Welcome to the first edition of the Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies for the new Millennium. The start of this year held the prospect of a disaster of world proportion in the form of the Y2K bug. The Millennium bug held particular interest for New Zealand, and indeed focused world attention on this part of the planet, given that it was the first to face the prospect of Y2K disruption. The effort invested in preparation for this event may find expression in other ways. For example, contingency plans developed to manage Y2K effects on power and other lifeline utilities may prove valuable in dealing with the effects of the sun storm activity which may significantly disrupt power and communications infrastructure over the coming years.
The fact, however, that the Y2K bug did not bite has raised interesting questions regarding whether this reflected a commercially driven overestimation of the potential seriousness of the problem or highly effective mitigation. If the former, and we assume intervention effectiveness when this is not the case, we may overestimate the effectiveness of mitigation processes and plans, increasing vulnerability to subsequent hazard activity. If the latter, where mitigation was effective, what implications might this have for continued funding and support for risk reduction measures and actions?
Effective preparation and mitigation programmes will eliminate or significantly reduce hazard effects. If, however, the social institutions and agencies that fund this work perceive effective mitigation as the elimination of a threat (a possibility that is fuelled by increasing competition for scarce resources), will they continue to provide support for a threat that they perceive as having been eliminated. In other words, a process analogous to the normalisation bias described by Mileti and O'Brien (1993) may be operating. This Journal would be interested in receiving submissions which explore the relationship between mitigation programmes, the evaluation of its effectiveness, and the implications of effective risk reduction for the subsequent perceptions and behaviour of social institutions and communities. Similarly, we would be interested in submissions that demonstrate or discuss how mitigation effectiveness can be reconciled with continued commitment to funding of mitigation initiatives.
While the Y2K bug may not have bitten, other bugs have had more success. At the time of writing, New Zealand's bee industry is being attacked by the Varroa bee mite that has the potential to create substantial environmental (e.g., from an inability to provide the resources for plant pollination) and economic (e.g., loss or disruption to a multi-million dollar industry and loss of employment opportunities) disruption. While prompt recognition of the hazard and the implementation of a containment plan have limited the losses, this issue signals the diversity of hazards faced by many societies. This diversity highlights the need for all-hazards approaches to the management of hazards. This Journal is interested in receiving submissions on the design, testing and evaluation of all-hazards response activities.
In addition to seeking contributions from individual scientists and practitioners working in the traumatic stress and disaster fields, this Journal is keen to receive submissions from authors wishing to compile an edition that focuses on a specific or contemporary issue. A special edition on risk communication, guest edited by Bernd Rohrmann from the University of Melbourne, will appear later this year. Other special issues planned will address police trauma, community vulnerability and resilience, writing and traumatic disclosure, and secondary and vicarious trauma. Any one wishing to submit a paper for any of these issues should contact the editor.
Despite the optimism that heralded the start of the new Millennium, the threat to individuals and communities from diverse natural and technological hazards remains substantial. The threat to communities from, for example, earthquakes, civil war and civil unrest, floods, famine and technological failure (e.g., as a consequence of sun storm activity) means that the demand for sound research and effective intervention will continue for the foreseeable future. This issue explores the implications of two such hazards and includes papers that address the experience of police officers performing peacekeeping roles in a war zone and the implications of exposure to violence on the development of traumatic stress reactions in children and adolescents.
Internationally, civil unrest and civil war have come to dominate the political landscape in may parts of the world. At the time of writing, Zimbabwe has been added to a disconcertingly large list of countries whose populations face an uncertain future from civil unrest. As a consequence, defence force personnel and civilian police officers increasingly find themselves called upon, or volunteering for, the performance of peacekeeping and policing roles in war-torn areas of the world. Clay Foreman adopts a narrative approach to analysing the process of maintaining neutrality while operating as a peacekeeper during a civil war. He also discusses how the lessons learnt can be used to prepare police officers for the demands associated with performing in this capacity. In the other article, current high levels of community violence provides the context in which Berman, Silverman and Kurtines discuss the relationship between direct criminal victimisation or witnessing violence being perpetrated against others and the development of traumatic stress reactions in children and adolescents. They also discuss several intervention strategies that can be used to manage these consequences.
Mileti, D.S. and O'Brien (1993), Public response to aftershock warnings. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper, Vol. 1553-B, pp. 31-42.
Massey University, New Zealand
Last changed April