Expecting the Unexpected: The Need for a Networked Terrorism and Disaster Response Strategy
Stephenson, David W.
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Since Hurricane Katrina, attention has focused on improving management of response to natural disasters and terrorist attacks. However, what if the current management approach is so fundamentally mismatched to the challenge at hand that, even when improved, it is still unequal to the task? This essay argues that terrorist attacks or natural disasters are likely to be so unpredictable that they frequently require improvised responses (as conventional hierarchical structures are ill-suited to such situations) and outlines a flexible and highly adaptive networked structure. Networked personal communication devices and applications that the general public can and will use in a disaster offer the possibility of a new networked strategy that can foster the 'swarm intelligence' needed in a disaster, in which a community, even an ad hoc one, is capable of a higher level of collective behavior than could be predicted from the capabilities of individual members.
This article appeared in Homeland Security Affairs (February 2007) v.3 no.1
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