I need two replies to this discussion board on either agreeing or disagreeing. 150 words for each reply, the original discussion is attached.
In the reading for week 8, Dr. Fischer addresses not only areas of disaster research that need further study, but also begins to speculate about how some future threats might play out. This included events that might not be thought of as traditional disasters. Earlier in the book, he talks about the possible consequences of a biological attack that causes a widespread epidemic. Something like this would have elements of both a “natural” disaster as biological illness, while also sharing elements of a “technological” disaster since it is controlled to some degree by human actors. Sharing some aspects of both types of events, the event could play out in some predictable ways (Fischer, 2008, pp. 14-15). He further develops this idea in the final chapter where he lays out a hypothetical scenario of a biological attack in the United States (pp. 212-217).
The National Disaster Recovery Framework also addresses the possibility of a naturally occurring biological disaster speculating that “A virulent strain of pandemic influenza could kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, affect millions more, and result in economic loss” (FEMA, 2016, p. 9). While not a deliberate act motivated by terrorism, such an outbreak as acknowledged by the federal government could progress much like Fischer’s example. The first reported cases would only appear to be regular illnesses spreading across to different areas of the country. By the time the disease is recognized as being fast spreading and/or more deadly than usual, it would already have taken hold of large parts of the population.
Fischer’s “hypothetical scenario” was written in 2008 and it is interesting to review it in a post-COVID society. He talks about grocery store shelves being depleted, predicting “there will be a mass convergence of shoppers who fear additional supplies will not be available for some time to come” (p. 215). I remember the great “Toilet paper shortage” of 2020, and how it became a self-perpetuating crisis. As the national media showed empty shelves and people fighting over it in the stores, that motivated other people to rush to the stores to grab their own stock before stores ran out, thus driving a shortage. While this could be pointed to as “panic behavior” it was truly part of a pandemic specific disaster myth, that a respiratory disease was going to somehow crash the supply chain and people would turn on each other in desperation. The media fanned the flames of this myth, but with social media playing such a part in most Americans’ daily lives, most everyone had the potential to became part of the media by passing on stories, pictures and memes that supported their perception of the crisis.
Was COVID a truly “natural” disaster event, or a “technological” disaster with human origins? If technological, was it release deliberate or accidental? More than three years later the jury is still out on those questions. Fischer continues his scenario with the prediction that as the event continues to develop that “expectations will always be unrealistic and blame-fixing will begin early in the post-impact period” (p. 216). The government did too much, while at the same time doing too little to stop the spread. The American public seemed to divide into two camps, those who supported the medical recommendations given by the government, and those who did not. The ones who were agreeable were painted by others as helpless “sheep” who blindly followed what they were told even to their own doom. Those who resisted the government initiatives and guidance were portrayed as ignorant and “anti-science” and were willing to destroy our country out of pride. The public image was that these two positions were absolute and that we as a nation could not have an intelligent and respectful discussion with those who held an opinion different from ours. In reality, I personally found the opposite to be often true. Most friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers peacefully co-existed with each other, even when they may not have agreed on the details. The words of James were never more true or necessary than during that pandemic, “Now everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (NASB, James 1:19). There was a lot of fear, anger and uncertainty during that time, and people were desperate for stability. Believers, serving as professionals who could do our jobs competently, safely and graciously were in a position to impact those around us in ways that we could not in easier times.
FEMA. (2016, June). National Disaster Recovery Framework. Federal Emergency Management Agency- Department of Homeland Security.
Fischer, H. W. (2008). Response to disaster: Fact versus fiction and its perpetuation. The sociology of disaster. University Press of America.
New American Standard Bible, (1978). Ryrie Study Bible- NASB, ed. Ryrie, C. C. Moody Publishers. (Original version published in 1971).