At long last we’re getting the OAEM Book Club off the ground! The idea was brought up in the Facebook group during the middle of the year, and OAEM has been wonderful enough to host a place for it on the website.

What is this?

Emergency management is a diverse field. It covers a spectrum of topics from the heady humanities like philosophy (ethics anyone?), to the immensely practical fields of statistics and engineering (trying to eyeball a levee is pretty tough).  So there is a monumental amount of material both directly and indirectly relevant to emergency management. To better explore this embarrassment of literary riches, we’re forming a book club to give us all an opportunity to revisit the classics, explore new ideas, and enjoy some spirited debate over the controversial.

What can you expect?

We’re going to be conservative and start off with about four books a year. Every three months we’ll put up a blogpost on the page indicating what book we’re reading this quarter and a brief description. If everybody is devouring the books and hungry for more, we’ll update the frequency.

At the end of the first month we’ll update the page with a few questions on the book. From there we’ll discuss the book for the next couple of months in the thread below. Just remember to keep all conversations and debates civil, grounded in evidence, and on topic.

During the third month we will start taking suggestions for the next book we’ll read, and then a quick poll on the suggestions. If there’s a tie, we’ll pick one at random and go from there.

What kinds of books can I suggest?

Any book that is published, reviewed, available, and relevant. To make sure that suggestions meet these criteria, all suggestions will need a brief pitch in order to be considered. We reserve the right to accept or reject suggestions based upon accessibility, appropriateness, and availability. For example, we might reject a very well written technical treatise on dam construction if it is 300 pages of straight math and fold-out diagrams.

To get the ball rolling, we’re going to pick a fairly safe choice that is widely available. I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with this pick, and I’m sure just as many have read portions of it or the book in its entirety. For the next three months let’s read:

Normal Accidents: Living with High Risk Technologies by Charles Perrow.

Written in 1984, Normal Accidents was a huge leap in the way we analyze risks and conceptualize accidents. Rather than looking at the problem of accidents and disaster through an engineering lens, he took a sociological approach. Systems by design could produce unintended consequences, and social factors like organization, management, and hubris, were the main cause of accidents. Perrow gave us new ways of understanding complicated and highly volatile environments. The concepts of ‘linear’ or ‘complex systems’, and ‘tightly coupled’ or ‘loosely coupled’ would not have entered our lexicon without him. This book represented a major step forward in our field and deserves our consideration.

Questions for this book will be posted on 3 December 2017 and we will begin taking suggestions for the next round on 3 January 2018.

Until then happy reading!

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