Emergency Response

Derek Gregory reflects on Pete Adey and Ben Anderson’s work on governing emergencies.

geographical imaginations

I’ve been catching up on a stream of publications by Pete Adeyand Ben Anderson on emergencies, including ‘Affect and security: exercising emergency in UK “civil contingencies”‘, Society & Space 29(6) (2011) 1092-1109; ‘Anticipating emergencies: Technologies of preparedness and the matter of security’, Security dialogue 43 (2) (2012) 99-117; and ‘Governing events and life: “Emergency” in UK Civil Contingencies’, Political Geography 31 (1) (2012) 24-33.

This has been prompted by a continuing conversation with Theo Price about a series of political/artistic interventions under the rubric of COBRA RES, in which he’s invited me to take part. COBRA, as many readers will know, is

the British Government’s emergency response committee set up to respond to a national or regional crisis. Standing for Cabinet Office Briefing Room A [below], the COBRA Committee comes together in moments of perceived crisis under the chairmanship of either the Prime Minister or the…

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Après le deluge: the UK winter storms of 2013–14

Klaus Dodds on a recent themed issue in The Geographical Journal on how we make sense of extreme flood events.

Geography Directions

By Klaus Dodds, Royal Holloway University of London

Spurn Head on the Humber being broken by the December 2013 Storm Surge Photo Credit: Environment Agency (reproduced with permission) Spurn Head on the Humber being broken by the December 2013 Storm Surge Photo Credit: Environment Agency (reproduced with permission)

The UK winter floods of 2013-14 were unquestionably severe caused by winter storms that brought with them record levels of rainfall and long standing flooding to southern England, most notably the Somerset Levels. Other parts of the UK were also affected, coastal towns in Wales were battered by stormy weather and parts of the Scotland also recorded some of the highest levels of rainfall ever recorded. Political leaders of all the main parties were swift to visit affected areas, and the government organization responsible for flood management the Environment Agency and its embattled chief Lord Smith endured a barrage of criticism for late and or inadequate flood preparation, warnings and responsiveness. For weeks, stories and images of the flood and its impact…

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The Day Britain Stopped

Whilst looking at uses of training facilities at the Fire Service College UK, which has a mock motorway amongst other things, I came across this ‘dramatic mockumentary’ (as it has been called), by the BBC. Incidentally, part of the film was shot on the mock motorway. ‘The Day Britain Stopped’ details a fictional transport disaster in the UK, which is precipitated by a rail crash followed by a trade union strike resulting in the overloading of other transport modes at an already busy time of year. Its presentation style is that of a documentary, which looks back at the events that unfolded that day, with eye-witness accounts and interviews of emergency responders and control room operators, supplemented by various methods of visualising the event, including interactive maps and video footage. Continue reading

Call For Papers – ‘Thinking with Algorithms’, Durham, 26-27 Feb 2015

There are some important links between work on emergencies and how algorithms shape, govern and control everyday practices and processes, from traffic management to financial trading. For me, there are interesting questions around the normative and procedural understandings of algorithms, specifically in settings that do the work of governing urban circulations and dealing with disruptive events. Definitely looking forward to this conference.

Progressive Geographies

SAFE_Securing_Against_Future_Events_LogoCall For Papers for Workshop

‘Thinking with Algorithms: Cognition and Computation in the Work of N. Katherine Hayles’

Gala Theatre, Durham, 26-27 February 2015

Confirmed keynote speakers:
Katherine Hayles (Duke University)
Donald Mackenzie (Edinburgh University)
Luciana Parisi (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Celia Lury (Warwick University)
David Berry (Sussex University)

Organisers: Prof. Louise Amoore and Dr Volha Piotukh, Geography Department, Durham University

The event is funded within Prof. Louise Amoore’s ESRC ‘Securing against Future Events’ project (www.securitysfutures.org) and is free to attend. Research postgraduates and early career researchers whose abstracts are accepted will have their travel and accommodation costs reimbursed to a maximum of £200. Please submit abstracts of up to 400 words to: volha.piotukh@durham.ac.uk by 20 December 2014, using ‘Thinking with Algorithms’ as your subject line.

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The war on Ebola

A great post by Derek Gregory on the metaphorical significance of ‘going to war’ on Ebola.

geographical imaginations

ECONOMIST The war on Ebola

We’ve been here before – ‘wars’ on this and ‘wars’ on that.  It’s strange how reluctant states are to admit that their use of military violence (especially when it doesn’t involve ‘boots on the ground‘) isn’t really war at all – ‘overseas contingency operations’ is what the Pentagon once preferred, but I’ve lost count of how many linguistic somersaults they’ve performed since then to camouflage their campaigns – and yet how eager they are to declare everything else a war.

These tricks are double-edged.  While advanced militaries and their paymasters go to extraordinary linguistic lengths to mask the effects of their work, medical scientists have been busily appropriating the metaphorical terrain from which modern armies are in embarrassed retreat.

Yet all metaphors take us somewhere before they break down, and the ‘war on Ebola’ takes us more or less directly to the militarisation of the global response…

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The US vs. Spain: How each country has handled Ebola so far

An article from the Spanish newspaper, El Pais, which is interesting because it addresses some of the actions, decisions and uncertainties implicated in the work of responding to an emergency in its comparison of the response to Ebola in the US and Spain:

  • Detection and diagnosis, and the uncertainty
  • Activation, relating to the point at which an event is named an emergency (or a crisis, or a disaster…), and how special measures or protocol are implemented
  • Monitoring work, to track an event, or to identify other cases
  • Recovery
  • Communication to stakeholders, at what point does this happen, and how the event is communicated.


Thinking security/mobility

A useful resource for finding the latest research at the intersection of security and mobility studies. It comes from the workshop, Security/Mobility – Between Imagination and Authority, organised by ASCA, ACGS and the University of Groningen, which was held at the University of Amsterdam last month.

With thanks to Nat O’Grady, University of Southampton, for the link.



Ebola reading list updated

Useful resource on the Ebola crisis.

Progressive Geographies

_78101022_mirrorEbola is all over the front-pages of newspapers today, in part due to the Spanish nurse and the death of the Liberian in the US. The Guardian has a live blog with updates, and the World Bank has produced a report on the wider impact on the countries most affected.

Much could be said of the shifting focus now the virus is having a direct impact on the West; of the economic focus of the World Bank report; and the militarised nature of the response from Western governments.

I’ve added several pieces to the Ebola reading list on this site. Many of the pieces linked there provide a lot more detail than the headlines.

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Emergency related sessions at the RGS

If you’re heading to the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference this week, there are two sessions we recommend for those interested in research on emergency.

Emergency Life (1): The Event of Emergency – Thursday 28 August 2014

Emergency Life (2): Enacting Emergency – Thursday 28 August 2014

The sessions begin with the challenge that life in, through, as and after emergency has been under- theorized and under-researched in geography. They bring together researchers working on life and emergency understood broadly – remaining open about what counts as, or gets counted as, an emergency.

Further detail can be found via the links above.