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Ache, Sumatra Southeast Asia tsunamiDisasters do not just happen.
    
They take place when two key factors merge: 1) a human population with its long evolved customary way of living and 2) a potentially destructive agent that is part of a total ecological system, including all natural, modified, and constructed features.

Sometimes disasters strike with the sudden impact of an earthquake or oil spill.  At other times they accumulate over extended periods of time with the slow progression of drought or toxic exposure. Often they arise from what are deemed  “natural” characteristics of environment.  Upon other occasion they issue from human-manufactured cause. In whatever manner they arrive, abrupt or subtle, environmental or human created source, disasters are all-encompassing occurrences.  In their wake they sweep across every aspect of human life: environmental, biological, and socio-cultural.
    
“By failing to understand the cultural context of disasters,” states anthropologist Dr. Susanna Hoffman, “and how that culture interacts with its physical surroundings, both disaster preparation and  response fail to deliver the comprehension of what led to the calamity as well as the actions necessary to resolve the upheaval and forestall future events.  As a result, a singular disaster can turn into an enduring calamity and preclude the mitigation of the next catastrophe”
    
Izmit EarthquakeDr. Hoffman is an internationally recognized expert in disasters.  Utilizing the multi-faceted approach of anthropology, she strives to answer the  questions of “why” and “how” disasters occur. She reveals the accumulated knowledge of populations, their social structures, their use and perception of the environment, their calculation of risk, their historical coping mechanism, and the factors that have brought about their vulnerability. Cultural understanding also takes into account the political and economic factors of the effected population and increases the opportunity to provide solutions for disaster preparedness and survival.
            
Dr Hoffman has worked on disaster issues worldwide including: the United States, Greece, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, India, and Central America.  She consults on disaster response and preparedness as well as on the critical determinants of the calamities.  She assists in instructing, coordinating and advising governments, community factions, aid organizations, and academicians. Her body of work encompasses natural disasters, such as volcanic eruptions, firestorms, earthquakes, droughts, tornados, hurricanes, and floods, and technological ones such as meltdowns, chemical leakages, explosions, and contamination.  She advises on issues of response to catastrophes as well as the actions that can mitigate the consequences and reoccurrence of events.  She further deals with the immediate aid necessary in all disaster scenarios and the crucial long-term reconstruction that follows.



 


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