Distinguishes between a ‘technological’ and a ‘man-made’ disaster and that examines the subtleties of both. There are clear differences between natural and technological disasters, but how do technological and man-made disasters differ, if at all? If one perhaps more dependent on happenstance and or error – is the other perhaps more deliberate and causal by man himself?
Is there really a difference?
Does the difference matter?
Extending in this line of thought, do you believe that our first-responder community is as prepared for the eventuality of a ‘technological’ hazard in general, as they may be for the occurrence e of a ‘natural’ hazard?
Are they as prepared for the potential eventuality of a ‘man-made’ hazard in specific, as they may be for ‘natural’ and ‘technological’ hazards?
Finally, Examine the potential for a ‘man-made’ bio-terror attack. Do you believe we are prepared? Why or why not.
Are there mitigating and exacerbating conditions that would impact a nefarious bio-pathogenic release?
Are there protective action recommendations that might be enacted in response to a bio-terror attack? What are they? Which would you specifically recommend? Why?
Manmade disasters refer to hazards resulting from human activity entirely or predominantly. However, armed conflicts and other situations of social instability or tension, as explained in international human rights and national legislation, are not included as manmade disasters. These types of disasters bear some element of human error, intent, or negligence regarding an artificially made device. Technological disasters, on the other hand, are a subset of manmade hazards and result from malfunctioning of technology or human error in handling a technological structure. A difference, though shallow, exists between the two. All technological hazards are manmade disasters, but not all manmade disasters can be considered technological disasters. This essay examines technological disasters in relation to other disasters such as manmade and natural disasters and looks at the impact of disasters such as the use of biological weapons as forms of technological hazards.
One of the earliest known technological disasters was the collapse of the Marib Dam in Yemen in 570 AD (Beck 2019). The disaster was mentioned in the Qur’an and caused a mass migration of more than fifty thousand people to other parts of the Arabian Peninsula and bringing to an end an entire regional civilization. In 1975, heavy rainfall in Henan, China, led to the collapse of Banqiao Dam and connected structures, leading to 171,000 deaths, which is possibly the worst technological disaster recorded (Beck 2019). Malfunctioning of technology to cause disasters have also caused huge disasters. For instance, in Beijing, China, in 1626, the Wanggongchang Gunpowder factory experienced an explosion that killed approximately twenty thousand people (Beck 2019). The Bhopal gas tragedy in Madhya Pradesh, India, caused an exothermic reaction and a release of forty metric tonnes of toxic methyl isocyanate and causing more than eight thousand deaths (Beck 2019). With the invention of nuclear energy in the twentieth century, a new dimension of technological disasters begun. For instance, in Pripyat, Ukraine, a nuclear explosion caused the mass migration of an entire town from the region due to the long term effects of radiation. The region is now a 2600 square kilometer exclusion zone (Beck 2019).
Compared to other disasters such as natural disasters, technological disasters appear to be more difficult to anticipate and even more complex in classifications due to the fact that the causes are always made political or contentious. However, it is clear that all the technological disasters mentioned had some human element in them, either during construction or in making the error that causes the malfunction. The difference between manmade disasters and technological disasters is important with regards to the classifications of disasters and coming up with ways to anticipate and be ready for them. The distinction is difficult to draw out. For example, the collapse of the Banqiao Dam is classified as a technological disaster. However, the collapse was caused by a natural rainfall begging the question of whether it was a natural or a manmade disaster. Without this classification, then planning ahead for potential disasters like these becomes impossible. Hurricane Katrina is classified as a natural disaster with fatalities up to 1464 deaths; however, insufficiency of flood defenses, land patterns, and poor incident management, which are technically all negligent technological measures, contributed to the adverse outcomes (Beck 2019).
The First-responder community is not as prepared for the eventuality of a technological hazard in general as they may be for the occurrence of a natural hazard. The reason for this is that natural disasters contain a low point after which the worst is considered over a concept missing in technological hazards (Schooler 2001). Lack of this low point in technological disasters causes prolonged distress. For example, a natural disaster such as a flood occurs and then abruptly comes to an end, which beyond that, recovery can begin with an emphasis on constructive response associated with rebuilding. The low point “may actually be psychologically beneficial because victims know where they stand in relation to the disaster” (Schooler 2001). The fact that technological disasters do not have this low point means there are no safety signals beyond which recovery can begin. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster, for instance, has prolonged for a long period of time, and until now, the region is considered inhabitable. No one knows where or when the low point will be beyond which recovery of what was lost can begin. Radiation can stay for years without the affected, knowing the extent and additional possible consequences. With such huge gaps in the known information, the preparation of technological disasters becomes increasingly difficult for first responders.
A bioterror attack is the “use of pathogenic strains of microbes to cause disease or death in living things and/or to give harm to the environment” (Erenler et al., 2018). A bioterror attack is dangerous because of the unlimited scope of its effects on life as well as the adaptation and evolution nature of pathogens. Historically, bioterrorism was used even before civilization, where plagued bodies would be tossed in enemy encampments to spread disease or contamination of water sources to spread disease among the enemies. Blankets with smallpox were used against natives in America by the British Army; in 1984, Salmonella was distributed in Oregon to poison and seize control of the local government (Erenler et al., 2018). During the cold war, opposing forces were said to have developed the deadliest bioweapons, although none of them were applied. Preparedness for a bio-terror attack seems impossible since there are so many unknowns. Reports reveal that as of now, no human civilization is ready to deal with a bio-terror attack that makes use of biological weaponry.
Biological agents meant to be used as weapons can be spread through the air, water, or food. Some can also be passed from one person to the other. Scientists worry that anthrax, botulism, Ebola, hemorrhagic fever, plague, and smallpox can still be used as biological weapons by terrorists. These viruses, bacteria, and germs can be modified to become more contagious by improving their ability to cause disease, spread, and resist treatment. The rising concern about the incredible impacts of a bio-pathogenic release has prompted governments to look for ways to mitigate risk. Some of the ways to achieve this, as recommended by Logan-Henfrey (2000), include; more commitment with regards to funding on the study of infectious diseases for the purposes of fast response, shared findings between agencies, departments, and organizations, prepared manpower for emergency response, modern systems for contact tracing, improved biosecurity in production, intelligence on pathogens, stronger disease surveillance and more research on immunological intervention strategies to control or prevent outbreaks (Logan-Henfrey 2000).
Most importantly, I would recommend a ban on all bioweapons by international authorities. Bioweapons put the entire human species at risk. Evidence indicates that bioweapons have no limit on the scope and could continue causing fatalities beyond regions they were designed for and spread all over the globe if a solution is not found. Additionally, the production of vaccines and treatment for bio weaponry takes time and a multitude of tests, time which more casualties will be recorded. Bio-attacks, as a technological disaster also, have no low point beyond which recovery can begin. Will all these unknowns, it becomes evident that the world is not prepared and may never be prepared for biological weaponry.
In conclusion, this essay has examined technological disasters in relation to other disasters such as manmade and natural disasters and looked at the impact of disasters such as the use of biological weapons as forms of technological hazards. It has been established that technological disasters are more difficult to predict and, therefore, more difficult to control. It has also been established that all technological disasters are manmade, but not all manmade disasters are technological. However, some technological disasters can be a resultant effect of a natural hazard. Lastly, the essay has examined biological weaponry in relation to its effects, mitigation measures, and the reasons they should be banned by international authorities as forms of weapons.
Beck Matthias. 2019 Technological and Hybrid Disasters. In obo in Environmental Science. Retrieved on 23rd November 2020 from https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199363445/obo-9780199363445-0118.xml
Erenler AK, Güzel M, Baydin A. How Prepared Are We for Possible Bioterrorist Attacks: An Approach from Emergency Medicine Perspective. ScientificWorldJournal. 2018; 2018:7849863. Published 2018 Jul 8. doi:10.1155/2018/7849863
Logan-Henfrey L. Mitigation of bioterrorist threats in the 21st century. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2000;916:121-33. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2000.tb05282.x. PMID: 11193612.
Schooler, T. Y. (2001). Coping with disasters. The international encyclopedia of the social and behavioral sciences. Oxford, England: Elsevier.
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