Accidents and CatastrophesAccidents or hazards may be classified as natural or man-made (Bradford, 2008) and have been seen to vary with increasing degree of seriousness. Quarantelli (n. d) and Bradford (2008) identified ‘incidents’, ‘community (or routine) emergencies’, ‘disasters’ and ‘catastrophes’, with the degree of seriousness and required attention increasing in that order. However, to have a better understanding of what catastrophes are there is a need to understand how accidents can be generally described. Moreover, there is a necessity for clear differentiation between the different forms of accidents. Bradford (2008) described an accident as ‘an unplanned event which result in unacceptable consequence’, ’a damaging event’, ’an industrial mishap’ and so on.
The same source described an incident as ‘an event …which requires a response from … the statutory emergency response agencies’. Bradford (2008) further described an emergency as ‘an unexpected event that places life and/or property in danger and requires an immediate response through the use of routine community resources and procedures‘; and disasters are described as causing an extensive destruction of human, material and environmental losses as a result of serious disruption of the functional parts of the society in a manner that supersedes the society’s capacity to cope with such situations.
Quarantelli, (n. d a) clearly described disasters in terms of organizational activities and this was reinforced by Bradford (2008). According to his paper, disasters are distinct from every day emergencies in the following ways: 1) Dealing with disasters requires the effort of several organizations at once. For instance, Quarantelli, (n. d) cited the case of an airline crash studied by the Disaster Research Centre of the University of Delaware, United States. It reported that the disaster scene witnessed about 68 fire departments converging at the site.
2) Organizations involved partially lose their independence and ability to act freely. The possibility that the organizations be instructed and coordinated by agencies that are not necessarily concerned with routine or every day emergency activities is highly likely. 3) Organizations tend to adopt a totally ‘different performance standards’. Activities are at this time viewed with the intention of ensuring that the critical and immediate problems are solved not putting in mind whether the normal organizational practice are put into practice.
4) Organizations tend to adopt a more ‘closer than usual’ relationship especially when it has to do with both the private and public sectors. With the occurrence of certain disasters that were actually categorised as being more than the normal disasters, there were intensified efforts at classifying the higher-than-normal disasters. Thus, researchers eventually adopted the nomenclature of catastrophes. These have the capacity to cause total breakdown that most community activities disappear and there is virtually nowhere to turn to for help (Kreimer and Arnold, 2000; Bradford, 2008).
Quarantelli, (n. d a) further outlined the following traits identified with catastrophes disasters: 1) Virtually all of the everyday activities within the affected community or communities are seriously affected and the possibility of a total halt to these activities is highly likely. 2)A major part of the buildings and other structures within the community or territory is seriously destroyed. For instance about nine out of every ten residential apartments were seriously damaged during Hurricane Hugo. The effect of the Tsunami was also widespread across the parts of Asia that witnessed it.
The resulting housing problem in catastrophes is usually massive and individual solutions by affected people is often impossible since most of the other places where individuals can opt for temporary accommodation are likely to be affected as well (e. g. relatives houses and other public places).