Virtual Library Presentation
January 10, 2001 - 12:00 Noon

Complex Systems in Crisis Management

Louise K. Comfort, Ph. D.
University of Pittsburgh


On-line Transcript
Download Transcript (MS Word File)
Slides: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

About Louise Comfort
About the book, Shared Risk: Complex Systems in Seismic Response
Book Web page

Conference Proceedings, What Disaster Response Management Can Learn From Chaos Theory
Charles Sturt University's Complexity On-Line


EIIP Virtual Library Presentation
Wednesday - January 10, 2001 - 12:00 Noon EST

Complex Systems in Crisis Management

Louise K. Comfort, Ph.D.
Professor of Public and International Affairs
University of Pittsburgh

Amy Sebring
EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator

The first EIIP Virtual Forum session of the year presented Dr. Louise Comfort in a Virtual Library discussion of "Complex Systems in Crisis Management." Dr. Comfort is a Professor of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and author of a new book, Shared Risk: Complex Systems in Seismic Response.

The presentation was a brief introduction to some key ideas from the field of complex adaptive systems that are relevant to emergency management. The concept of "complex, adaptive systems" (CAS) captures the dynamic processes of change in complex environments. A complex, adaptive system is a set of interdependent units which is capable of reallocating its resources and actions to achieve a stated goal under changing conditions. At the same time as the units within the system change their relationships to one another, the system as a whole changes its relationship to the environment in which it operates.

University of Pittsburgh

Louise K. Comfort is a Professor of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research focuses on the design and development of sociotechnical systems which use information technology to provide decision support to practicing agencies. She is the Principal Investigator for the IISIS (Interactive, Intelligent, Spatial Information System) Project, an interdisciplinary research project which draws upon findings from her study of rapidly evolving response systems in disaster environments. She has done field research on organizational response and information processes in disaster operations following earthquakes in Mexico City, 1985; San Salvador, 1986; Ecuador, 1987; Whittier Narrows, California, 1987; Armenia, 1988; Loma Prieta, 1989; Costa Rica, 1991; Erzincan, Turkey, 1992; Killari, Maharashtra State, India, 1993; Northridge, California, 1994; Hanshin, Japan, 1995; Izmit, Turkey, 1999; and ChiChi, Taiwan, 1999.

Author and editor of three books and more than seventy-five published papers, book chapters, and professional reports, Ms. Comfort has earned degrees in political science from Macalester College (B.A.); University of California, Berkeley (M.A.), and Yale University (Ph.D.).

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Complex Systems in Seismic Response

Shared Risk is an unparalleled study of how communities at risk respond to major hazards and events. This major new book explores the elastic boundary between structure and flexibility that enables modern organizations to function effectively under uncertain, dynamic conditions.

Through a comprehensive analysis of earthquake case studies, Louise Comfort shows how communities and organizations cope with dynamic and unpredicted events. Drawing upon the concept of shared risk, she examines the self-organizing processes by which communities act in their own interest to mitigate and reduce risk. Placing shared risk within a theoretical framework consistent with disaster situations, Professor Comfort presents policy-relevant analysis of disaster response systems.

Examining the relationship between information, action and theories of organizational adaptation, this book will be applicable to a wide range of organizational change efforts, as well as being a strong and distinctive contribution to the literature on seismic policy and crisis managment.

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