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(1) If you are new to the field of emergency management, or new to teaching a related topic, be sure to check out the page marked Book Reviews. There are more than 20 reviews of significant books in the field.

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Book Review: Constructing Risk

Constructing Risk: Disaster, Development, and the Built Environment by Stephen O. BenderNew York: Berghahn. Vol. 4 of Catastrophes in Context. (2021).
Hardback 978-`-80073-162-2 $60.00; Ebook 978-1-80073-163-9 $29.95

Reviewed by Donald Watson, editor of the website theOARSlist.com, Organizations Addressing Resilience and Sustainability, editor of Time-Saver Standards for Urban Design (McGraw-Hill 2001), and co-author with Michele Adams of Design for Flooding: Resilience to Climate Change (Wiley 2011). He has served as consultant for United Nations, U.S. AID, EPA, FEMA, and numerous international humanitarian and disaster relief organizations.

Constructing Risk is a fully developed treatise on the current state of art of disaster risk and “development,” represented by planning, design and construction of the built environment. It applies to construction enterprises and land development worldwide.

The book is introduced by a “chronology” of quotations that track the evolution of theory and practice of disaster risk reduction (DRR), beginning with the 1972 UN Stockholm Declaration identifying threats posed by natural disasters, quotes from Dennis Mileti’s 1999 Disasters by Design, to the present with 2019 statements of UNDRR (United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction) Global Assessment Report that, “…institutional, legislative and policy frameworks did not sufficiently facilitate the integration of disaster risk considerations into… all sectors [of] land-use planning and territorial development.”

These statements document incremental progress to recognizing the principal message and caution of this book, that our development practices—the ways we build on the land—too often resulting in increasing risk of disaster, when they could and should be doing the opposite, reducing risk to natural disaster, climate change and sea level rise.

The author brings more than thirty-years of experience with disaster-related policies and practices to the review, detailed in thirteen chapters, what has been learned, what has been represented in numerous governmental and international policies, and what remains to be adopted in practice. While dense in some parts and requiring familiarity with definitions and acronyms of UN and related climate policy documents (a list of abbreviations is provided), a careful reading is rewarded by lessons learned and to be learned in the emerging field of disaster risk management.

Helpful anecdotes are inserted throughout, balancing critical assessments where organizations and countries have not used available methods of risk assessment, and as a result, “…acting individually and through collective bodies, succeed neither in effective policy nor practice in reducing vulnerability of the built environment.” [p. 179]

After a number of chapters about the failings to influence construction and land planning, chapter 15 imagines headlines of the future, visions of the good that all-hazard risk management could achieve:

2031 School Life Safety instituted so that classrooms in the 450,000 primary and secondary schools around the globe are less vulnerable.

2030 Disaster information is freely and widely accessible to facilitate informed DRR decision making.

2030 Major floodplains, including the Mississippi, returned to function as a natural drainage basins.

2029 Weather alerts about road conditions threatened by flood, landslide, and severe weather available internationally.

Given the depth and breadth of knowledge represented in this book, the conclusions should be and are important, worth shouting from the rooftops, for the author knows of what he writes, as he sums up in his closing chapter:

“Risk reduction should be proclaimed as a principal development goal. Development
must be the principal driver of DRR. Stakeholders may not now consider disaster risk
reduction the domain of development, but unwittingly development has become the
domain for survival of human beings.” [p. 223]

“Now populations around the globe again face a risk of catastrophic loss
generated by human action—put simply, development-induced vulnerability to
natural hazard events, including climate change and sea level rise. But this time
governments and communities ought to manage the risk with an acceptable
collective strategy. That strategy is MAS—mutually assured survival.” [p. 234]

Book Review: Disaster and Emergency Management Methods

Disaster and Emergency Management Methods; Social Science Approaches in Application by Jason Rivera. Publisher: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, New York and London. ISBN-hardcover: 978 0 367 42398 8 ISBN-electronic: 978 0 367 82394 8; Pages: 381; on-line price $52.95 for paperback., $172.55 for hardback, $42.36 for etext USD. Key words: environmental governance, sustainability, resilience, climate risk, natural hazard, disaster risk reduction, building regulation.

Reviewer: Jono Anzalone, EdD, Nonprofit Leader and Disaster Expert

Jason Rivera provides a solid text for approaching disaster and emergency management from a social science perspective. As the emergency management profession has gained academic rigor in the past 20 or so years, this text informs several critical research methodologies that are valuable for both undergraduate and graduate students as well as practitioners.

Part One of the text sets the stage for understanding the primary considerations in disaster and emergency management research methodology. The balance in looking at both qualitative and quantitative methods discussed in the text allows for holistic approach research, as too often methodological approaches are inclined to a bias of being only quantitative. The chapter by Barbara Russo focuses on the merits of a marriage between quantitative and qualitative data, elaborating on the value of mixed methods research.

Absent from the text is a more comprehensive look at the varieties of qualitative research methods. This would include single case and multicase methodologies extremely valuable both in the broader social sciences field as well as in disaster and Emergency Management. Case study methodology experts Robert Yin and Robert Stake should augment the text,
as there is learning power in the case study as a research methodology. There is also an opportunity to include a review of software systems that can be used to support qualitative analysis to complement the discussion in coverage of quantitative software packages.
NVivo, Dedoose, and others have emerged as Frontline software to support qualitative research, and readers should be aware that complementary to SPSS and other quantitative analysis software, there are powerful counterparts for qualitative analysis.

Overall, I commend the editor and authors of the text for providing a value-added resource for a variety of stakeholders including students and practitioners. I also commend the editor for finding key contributing authors who are women leaders in the disaster and emergency management space. All too often such literature and texts lack gender diversity and key perspectives from women leaders.

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