Time, Knowledge, and Action: The Effect of Trauma Upon Community Capacity for Action

March 1998 (VOL. 16, NO. 1)

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This article explores the relationship between time, knowledge, and action under the urgent conditions of disaster. We inquire into the conditions under which a community is able to give timely response to a catastrophic event. Such events require intergovernmental communication, coordination, and a shared knowledge base to support action. We report findings from an international, interdisciplinary study of medical response following the March 13, 1992, earthquake in Erzincan, Turkey. Data are presented from a survey of representative organizational actors who were engaged in disaster response operations and lay persons who observed the response. In the case of Erzincan, the effect of trauma, communicated across multiple ties of family, friendship, and business in the community, had a disabling effect on the community’s capacity to respond to the urgent needs of its citizens. Further, national efforts dependent upon knowledge of the community were inhibited by local trauma. We conclude that national capacity for timely, effective` response to disaster depends upon initial condition of training, communications, and infrastructure that are in place at the community level prior to the disaster.