Thursday, 15 December 2016

'Optimising' Failure in Disaster Response

At the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, mechanisation of the weaving industry in Manchester, England, began to destroy the cottage industry of loom work. The Luddites were people who sought to destroy the machines that were destroying their livelihoods. Things are different now: to be a latter-day Luddite is akin to being a modern King Cnut, the ruler who sat on his throne amid the waves to show his subjects that he had no power to stop the tide coming in (and was later misinterpreted as the king who thought he could control the tides but failed). Technology is the tide, indeed the unstoppable tsunami. It brings good and bad things with it.

Regarding the modern advance of technology, I have no desire to be a Luddite of any kind. However, I am concerned about how know-how and equipment are being misused in disaster risk reduction.

Thirty-six years ago, when I began to study disasters, we were only a select few people in this new area of scholarship. DRR is now a crowded field. That, of course, is good because it means that the importance to humanity of DRR is recognised and research institutions are taking the field seriously. However, there are several branches of 'disasterology' in which many of the proponents appear not to have an adequate background in the field, nor an appreciation of the reality behind the problems they tackle. The consequence of this is that the ceaseless application of technology becomes a problem, not a solution. It can create vulnerability by inducing reliance on routines or equipment that in a disaster may function badly or not at all.

Humanitarian logistics is a field in which there is a vivacious tendency to produce algorithms. One can imagine cohorts of mathematicians and computer scientists casting around for problems to solve. Suddenly, they see the delivery of humanitarian aid as the answer to their prayers: a field in need of algorithms. A proper critical analysis would examine the key problem of whether the algorithms have any value in the field. I strongly suspect that more often than not the answer is 'no'. The models are based on assumptions. In some cases these are inadequate, and in many they are untested. Few attempts have been made to find out whether the models function during real disasters, whether they would improve the situation and whether they are attractive to emergency managers. In my experience, they are not.

Regarding the very fashionable problem of how to optimise the location of critical facilities, in a recent earthquake that I studied in the field, facilities such as emergency operations centres and warehouses were located in the only places that were available, accessible and functional. There was no element of choice or optimisation. It was a typical event of its kind, and optimisation algorithms would not have helped in any way. Nor would they have been accepted by the emergency managers on site, who overwhelmingly wanted to simplify their decision making, not complicate it with over-sophisticated routines.

Algorithms designed to optimise facilities presuppose that the data will be available to carry out the optimisation during the critical phase of a disaster aftermath. That is unlikely. Alternatively, they tend to presuppose that decisions can be made before disaster strikes. That ignores the range of geographical variation in possible impacts.

I have a strong feeling that humanitarian logistics and common sense have parted company. For instance, consider a recently published model that optimally located shelters and efficiently assigned evacuees to the nearest shelter site. There is no idea in this work of how to preserve social cohesion. My field research, and that of many others, shows that this is a critical factor in the success or failure of shelter strategies.

If it occurs at all, model testing is usually hypothetical, or it is carried out under highly artificial conditions. There is very little research on the effectiveness of algorithms in real crises, and whether they are able to improve situations. This is hardly surprising. Most emergency decision makers are not interested in optimisation routines and are not equipped to understand or use them. They would be very suspicious of any attempt to replace informed judgement with automated routines. The key question is not "how can we optimise the location of a warehouse?", but "are there any suitable warehouses in the area that we can commandeer and use?"

Increasing dependency upon electronic routines may indeed increase vulnerability to disaster. Any failure of sophisticated electronics and software (or batteries, or connections) risks causing serious problems (will there be electricity after the disaster has struck?). This explains the widespread reluctance of emergency managers and responders to use the algorithms. Indeed, there is significant and well-founded opposition to the 'technofix' approach to emergency management. At the very least, users will have to assume the burden of memorising yet another plethora of mnemonics and initials. Complex training will need to be allied with ability to fix software and hardware glitches with extreme rapidity. Rarely if ever do the papers that present algorithms discuss how dependency upon them may be dangerous, or what would happen if the algorithm fails. When the algorithm is described, seldom is any redundancy offered.

'Optimal' and 'optimisation' are misnomers when applied to a problem that has only been thought through partially. Rather than supporting decisions, the algorithms may thwart them by encouraging decision makers not to think problems through.

Many have argued that the 'technofix' approach to disaster is wasteful and damaging. In an age in which technology has become the world's obsession, it cannot easily be dismissed, nor should it be. Indeed, it holds the answer to many complex and intractable problems, but only if it is used with intelligence and insight. What technology has to offer to disaster management depends on its robustness, its ease of use in a crisis, redundancy if it becomes blocked, its cultural and technical acceptability to users, and its ability quickly to provide useful answers to intractable problems. When papers are published that offer technological solutions to disaster problems, they should necessarily address these issues. They should prove that the technology is attractive to users, that it will indeed be adopted and that it will make a positive difference to disaster management.

Disaster Risk Reduction in the Post-Truth World

There is a footnote in my book Confronting Catastrophe (Alexander, 2000), which runs as follows:-
 "Thus the alarm bells rung by Vance Packard in his 1950s book The Hidden Persuaders (Packard 1981 - a classic critique of advertising) have largely been ignored. His death in 1997 was greeted with a resounding silence on the part of the chattering classes and the mass media he criticized so aptly. Perhaps that was their revenge."
This small intellectual aside has become more, not less, important since I wrote it.

Advertising is the creation of illusion in order to further the consumption of goods and services. My lifetime, 63 years, is a period in which the population of the world, the army of consumers, has more or less tripled and at the same time we have become inured to advertising. During these six decades it has gradually become more and more insidious until it has a finger in, and sometimes a stranglehold over, virtually all of our activities.

Advertising has developed a remarkably strong synergy with the entertainment industry, another great producer of illusion. Many people have grown up in a world in which these giants of human fantasy are two of the principal points of reference to which our model of the human condition is anchored. This is fertile terrain for the growth of post-truth politics. Politics these days is heavily dependent on advertising. Once it loses its moral compass, and once the electorate no longer expects truthfulness, then any old lie will suffice.

Now the last thing we need in disaster risk reduction is illusion. And the first thing we need to do is face up to reality, however brutal it may be. Is DRR perhaps the antidote to advertising? Perhaps it is, or should be, but how is it served by "post-truth politics"?

In 1918 Hiram W. Johnson, a Republican senator from California, is reputed to have coined the phrase "The first casualty when war comes is truth." His observation is not surprising when one considers that politics and economics are behind war. But is the same true of disaster? Observers of the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima would argue that truth was very much the first casualty (Kushida 2012). Moreover, the effect of this was to damage or destroy the bond of trust between government, science and the people.

Is this part of a trend or an isolated incident? I suggest that it is neither. In 1986 the Soviet Government struggled to conceal the Chernobyl disaster until the plume of radiation across Europe meant that the pretence could no longer be sustained (Moynagh 1994, p. 724). In this it followed a long tradition of secrecy after disaster that had been prevalent in the USSR and China (which until 1986 did not allowed foreign scrutiny of the 1976 Tangshan earthquake). Yet in both Russia and China the situation has changed: it could hardly be otherwise in a world dominated by instantaneous electronic communication and 'citizen journalism'. Moreover, secrecy and outright lies are slightly different traits.

If indeed politics have entered a new era in which truth no longer sways electorates, will this situation extend to disaster risk reduction and the management of disaster impacts? I think there are grounds for limited optimism. Pluralism is the antidote to Great Historical Lies, and pluralism cannot be suppressed by disaster, nor, in the modern age, can it so easily be suppressed by dictatorship.


Alexander, D.E. 2000. Confronting Catastrophe: New Perspectives on Natural Disasters. Dunedin Academic Press, Edinburgh, and Oxford University Press, New York, 282 pp.

Kushida, K.E. 2012. Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Narrative, Analysis, and Recommendations. Shorenstein APARC Working Paper. The Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University, Stanford, California, 73 pp.

Moynagh, E.B. 1994. The legacy of Chernobyl: its significance for the Ukraine and the world. Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review 21(4): 709-751.

Packard, V.O. 1981. The Hidden Persuaders. Pocket Books, New York, 288 pp.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

How to Write an Emergency Plan

Alexander, D.E. 2016. How to Write an Emergency Plan.
Dunedin Academic Press, Edinburgh and London, 268 pp.
ISBN 978-1-78046-013-0 (pbk)

In 2002 I wrote and published a book entitled Principles of Emergency Planning and Management. At the time, several volumes were available that dealt with how to prepare for and respond to emergencies, but they tended to be tied to particular systems. In fact, most of the available books were based on the American system of emergency response. That was all very well, but most countries do not have a Federal Emergency Management Agency. In those nations which lack a federal structure, the balance of powers between national, regional and local authorities can be very different from the way it is in the United States, and thus so can the national emergency management system. My book of principles was designed to show that there are fundamental challenges, issues and practices that transcend the prevailing administrative system. Emergency management is not the same in any and every country, but the different systems have much in common and respond to universal needs for safety, rescue, care and recovery.

Principles was well received but some of the feedback I received from readers suggested that they would welcome a more hands-on practical book. Rather than write a second, updated edition of the Principles volume, I decided to develop a book entitled How to Write an Emergency Plan. The principles that govern the process would still be there, but emphasis would be given to the practical steps in formulating, maintaining and using emergency plans of various kinds.

Every so often during my 36-year career as a "disasterologist" I have encountered people who have been thrust into the role of emergency planner with little or no preparation. Some of them have had experience of responding to emergencies; others have been entirely new to the field. A common question was "where do I start?" I have met people from all levels of public administration (local, regional and national) and from private companies who have been in this predicament. In writing the book my aim was to provide them with some guidance, and for those people who are already experienced emergency planners. I also wanted to show how emergency planning is special, and why it is worth doing.

The paradox of writing a book of this kind is that I am not sure I believe in emergency plans. In many instances, they are bound to fail. However, as the book states right at its starting point, the precious--indeed invaluable--element is the planning process. It is a means of learning about emergencies, the urgent needs that they create and the ways in which those needs can be satisfied. Emergency plans may need to be adapted to the unique circumstances of a particular crisis, but the process of creating a plan should force the planner to confront many of the issues that stem from the need to prepare for future emergencies. Failure to confront them could be construed as negligence, when equipment is not available, personnel are untrained, command structures lack functionality, and so on. So many things about the next emergency can be predicted from previous crises, and if we heed the lessons we will be more resilient and better prepared next time around.

The 'bedrock' level of emergency planning is that of municipal government. In one sense, even the very largest disaster is a local affair, because its effects will be felt at the scale of neighbourhoods, villages, towns and cities. Although I did not concentrate exclusively on municipal emergency planning, I treated it as the basic model because most other scales or types of planning must refer to the municipality as the basic unit of response and command.

The basis of the book is the generic, multi-hazard plan that every local authority ought to have, an instrument that is adaptable to both the known, anticipated hazards and the unanticipated ones that strike out of the blue. The core chapters of the book explain, step-by-step, how to construct such a plan. However, the longest chapter in the work is dedicated to the various kinds of thematic plan. Airports, hazardous industries, hospitals, museums, they all need emergency plans, and the various plans need to fit together so that the response to the next emergency is seamlessly 'joined up', rather than disconnected. There is also a need for emergency plans for particular functions, such as medicine supply (pharmaceuticals) and veterinary response, and particular sorts of person, such as those with disabilities. These are, of course, dealt with in the book.

Emergency planning is a lively field which is continuously evolving. The threats, hazards and challenges that the emergency response community--and the public--face are changing at an ever faster rate. Constructing, maintaining and using an emergency plan offers an opportunity to improve the services that provide safety, security and rescue to those in need. There is also a chance to decide what the priorities should be when scarce emergency resources need to be deployed. Thinking over these issues, and many others, How to Write an Emergency Plan was an interesting book to put together and for me it was a continuous learning process.

The Principles book is now 14 years old and it has weathered quite well, despite the momentous changes in society and hazards in the meantime, and the constant evolution of emergency response worldwide. In How to Write an Emergency Plan it now has a partial successor, but there is unfinished business: it is time to think about a book called How to Manage an Emergency.

Alexander, D.E. 2002. Principles of Emergency Planning and Management. Terra Publishing, Harpenden, UK, and Oxford University Press, New York, 340 pp. Available from Dunedin Academic Press.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

The "prison of experience" - the Italian case

 Over the last decade, two very influential books in Italy have been La Casta ("The Caste") by Sergio Rizza and Gian Antonio Stella (2007) and Gomorra: viaggio nell'impero economico e nel sogno di dominio della camorra ("Gomorrah: Journey into the Economic Empire and Dreams of Domination of the Camorra") by Roberto Saviano (2006). La Casta describes, on a detailed and individual level, the privileges and power of the political class. It is a handbook on corruption. Gomorra details the connection between the political class and the most economically successful of the four mafias in Italy. The response of the population to this is to feel trapped in a situation in which there are no democratic alternatives. The system was put in place in 1947 by the Americans and rigidly reinforced during the Cold War. The effect of this has been to fossilise, or perhaps indurate, it so that it even survived the collapse of Christian Democracy and the so-called "First Republic", which was induced by the end of the Cold War and bipartisan polarisation.

This explains the very substantial rise of the Five Star movement, a political party based on protest against the system. Unfortunately, Five Star does not have disaster prevention in its agenda.

With regard to disasters Catholicism has a positive side vested in its emphasis on charity and service. Its negative side is that it tends to induce fatalism. If one is Hyblean, female and of a certain age, the Virgin Mary holds the key to understanding earthquakes: if one is Sabine, it may be St Tammaro - and so on. Prayer and supplication are cathartic but do not add up to disaster risk reduction.

Another factor is a severely practical one: the constraints of multiple ownership of property. The historical tendency for people and families in the Mediterranean to live in very close proximity stems from the Roman (or possibly Iron Age) oppida, a defensible site on high ground. With modern demand for space, the population density of historical settlements in Italy is 10-40 per cent of what it was a century ago before mass emigration took hold. The modern equivalent is the reinforced concrete apartment block. In any case, living cheek by jowl is still the norm. Yet in a condominium it is routine to encounter opposition to spending money on structural reinforcement. For example, my second home is in a building 700 years old, located in a highly seismic area, and that has five owners. Four of us had to threaten one of the owners with prosecution in order to obtain payment for essential repairs to the roof. Seismic retrofitting is out of the question unless those who want it are prepared to pay on behalf of those who could not care less.

Added to this is the effect of the performance of dense urban fabrics in earthquakes and other sudden-impact disasters. Collapse at the top of the hill brings down 'innocent' buildings down the slope in a sort of landslide of rubble. This is a particular problem in historical hill villages. Even if buildings are not damaged, they may be inaccessible as a result of being surrounded by damaged and precarious masonry. This was the case for many residents of the centre of L'Aquila city after the 2009 earthquake.

The net effect of these considerations may amount to what Kates (1971) referred to as the "prison of experience", which induces a sense of impotency rather than empowerment. This is triangulated by three points: (a) the difficulty of obtaining any positive change from the political class, and the concomitant effect of organised crime on corruption, which maintains the 'alternative' economy in a dominant position over the official one; (b) a feeling that forces beyond one's control govern the likelihood of experiencing damage or injury in disasters; and (c) stonewalling, opposition to safety measures and lack of hazard perception by one's neighbours. These are some of the root causes of continued seismic vulnerability. They enable moderate earthquakes to cause major damage.


Kates, R.W. 1971. Natural hazards in human ecological perspective: hypotheses and models. Economic Geography 47: 428-51

Friday, 26 August 2016

Italian Earthquakes, Large and Small

       O 1693 c’ha succirutu!
    E si n’ha ghiutu lu Vallu ri Nuotu
    S’u  u pi sorti an-Catania iti
    Ciù ri milli voti lacrimati!
    Catania ca era ciù perfunna
    Ricca ri –ngegnu e ri storia ornata
    Spincitivi l’ate a truviriti
    L’afflitta virgine a batiuoti.*
        (Burderi 2014)

In Italy damaging earthquakes occur on average once every 19 months, and seismic disasters happen about once every four years.

The M6.2 earthquake of 24th August 2016 in central Italy occurred at 03:36 hrs local time and had a hypocentral depth of about 4 km. At least 291 people were killed, with the highest total at Amatrice (pop. 2,646) in the Province of Rieti (Region of Lazio). This event occurred in a predominantly rural area of the Apennines, and the population of the area of major damage was a mere 5,100 people. As a whole, the event recalls the M5.2 seismic disaster of May 1984 in the Abruzzi National Park (140 km south of Amatrice), in which three people died and 11,000 were left homeless (Alexander 1986). In terms of damage to schools, it recalls the M6.0 earthquake of October 2002 at San Giuliano di Puglia, 182 km from Amatrice, in which 27 children and three teachers were crushed to death when a school collapsed (Langenbach and Dusi 2004). In Amatrice the collapse of a school prompted the same questions about the seismic resistance of educational facilities, and the quality of seismic upgrading as had been raised at San Giuliano (Grant et al. 2007). There are possible indications of corruption and that, according to correlation studies, is the principal cause of seismic disasters, world-wide (Escaleras et al. 2007, Ambraseys and Bilham 2011).

In Italy, the immediate political response to the 2016 Amatrice disaster involved a great many fine words and pious hopes about prevention, reconstruction and the preservation of culture. With respect to previous earthquakes, there were some improvements in the organisation and planning of post-event recovery, notably in cultural heritage protection. However, the sums of money offered to the affected area were by no means large enough to accomplish what the politicians said should happen. Italy is the largest beneficiary of the European Union solidarity fund, and in times of seismic disaster it has also drawn heavily on regional support grants. This has not always meant that the use of the funds has met with EU approval—see the conclusions of the European Court of Auditors' report on the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake (ECA 2012).

Typically in Italy, events such as the 2016 Amatrice earthquake do not lead to a sustained government response, for there are too many other demands upon the public purse. Commonly, the public part of reconstruction funding is largely gleaned from European funds or else is tacked onto parliamentary bills designed to fund other things, in what Americans call 'pork-barrel legislation'. At best, a government may wait until the financial climate is more favourable before it allocates significant funding to recovery. Thus it was three years before the first stirring of reconstruction occurred in L'Aquila after the M6.3 earthquake of 2009. Public debt incurred in reconstruction after the 1968 Belice Valley, western Sicily, earthquakes, will not be paid off until 2038, 70 years after the disaster. Belice, moreover, had to wait 15 years before reconstruction even started (Parrinello 2013).

These are the minor events. People suffer no less in them than they do in the major ones, but the overall picture is quite different.

At the time of writing this, I have just returned from three weeks in the Hyblean part of Sicily, the southeast limestone massif. This area, which extends from Etna, Catania and Siracusa to Gela, is a Mediterranean landscape of dramatic mountains,  broad valleys and rocky coasts. In January 1693 it was struck by an earthquake of magnitude 7.4, which killed about 60,000 people and totally destroyed towns such as Noto and Grammichele. They were rebuilt in such Baroque splendour that a very wide area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. It also includes one of the most sumptuous Roman villas (at Casale, near Piazza Armerina), which was sacked by barbarians after the fall of the Empire, and then covered by mudflows.

Noto, with its 33 baroque churches, is the capital of this immense cultural resource. Ruined in 1693, Noto was transferred 14 km to a greenfield site 250 m lower down valley and closer to the sea at the Gulf of Noto. The new town was built on an elegant and rational plan in the decades after the 1692 earthquake, and produced one of the finest concentrations of high Baroque buildings in the world (Tobriner 1982). Nevertheless, the symbol of the post-1693 reconstruction elsewhere. It is the Co-Cathedral of St George at Modica, which was constructed in a pure, elegant proto-Rococo style, over the period 1702-1738. It was the inspiration for the famous Frauenkirche of Dresden (1726-43), which was destroyed by British bombing in 1945 and rebuilt over the period 1993-2005. The rebuilding of the latter was a major financial and technical challenge, and perhaps a major cultural one as well.

St George's Cathedral has an unforgettable grace and luminosity, but all of the Hyblean Baroque monuments, with their dazzling splendour, could at any moment be destroyed. The Hyblean Plateau of South-east Sicily is geologically a foreland of the African plate. Almost all of it has expected peak ground acceleration (PGA) values of more than 0.25g, with a ten per cent probability of exceedance in 50 years for a 475-year return period (D'Amico et al. 2012). As this is a value for rock, the PGA for soft sediments could be very much higher, with devastating consequences.

The extraordinary oral testimonies and histories collected by the noted anthropologist and linguist Marcella Burderi show eloquently that in the Hyblean culture, the Virgin Mary and St George, with his invincible sword, figure very strongly as protectors of ordinary people and righters of wrongs. They also serve as a means of transmitting knowledge of natural disasters from one generation to another (Burderi 2011). These gentle cults may do little to reduce seismic vulnerability, but they are an important source of awareness and a valuable palliative:-

       * "In 1693, what things happened!
    The Vale of Noto was destroyed.
    If you happen to go to Catania
    Lamented by thousands of people,
    Catania was the most important place,
    Rich in industry, decorated with history,
    Lift up your hearts and you will find
    The Eternal Virgin of Catania in pain."
        (Burderi 2014)


Alexander, D.E. 1986. Disaster Preparedness and the 1984 Earthquakes in Central Italy. Natural Hazards Working Paper no. 57, NHRAIC, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, 90 pp.

Ambraseys, N. and R. Bilham 2011. Corruption kills. Nature 469: 153-155.

Burderi, Marcella 2011. Maria nella voce delle donne. Testimonianze scritte e orali di un percorso mariano. Edizioni Associazione Culturale "Dialogo", Modica, 177 pp.

Burderi, Marcella 2014. Il terremoto del 1693 nella pietà popolare. Archivio degli Iblei, July 2014: 1-13. (

D’Amico, V.C. Meletti and F. Martinelli 2012. Probabilistic seismic hazard assessment in the high-risk area of south-eastern Sicily (Italy). Bollettino di Geofisica Teorica ed Applicata 53(1): 19-36.

ECA 2012. The European Union Solidarity Fund’s Response to the 2009 Abruzzi Earthquake: the Relevance and Cost of Operations. Special Report no. 24, Publication Office, European Court of Auditors, Luxembourg 52 pp.

Escaleras, M., N. Anbarci and C.A. Register 2007. Public sector corruption and major earthquakes: a potentially deadly interaction. Public Choice 132: 209-230.

Grant, D.N., J.J. Bommer, R. Pinho, G.M. Calvi, A. Goretti and F. Meroni 2007. A prioritization scheme for seismic intervention in school buildings in Italy. Earthquake Spectra 23(2): 291-314.

Langenbach, R. and A. Dusi 2004. On the cross of Sant'Andrea: the response to the tragedy of San Giuliano di Puglia following the 2002 Molise, Italy, earthquake. Earthquake Spectra 20(S1): S341-S358.

Parrinello, G 2013. The city-territory: large-scale planning and development policies in the aftermath of the Belice valley earthquake (Sicily, 1968). Planning Perspectives 28(4): 571-593.

Tobriner, S. 1982. The Genesis of Noto. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 252 pp.

Sunday, 3 July 2016


A week before I wrote this, there began a period of unprecedented turbulence in world affairs. An ill-considered, badly designed and poorly administered referendum* has left the United Kingdom, and Europe, in chaos. In the UK the result has divided the nation into two. It has pitted the old against the young, the haves against the have-nots, the educated against the ignorant, and the cosmopolitans against the isolationists. The country's political classes are in chaos, with the exception of those in Scotland, who stand for a national unity that is totally at variance with the direction taken by the rest of Great Britain. In Ireland, the referendum has undermined the basis of the peace agreements and left the island with an unsolvable border problem, which threatens a resumption of the violence that was stopped only with great difficulty after 30 years.

Within hours of the result of the referendum, the promoters of the leave campaign revealed that the promises which induced 17 million people to vote for them were nothing more than empty rhetoric. They now have no plan.

It is blatantly obvious that the outcome of the referendum was nothing more nor less than the cry of the dispossessed. Unfortunately, the scapegoat, the EU, was the wrong one and the outcome will not give them redress.

In England and Wales, irreparable damage has been done to institutions. It will not be remedied, if it ever is, for generations. Multiculturalism has collapsed under the rising tide of xenophobia, racism and intolerance. People with foreign connections, including those who have every right to call themselves indigenous - and myself - now feel deprived of their frame of reference, disorientated and fearful for the future. Those of us who have worked for years to promote European unity have seen our efforts smashed to pieces on the rock of xenophobia. It is a disease that is as contagious as it is toxic.

Young people, already carrying an intolerable burden, have seen their outlook ignored, their aspirations shut off, and their burden increased. Many of them are left with feelings of anger and helplessness. Who shall represent them now?

Half the population have misguidedly shown us to be traitors to the European project, something for which I will never forgive them, and the other half are left powerless in the face of profound and fundamental changes that they do not accept.

As individual countries and a continent we, if I may still use the term 'we', have suffered for years from leadership that has been weak, ineffectual and self-serving. It has lacked the vision and foresight that could have prevented this and might yet prevent the horrendous consequences that threaten to unfold all over Europe and beyond.

In disaster studies for a long time it has been evident that we need to look more closely at the root causes, or "underlying drivers" of vulnerability, risk and disaster impact. The leading root cause of the referendum crisis is migration, a phenomenon that is not in itself necessarily negative or detrimental.

I advocate striving to reverse the damage done by the referendum and the decision to leave the European Union. I advocate remaining in the EU. I also believe it is time the United Kingdom had a constitution, as does almost every other country. Moreover, the UK needs to begin the process of educating its population in governance, something that is seldom if ever discussed and is not taught in schools. Only one in seven people in Britain could answer three simple questions about the European Union. Thus, the views of very many people about the EU are based on vague prejudice rather than fact.

*Foreigners were allowed to vote, providing they were not EU citizens, but many expatriate British citizens were disenfranchised. Is that fair and reasonable?