How to declare a public health emergency

Yesterday, 1st February 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. A PHEIC is an ‘extraordinary event’ which constitutes a public health risk to other communities through the international spread of disease and would potentially require an international response to bring it under control. This declaration was made following increasing concern about the spread of the Zika virus disease and its link to cases of babies born with microcephaly and other neurological disorders in Brazil. This declaration has a purpose – it will spur into action an international response. Continue reading


Governing Emergencies workshop – Emergency and Disaster Publics

We’re pleased to announce details of the second Governing Emergencies workshop on Emergency and Disaster Publics. It will take place in Rotterdam on the 4th and 5th June 2015. For the first day of the workshop, we will visit the Watersnoodmuseum in Ouwerkerk. The museum commemorates a flood event of 1953 in which over 1,800 people died. The museum is organised in the concrete caissons that were used to close the openings in the dykes during the floods. Continue reading

New issue of Limn on “Ebola Ecologies”

Issue 5 of Limn is now available and focuses on the 2014 Ebola outbreak. It is a great resource for anyone interested in global biosecurity emergencies and how global health norms, logics and techniques can be problematised through the case study of Ebola.

The issue includes:

  • Andrew Lakoff on “Two States of Emergency: Ebola 2014” – which questions to what exactly was the international response ‘slow and feeble.’
  • Ann H. Kelly on “Ebola, Running Ahead” – which looks at the design of clinical trials, asking the question: what does experimentation look like in the time of emergency?
  • Nicholas B. King on “Ebola, 1995/2014” – which focuses on the dialectics of confidence and paranoia in the Ebola outbreaks of 1995 and 2014.
  • And Peter Redfield on “Medical Vulnerability, or Where There Is No Kit” – which explores the role of medical humanitarian response

Contributions are made by Lyle Fearnley, Ann H. Kelly, Nicholas B. King, Guillaume Lachenal, Andrew Lakoff, Theresa MacPhail, Frédéric Le Marcis and Vinh-Kim Nguyen, Alex Nading, Joanna Radin, and Peter Redfield.

Thanks to Stephen Collier for the link to this.

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

Prepared for emergency: Inside a Cold War Bunker

At the bottom of an unassuming residential street, not far from the centre of York, is this Cold War bunker.

bunker exterior

Built in 1961, it was designed to detect and locate nuclear bombs exploded within the region and track their nuclear fallout. It was mainly staffed by civilian volunteers of the Royal Observer Corps who would spend days underground as part of the operation. The bunker had space to accommodate up to 60 members of staff, with their duties organised by shift work.

The bunker itself is organised over three levels, with an entrance above ground leading to a decontamination room, living quarters for staff are found on the middle level, and the control room is located on the lowest level.

The control room is a great example of 1960s ‘colour psychology’. The use of blue and yellow on the walls was thought to calm personnel and aid visibility and concentration.

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One of its roles was to act as a central point of contact for a number of smaller observation posts, about 20 of them, located across the region. In the event of a nuclear bomb, the control room was equipped to collate reports from these posts to help locate bombs, using this information alongside various technological artefacts and instruments, including AWDREY (Atomic Weapons Detection Recognition and Estimation of Yield), pressure gauges, white boards and large floor to ceiling illuminated maps.

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The bunker was stood down in 1991 and is now managed by English Heritage. A lot of the original equipment has been preserved, showing an excellent example of a regional nerve centre for the monitoring of nuclear attacks and their impact.


Fake UK city streets where police learn urban riot control

This article, ‘The Fake City Streets Where Cops Learn Riot Control,’ is taken from and features photographs from James Rawlings of the 3.5 square mile urban training centre in Gravesend.

More photographs are available from Rawlings’ project ‘Architectures of Conflict: Control.’