The content of this issue ranges from reorganisation, regionalisation and integrated command, to reports on Madrid's train bombings, severe weather, and earthquakes, as well as a study of the SARS crisis in Hong Kong. We also have a full section on the recent tsunami.
Whatever the form and nature of the various crises and emergencies in this issue, one recurring subject is particularly striking: Is a vital resource being overlooked? Should the public's role be more participatory - and formalised as such - during times of major emergency?
While governments were attempting to assess the damage and mobilise response after the tsunami, members of the public assumed an immediate rescue role. One village in Tamil Nadu suffered far less casualties than its neighbours; this is attributed to emergency training villagers received just a few weeks prior to the disaster. In Madrid, the author says: "The people [...] helped the emergency services in many ways and collaborated with laudable solidarity."
Well meaning involvement by unqualified and untrained people can cause problems for professional responders. But is restricting or denying public involvement in fact a disservice?
Making the public an active partner through training and organisation, as in Israel and Singapore, can pay great dividends. As Adi Moncaz says on page 43: "Members of the public who take part in emergency operations are less likely to perceive themselves as victims, which helps build up resilience."
Is it better to integrate members oft the public into an active role within a nation's disaster defences, or immediately assign to them the role of helpless victim?