Over the last century, astrophysicists encountered a major hurdle in their efforts to understand the fundamental nature of our universe. As they began to build more powerful mathematical models and measurement instruments, the Universe seemed to become less and less predictable. In a nutshell, the visible bodies in space were not behaving in a way that was defendable by the great minds of earth. Their behavior reflected a universe with substantially more mass than was visible to our measuring devices (i.e. visible, infrared, radio). The only explanation was that the majority of the matter of the Universe was invisible or “dark”. Once scientists embraced Dark Matter’s existence, virtually all of their formulas and projections were applicable.
The Disaster Management universe is entering such a period of discovery.
In the recent decade, there has been consistent and over whelming evidence that the sum of the traditional disaster response assets do not necessarily equal the desired impact necessary to respond to a hazard. Hotwash after hotwash showed that all too often, although the presumably necessary assets needed to respond to a hazard were deployed, the desired outcomes (minimal loss of life and destruction of property) were not achieved. Consistently the evidence showed that it wasn’t a lack of physical assets or individual capacity that was the problem, but rather a more intangible asset that seemed to be the underlying culprit. In the professional response world it’s called interoperability: in the neighborhoods it’s called Social Capital.
The classic definition of social capital is “The web of social networks, norms of reciprocity, mutual assistance, and trustworthiness” (Putnam & Feldstein, 2003), and like Dark Matter, social capital is almost impossible to see, and yet its impact is readily identifiable. In the response phase of an event, the way the Fire Dept.