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This course is an introduction to policies and practices intended to prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the damage done by natural disasters, industrial accidents and terrorist attacks in the United States and its states.  The costs posed by these hazards continue to challenge managers at all levels of government and in the private sector.  The September 11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina symbolized these challenges and made them much more visible than ever before.


This course is not a homeland security course.  This course draws on a rich body of knowledge from political science, sociology, engineering, and many other disciplines.  The focus will be on natural disasters, but terrorism will also be considered.  The September 11 attack caused the United States and state and local governments to reorient their emergency management operations.  A key question we will consider this semester is whether and to what extent the all-hazards approach makes sense in a post-September 11 world.


This course is not about how to put out fires or rescue people from rooftops. First responders render important services to our nation and our communities.  But we cannot understand broader questions of disaster policy and management by focusing solely on the role of first responders. Indeed, the popular focus on first responders and on disaster response has distorted public understandings about the role of all actors in disasters.  Thus, this course is not a basic managerial course.  It is a broad overview of policy, management, and, social science related to hazards and disasters.  There will, however, be the opportunity for us to hear from first responders and discuss the specific issues faced by them.

The disaster studies field is very fluid, with many people and groups involved in shaping research and application.  After taking this course, you will be able to be a knowledgeable participant in discussions about disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, and other sociotechnical aspects of disasters.