#1 A bit of disaster theory.

With the COVID-19 pandemic unfolding before our eyes, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a little bit of what I have learned from studying medicine and disasters.

I don’t promise to be an expert (MASSIVE understatement), but it might just help you pass the time in self-isolation or give you a chuckle.

So here goes!

A Brief Introduction to Disasters:

What is a disaster?

A ‘disaster’ can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

For some, it means losing your keys after one too many down the Red Lion. For others, a disaster means nature exerting its full force with a volcanic eruption or flood. It is very much dependent on who is doing the defining, and why it is being defined.

In disaster theory, a disaster requires a certain set of conditions. It is when a population’s resources for coping with a hazard (e.g. an earthquake, a disease, violence) are outstripped, leading to economic, human, material or environmental losses.

So using my earlier example:

  • The hazard: you’re locked out of your house because you’ve lost your keys.
  • Your resources: your phone is dead, so you’re unable to wake your housemate from their much needed beauty sleep to let you in.
  • The losses: you can’t get to work because your M&S easy iron shirt is in your second floor bedroom, so you won’t be paid (economic loss).

So a disaster is basically just something really bad happening then?

Some disaster scholars believe that the social disruption part of the definition is the most important bit.

It’s like the age old debate: if a tree falls and no one hears it, does it really make a sound?

If this tree falls and injures several people, this could result in economic loss or even a loss of human life, so it could be considered a disaster. If this tree falls in the middle of a forest, with no one around, it isn’t a disaster.  

In the context of recent events, we could consider the coronavirus pandemic a potential biological disaster.

Yeah, but how does all that help us to understand COVID-19?

So now we’ve got all that straight, you’re primed to enjoy my future blog posts! In each post I’ll introduce a little bit of disaster theory and link it to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hopefully it will help us all to navigate the overwhelming amount of information being thrown at us a little better.

A note on COVID-19:

On a less lighthearted note, I would like to touch on the disaster we’re all concerned about.

Many of us are beginning to feel its impacts, whether this be the closure of schools, loss of income, or inability to find basic food items.

For me, it has meant an abrupt end to my final year at university training to be a doctor.

I had already begun to see an enormous level of planning and service adaptation take place as the NHS braces itself for an unprecedented rise in the number of people needing its help.

The efforts and attitudes exhibited by NHS staff so far have already made me proud to be a small part of such an unparalleled institution.

While I wait to see what the coming months have in store as a junior doctor, I hope to write regular reflections on what’s happening, so follow along if you’re interested!


Published by Becca Anderson

Junior doctor with an interest in disaster management 💊👩🏻‍⚕️💉 ~ 🌋🌪🦠

One thought on “#1 A bit of disaster theory.

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