Systematic research contributes to the process of challenging this propensity to avoidance and amnesia, allowing the lessons to extend to a much larger community. Ultimately, the challenge for the mental health community is to extend the treatment skills and health delivery systems developed after a disaster to address the needs of other trauma victims who do not come to collective awareness in the same manner that the media coverage ensures for disaster victims. Research also plays a critical role ensuring that there is a systematic review of the experience and lessons that have been learnt. These lessons can then be combined with those from previous disasters to frame the plans for future disaster management. In the interim, the training and health care plans can be further developed to even better manage future situations whilst being flexible enough to be modified in the light of new research.
Large-scale traumatic events impact on social and personal attitudes and have the potential to bring about major, yet sometimes subtle, shifts in societies. Hence, in the aftermath of a disaster, there is a potential for major changes in public and professional attitudes because of the lessons learned by a small group of individuals involved in disaster relief and public administrators. In the longer term, these changes can be instrumental in improving the future management of trauma in the broader community. Research plays a central role in this process by documenting the immediate reactions to the disaster and the long-term outcomes. The lessons learned are also framed in terms of behaviour in the face of threat and how to adapt to the risk of recurrence.
One of the major reasons for the deaths in disasters is the failure of technology and the denial or incorrect appraisal of risk . Perhaps the most iconic symbol of this phenomenon, in Western society, is the sinking of the Titanic. The designers claimed that this vessel was constructed so that it was invincible to destruction. As a result, there was insufficient life-saving equipment for all the passengers, owing to the belief that it would never be required. This error of judgement compounded the magnitude of the disaster when the unthinkable happened.
Disaster research as an area of investigation has a number of specific differences from most areas of psychiatric research. The core process of science is the consideration of the previously existing body of knowledge and its further development and refinement through subsequent investigation. The future investigations are driven by the development of hypotheses that emerge with the aim to further refine the existing information that is known about a particular phenomenon. Disaster research has the potential to further the general knowledge about post-traumatic reactions from a phenomenological and aetiological perspective. However, there is a propensity for every disaster to be seen in its own right as a novel event where the questions that have been investigated in previous disasters are re-examined. The instruments available for self-report in interview studies have not varied greatly in the past two decades. Equally, the salient risk factors investigated have not changed substantially during this period time. Therefore the generalisations that come out of this body of literature are contributed to as much by studies conducted in the 1980s as the more recent investigations.
Disaster research has an important social role in highlighting the longer-term effects of these events , which in the past tended to be overlooked in disaster recovery plans. This research is therefore part of the social dialectic  that is involved in rebuilding a community and also in characterising the less visible aspects of the damage that these events inflict upon communities.
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