather than bureaucratic inefficiency.

Purpose – This chapter explores the nature of dualism as it operates in post-Katrina New Orleans. In particular, the chapter suggests that the combination of the push toward a tourism and services dependent economy and the failure to regulate labor markets has created an especially detrimental situation for both workers and the long-term development of the city.

Design/methodology – To explore dualism in sectors and employment, this chapter applies survey methods to three areas of the New Orleans economy: food service, construction, and manufacturing. Survey methods vary slightly across sectors, due to the ease or difficulty of applying random sampling methods in each context. The surveys were applied anonymously by trained interviewers, and additional information from qualitative interviews and focus groups was also included.

Findings – Without regulation of labor markets and efforts to sustain and expand sectors characterized by decent livelihoods, New Orleans working conditions and development will continue to decline.

Originality/value – This chapter offers an original application of theories of dualism in development and labor markets. In development, dualism refers to sectoral division between high-value, cosmopolitan activities and low-productivity sectors, with few prospects for growth or employment. In labor markets, dualism characterizes the distinction between well-remunerated jobs with opportunities for decent livelihoods and other jobs that are precarious and vulnerable. The chapter also provides results from original surveys, interviews, and focus groups.

Purpose – This study examines the legal system's responses to the disaster of Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans particularly in the first two weeks after the storm. During this period, issues of law and order were a primary concern of government decision makers, and these issues framed those of rescue of and aid to the survivors.

Approach – The chapter draws on the analytic concept of the carceral state as it is publicly displayed in official reactions to disaster rumors of disorder and violence. The empirical focus is on policing activity and on events at the Orleans Parish Prison and Camp Greyhound, a temporary detention center established after the storm.

Findings – Largely unfounded rumors of disorder, including roaming gangs, extensive looting, rape, and murder, fueled the emphasis on law and order and policing and carceral decisions of officials. Actions intended to facilitate an individual's survival or comfort or evacuation were often treated as criminal. New Orleans became a prison city.

Originality – The analysis develops the concept of a “prison city” as an embodiment of the carceral state and suggests that the carceral state prompts and reinforces rumors about disorder and the tendency to designate policing and incarceration as essential first responses to disasters in the United States.

Purpose – The author examines how perceived risk, criminal victimization, and community integration affect the mental health of hurricane evacuees. His objectives are (1) to examine how perceived risk and victimization influence mental health in post-disaster contexts, (2) to analyze how social support and community integration mediate the effects of perceived risk and victimization, and (3) to expand the theoretical applicability of the stress process model by analyzing perceived risk and victimization as stressors under disaster conditions.

Design/methodology/approach – The author uses survey data collected from 303 evacuees of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita residing in FEMA trailer park communities in Louisiana. He estimates four nested regression models predicting depression and anxiety.

Findings – As a personal judgment of perceived risk, feeling unsafe consistently harms mental health net of residential instability and victimization. Social support and social integration buffer the stress related to personal judgments of perceived risk and residential instability.

Originality/value of paper – Findings necessitate attention to residential stability, social integration, and community involvement in mitigating perceived risk, victimization, and poor mental health in post-disaster communities.

Cover of Disasters, Hazards and Law
Publication date
Book series
Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN