August 16, 2017

Volume 1, Number 2 (Spring 2011)

 

EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION

Richard W. Schwester, Ph.D.

 

Peer-Reviewed Scholarship


CAN THE COGNITIVE ENGINEERING APPROACH PREVENT “NORMAL ACCIDENTS”? HOW DESIGN MIGHT IMPROVE SOCIETAL RESILIENCY TO CRITICAL INCIDENTS

Norman Groner, Ph.D.

This paper examines how societies respond to critical incidents—defined as sudden, negative, unplanned, traumatic and transformative events—by designing better ways to prevent and mitigate future occurrences. Charles Perrow (1999), in his landmark book Normal Accidents, hypothesizes that accidents in tightly coupled interactively complex technological systems are inevitable, and that occasionally some of these accidents will invariably cascade into critical incidents. Cognitive engineering has developed largely as a means to prevent and mitigate technological systems accidents described by Perrow. Cognitive engineering approaches are discussed as responses to Perrow’s examples of systems problems. In particular, problems associated with automation and situation awareness in complex systems are examined. The idea that design can enhance societal resilience by preventing and mitigating critical incidents is extended to the design of the organizational and political environments in which technological systems are embedded.

Keywords: cognitive engineering approach, situation awareness, automation, Three Mile Island

 

 


LARGE-SCALE DISASTERS: MECHANISTIC FRAMEWORK FOR PREDICTION, CONTROL AND MITIGATION

Mohamed Gad-el-Hak, Ph.D.

The subject of large-scale disasters is broadly introduced in this article. Both the art and science of predicting, preventing and mitigating natural and manmade disasters are discussed. A universal, quantitative metric that puts all natural and manmade disasters on a common scale is proposed. Issues of prediction, control and mitigation of catastrophes are presented. The laws of nature govern the evolution of any disaster. In some cases, as for example weather-related disasters, the first-principles laws of classical mechanics could be written in the form of field equations, but exact solutions of these often nonlinear differential equations are impossible to obtain particularly for turbulent flows, and heuristic models together with intensive use of supercomputers are necessary to proceed to a reasonably accurate forecast. In other cases, as for example earthquakes, the precise laws are not even known and prediction becomes more or less a black art. Management of any type of disaster is more art than science. Nevertheless, much can be done to alleviate the resulting pain and suffering. The expansive presentation of the broad field of large-scale disasters precludes a detailed coverage of any one of the many topics touched upon. Three take-home messages are conveyed, however: a universal metric for all natural and manmade disasters is presented; all facets of the genre are described; and a proposal is made to view all disasters as dynamical systems governed for the most part by the laws of classical mechanics.

Keywords: large-scale disasters, measuring the scope of disasters, disaster management

 

 


DISASTER AND RECOVERY: THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTORS IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE 1906 EARTHQUAKE IN SAN FRANCISCO

Douglas Coate, Ph.D.

A severe earthquake in San Francisco in 1906 severed electrical and gas lines and collapsed chimneys. Fires resulted, burning for four days over 2800 acres. The commercial and residential center of the city was destroyed. Two hundred fifty thousand people of the city’s 400,000 residents were left homeless, including a majority of public and private sector workers. Municipal records of land titles and bank account records were lost. Payouts from property insurance claims, necessary for rebuilding, were in doubt because policies covered damage from fires, but not from earthquakes. The municipal government was corrupt. Yet, within three years the city was rebuilt, commercial activity restored, and the population level recovered. Two public sector developments were key. The first was the actions of U.S. Army troops stationed outside the fire zone at the Presidio and Fort Mason. They moved to maintain order, protect property, and fight fires within hours of the earthquake. They patrolled the city for 74 days. These actions were extra-legal in that martial law was never declared. Army troops also built and maintained the communications network, took over the distribution of food and other supplies, and constructed and ran many of the relief camps. The second development was also extra-legal. The municipal government was displaced the day of the earthquake by a Citizens’ Committee of business and civic leaders. This committee would control local government funds, including $10 million in donations, and dictate or cajole liberal land use, zoning, business licensing, and building trade rules to speed redevelopment and build confidence in the recovery. Thus, the U.S. Army and the citizens committee set the stage for rapid redevelopment by maintaining property rights and a legal and administrative framework conducive to a robust private market rebuilding of the city. In a narrow sense the uniqueness of the U. S. Army response and the displacement of the municipal government make the San Francisco recovery not generalizable to other disasters. In a broader sense, however, the extraordinary San Francisco recovery echoes Hirshleifer (2008): “Historical experience suggests that recovery [from a disaster] will hinge upon the ability of government to maintain or restore property rights together with a market system that will support the economic division of labor.”

Keywords: San Francisco earthquake and fire, public-private response

 

 

Monographs


COMMUNICATION AND TRUST: PATHWAYS TO SAFER CAMPUSES

Arnold R. Isaacs

Communication. Does that single word define the path to safer college and university campuses? Deliberations at a two-day meeting organized by the Academy for Critical Incident Analysis suggest that among those responsible for campus safety and students’ well-being, many would answer yes — that better communication is, indeed, the key to more effective violence prevention and, consequently, a lower risk of harm to students, faculty and staff at American institutions of higher education. The meeting, held March 11-12 on the Columbia University campus, brought together administrators, directors of student life and counseling services, and public safety officials from a half-dozen institutions in the New York area, along with a number of other experts and observers. Virginia Tech University was also represented, as the site of the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history and also as the subject of ACIA’s last case-study conference, held in July, 2009, in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Keywords: college campus safety, threat assessment model, communication