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Warning Systems and Disaster Planning in the Island City

Authors: Lily Bui*, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Communication, Coastal and Marine
Keywords: warning, disasters, islands
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Disasters frequently result in the breakdown of communication due to both structural and nonstructural issues. This presentation will propose a conceptual framework for evaluating warning systems that takes into consideration not just whom to warn, where to warn, or what messages to warn with, but also when to warn. It will summarize data collected through semi-structured interviews, participant observation, document review and spatial data visualization to discuss the cases of two U.S. island cities: San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Honolulu, O’ahu, Hawaii, during Hurricane Maria (2017) and Hurricane Lane (2018), respectively, focusing on the following questions: 
1. Under what conditions are warning systems successful or unsuccessful? 
2. What gaps in capacity exist in current warning systems?
3. How do these gaps affect disaster planning?

This presentation proposes a conceptual framework for evaluating warning systems that takes into consideration the temporal aspects of warning. The framework illustrates the ways in which warning and planning are interrelated, as well as how planning and warning processes take place over time. The study argues that good planning is good warning, and good warning is shaped by good planning. It finds that short-term warning (i.e. forecasting) is usually able to achieve its goals successfully whereas long-term warning (i.e. preparedness, generational knowledge and culture, myths and history, and recovery) is prone to various capacity gaps across the two cases. 

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