Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Most academic books I choose to read focus on education or sociology or both because education and sociology are two of my professional fields of study. I recently finished reading the book "Emergency Management and Social Intelligence: A Comprehensive All-Hazards Approach" by Charna Epstein, Ameya Pawar, and Scott Simon. The authors skillfully connect education and sociology and deftly apply them to an on-going contemporary social issue. Before reading it, I never considered applying "social intelligence" to emergency situations and knew nothing about the field of emergency management. This book corrects my oversight and lack of knowledge. The authors' define "social intelligence" as "a method by which emergency management gains critical situation awareness of a community in relative real time. This is achieved through a process of leveraging existing data, information, social capital, and preexisting conditions to develop a composite understanding of what is happening in a community. Making sense of preexisting conditions requires gathering intelligence ..." (p. xix). In other words, emergency management personnel need to educate themselves by researching, studying, and reflecting on information about the immediate and surrounding communities to better prepare and respond to these social disasters. The authors list past disasters such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and oil spills. They discuss each disaster, the immediate aftermath, the long-term situation, and how things could have and should have been done differently by organizations responsible for providing assistance, assuming they had applied social intelligence before the disaster struck.

This book also supports a broad approach to education in which I am particularly interested: lifelong learning. People in general, but especially professionals in the field of emergency management, must embrace and follow the concept of lifelong learning by learning about the communities for which they are responsible. Lifelong learning can be viewed as vital for one's professional advancement but also out of care and concern for human beings. The authors show how a lack of social intelligence led to certain statements, assumptions, and actions (or not) on the part of professionals. For example, during Hurricane Katrina, the Director of FEMA stated that victims shared some responsibility for their suffering by not adhering to the mandatory evacuation order. Had he done his homework, he would have known that some residents were so poor they did not have cars, gas for their cars, another place to stay, and / or credit cards at their disposal.

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