Speaker Discusses How Sept. 11 Different Kind of Disaster Recovery Dec. 4

Steven Stehr will discuss “The Social Construction of Disaster Recovery” at 7:15 p.m., Dec. 4, in WSU’s Lighty 405.

Stehr is researching the social and organizational processes undertaken in victim identification and assistance programs following the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers. Stehr traveled to New York City in September to do research at ground zero. His trip was financed by a National Science Foundation quick response grant.

“In light of September 11, I began thinking of how this kind of disaster recovery is going to be different,” he said.

Stehr discovered that all disasters can be classified into four groups based on who is to blame, what caused the accident and what needs to be done after the accident. He described the events of Sept. 11 as an “outlier” — the event was man-made, instead of a natural disaster like a hurricane, and intentional instead of unintentional.

“That’s very unusual,” he said. “It’s almost outside the realm of expectancy.”

In a “normal accident,” like the recent crash of flight 587, the cause is likely an unintentional mechanical error. A heavy-duty investigation to find the error and fix it will likely be the response, he said.

“That’s the way we deal with these (normal) types of disasters,” Stehr said. “We feel happy we’ve found what’s wrong and fixed it.”

Stehr’s research has appeared in Public Administration Review, Urban Affairs Review, Public Administration Quarterly, The Journal of the American Planning Association, Review of Public Personnel Administration, among other scholarly outlets.

For more information, contact Stehr at 509/335-2264.