Hurricane Katrina raised fundamental questions about how the nation can, and should, deal with the inevitable problems of economic risk and social responsibility that disasters bring. A new book, On Risk and Disaster: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina, gathers leading experts to identify lessons from Katrina about how to best prevent and manage risks from future disasters. The book—published by the University of Pennsylvania Press—came out last week.
“We will inevitably face more problems like those caused by Katrina, such as hurricanes, fires, earthquakes or even a flu pandemic,” Dr. Howard Kunreuther, co-editor and professor of OPIM at Wharton, said. “America remains in the cross hairs of terrorists while policy makers continue to grapple with important environmental and health risks. Each of these scenarios might, in itself, be relatively unlikely to occur, but it is virtually certain that we will confront at least one such catastrophe, or perhaps one we have never imagined. The consequences can be severe, and the nation must be prepared to act.”
“This is an essential opportunity to examine the difficulty the nation has in perceiving and managing risks and, therefore, in responding,” Dr. Don Kettl, co-editor and director, Fels Institute of Government, and Stanley I. Sheerr Endowed Term Professor in the Social Sciences, said. “Katrina raises tough questions about the role our institutions in both the public and private sectors should play and how we can integrate their work. Unless we learn Katrina’s lessons, we will repeat its harsh problems, from issues with insurance and strategies for building communities to equity in our communities.”
Volume contributors address questions of public and private roles in assessing, perceiving, managing and dealing with risk in American society. They suggest strategies for moving ahead in rebuilding the Gulf coast and in dealing with similar future issues.
The importance of responding quickly to Katrina led to a collaboration between the Office of the Provost, the Fels Institute, the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center and Penn Press. That work led to the recent National Symposium on Risk and Disasters (Almanac November 15, 2005), assembled by Provost Ronald Daniels, and then very quickly to this unprecedented “instant book.”
“By utilizing the technology associated with on-demand publishing, we were able to make the books available in a matter of weeks, rather than the several months books typically take in the publication process,” said Eric Halpern, Penn Press director.
Additional information is available at www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/14002.html. Copies of the book can also be ordered at that website.