Presentation on theme: "Learning from Heat Waves: How a Social Autopsy can Help to Prevent Future Disasters Eric Klinenberg New York University"— Presentation transcript:
Learning from Heat Waves: How a Social Autopsy can Help to Prevent Future Disasters Eric Klinenberg New York University
Age of Spectacular Disasters World Trade Center Space shuttles (Columbia, Challenger) Hurricanes (Hugo) These catastrophes capture our attention. But they are not the most deadly. Much of US disaster policy is based on insuring property or preventing property damage. How can we use disaster policy to prevent deaths?
Heat Waves In the United States, heat waves kill more people than all of the so-called “natural disasters” combined. In Chicago, more than 700 people died during one week of This summer, Europe suffered around 20,000 deaths during a long heat wave. What can we learn from these events?
Disasters help to reveal conditions that are always present but difficult to perceive By studying disasters sociologically, we can better understand the source of our vulnerability. “The Social Autopsy” – Opens up the city and examines the social and political organs that break down in a crisis. We explain causes of death in order to protect life.
Emerging Conditions Revealed in Recent Heat Waves Rise of population that is living and dying alone –Social deprivation as an everyday condition –Certain neighborhood conditions foster isolation and insecurity What can governments do to assist vulnerable people who are living alone? –Compile official lists to identify the isolated –Offer special outreach and assistance in crises –Connect with service providers
Emerging Conditions Revealed in Recent Heat Waves Problems with urban infrastructure and energy –Power outages are common during heat waves –More efficient air conditioners? More reliable energy sources? Everyday energy crisis: Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funds are insufficient to meet demand in cities
Emerging Conditions Revealed in Recent Heat Waves Problems with policy responses: –Role of paramedics inside fire department. Do they have authority to call in back-up? –Links between emergency rooms and health department. Who is monitoring? –How should community police officers help? –Coordinating functions of mayor’s offices – danger that public relations response can get in the way of disaster response
Preventing Heat Deaths Work with meteorologists to detect dangerous weather and with media to issue public warnings Reach out to isolated people and vulnerable areas Coordinate muliti-agency disaster response Monitor hospitals and cooperate with medical examiner After crisis, openly examine what went wrong. Share what we learn as widely as possible.
Eric Klinenberg Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago Department of Sociology New York University