Dissertation Abstracts

Seeking Information After the 2010 Haiti Earthquake: A Case Study in Mass-fatality Management.

Author: Gupta, Kailash C, kailashgupta@my.unt.edu
Department: Library and Information Sciences
University: University of North Texas, USA
Supervisor: Nikhil Moro
Year of completion: 2013
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Mass-fatality , Human remains , Haiti , Information seeking
Areas of Research: Disasters , Risk and Uncertainty , Social Psychology

Abstract

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which killed an estimated 316,000 people, offered many lessons in mass-fatality management (MFM). The dissertation defined MFM in seeking information and in recovery, preservation, identification and disposition of human remains. Specifically, it examined how mass fatalities were managed in Haiti, how affected individuals sought information about fatalities, and what needs motivated them. Data from 28 in-depth, partially structured interviews, conducted during two field visits ending 21 weeks after the earthquake, were included in a case study.
The data analysis revealed the MFM was severely inadequate. One interviewee, a senior UN official, stated, “There was no fatality management.” The analysis also indicated a need to learn whereabouts of the deceased motivated individuals to visit spots the deceased were last seen at. It sought to illumine information-seeking practices, as discussed in the works of J. David Johnson and others, by developing a new model of information flow in MFM. In addition, it reaffirmed Donald Case and Thomas Wilson’s theoretical proposition – that need guides any seeking of information – in the case of Haiti. Finally, it produced recommendations regarding future directions in MFM for emergency managers and information scientists, including possible use of unidentified body parts in organ transplants. Overall, the dissertation, which was supported by two grants of the National Science Foundation, attempted to add to relatively scanty literature in information seeking in MFM.

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