15 Apr 2022


Learning from Catastrophes: Strategies for Reaction

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Academic level: Master’s

Paper type: Book Report

Words: 1838

Pages: 7

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The review of the book Learning from Catastrophes

Learning from Catastrophes is a management oriented book written by two key authors going by the names Howard Kunreuther and Michael Unseen. These are well-known authors in the field of disaster management, and they have rich profession background which wipes out any cloud of doubt about their work. The book is titled Learning from Catastrophe : Strategies for reaction and respond. The title of the book already comprehends or gives a glimpse of context and scope of the book since the book majors on the disaster management and response. The book is a product of ISBN-10 under the code number: 0137044852 and also ISBN- 13 where it is given a code of: 978-0137044856. The book is medium in size; however, has all the necessary information the authors’ intend to deliver to the target audiences. The printed book has a total of three hundred and fifty-two pages, published by Pearson Prentice Hall. The book has undergone some limited number of an edition with the first done on the 26th of November 2009. The book is considerable broad regarding the physical length and breadth; its dimensions are 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches. The main language used in the entire book is English. It is available both online at eText ISBN: 9780137067244, 0137067240 and lastly, the copyright years of the book is © 2010 (Kunreuther & Useem, 2009).


Written by Howard Kunreuther and Michael Unseem, 'Learning from Catastrophes: Strategies for Reaction and Response' is a very important copy in the current management. The current management is full of both internal and external environmental factors which need the managerial capability to handle to achieve some milestone in the dynamic world of business. Therefore, the book is critical for different aspects of management issues it address. First, the book addresses the factors which affect or have an influence on the risk planning. It also reveals to its audience the notion which currently prevails and states that the risk is more frequent in the society than before. The book has documented and comprehensively illustrates seven principles models which the targeted audience at their capacity and position can use to manage the extreme disasters. Another important issue the book gives a primary focus is the issues or challenges which are faced on the field of the catastrophe management by those who are willing to venture into the field beyond the theoretical or the office work. The last important aspect of this book is that it reveals to the readers some key issues they neglect when they are making the decision on matters about risk. The book points out and gives solution and emphasis on the five issues and why they should be given attention when making the decision on the risks.

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Questions of introduction

Learning from Catastrophes strategies for reaction and response is based on the broad category of the management leadership and management. The book was published on 26th November the year 2009 and is the first edition by Pearson Prentica Hall. It falls under the genre of management. The background of the book is assembled papers from all and different perspectives of risk management. They are inclusive of risk analysis, risk assessment as well as mitigation and the broad management of risk. The risk presented in this book is of broad range and different kind. For instance, the book can be used for terrorism management, financial risks, catastrophes and many others. The book is very vital for any organization which is faced with any kind of risk management challenges. This book seeks and entirely deserves attention from all kind of profit or non-profits organization. They should have a copy to aid them in risk management. The main target of the book is the managers of the different organization that at one time may face a task of managing risk. The book also targets ambitious managers with the dream to make a legacy in their respective managerial position in the different organization in the society. 

The two authors have a good history in their professional career. Howard Kunreuther is a professor at Cecilia Yen Koo of decision science and public policy at Wharton school. He is also the director of the department of risk management at Wharton and the Decision Process Center. His main interests are hooked on the three management ambition in the society. They are inclusive of better management of low probability, high consequences events related to natural hazards and technology. Also, he is a member of the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS). Has been a member of The Distinguish Fellow Society for the Risk Analysis where he received an award in the year 2001. Lastly, he broke the record and received an award from the fellow who published the most significant contribution in the insurance literature in the world.

On the other hand, Michael Unseen is also a professor and a director at the Wharton school. He is the director of the William and Jaclyn Egan proffer of management. He is also the director of the Center for Leadership and change management at the same school. He has authored numerous copies inclusive of Investor Capitalism and the Go Point , The Leadership Moment among others.

Purpose and the book scope

Kunreuther and Unseen base their major discussion on the planning and its effects in the institutions. They focus the attention of the frequency of natural disaster occurrence, the current occurrence, the past and the anticipated occurrence. The two authors give the solution to these problems using a comprehensive model. They offer a seven principles strategic model and the assessment as well as the management tool with the aim of helping the scientist as well as the managers of both profit and non-profit organization to face such challenges. The main purpose of the book is that by the end of reading and comprehending the 'Learning from Catastrophes : Strategies for Reaction and Response,' the manager or the targeted audience or any person who happens to go through the book will have an insight on the sum of key critical factors which the leaders often ignore when making decision which faced them on matter of risk management.

The book description

The business persons have been taught an unforgettable lesson from the events ranging from the Hurricane Katrina to the global economic crisis that: if you don't protect your business against very extreme risks, then you end up destabilizing the survivability of the organization. However, the question still lingers among the managers and the companies’ stakeholders, the question is, how can one protect the business from the unforeseen day- to- day risks? In the book Learning from Catastrophes , two well-known authors have provided a comprehensive solution to this issue. 

The beginning chapter of the book welcomes the newcomers into the world of risk management, analysis and response. The principle strength of this chapter is the integration of the community knowledge on the resilience and the vulnerability within the framework of risk management. The emphasis is on the community characteristics which have become standard in our disaster risk understanding. Chapter two of the book introduce us to a summary particularly the vital points on the interventions’ and risk reduction, Prevention and mitigation, response and recovery. This chapter major on disaster preparedness. The primary aim of the chapter is to show how a community can be negatively subjected to the effect of disaster or ways they can use to recover from it faster.

Chapter three give a view on the meteorological forecasting data in the world, this is paramount as it can be used to detect the rare signs of the extremes weather, and allow us to have time to prepare. Another chapter seems very narrow yet; the content is very vital. Their contents are inclusive of the catastrophe financial risk consideration, the financial structures which can be used effectively to respond to disasters. Others also document communication during the disasters, risk regulation, climate change, terrorism, pandemics and many others. My last recommendation to the new readers is to focus seriously on the first four chapters as they are the central pillars of the book, the remaining chapters can browse through. 

Description of the author's method assumptions and main thesis or theses

During the cause of their work, the authors have assumed some key issues which have made the book easier to understand. Without these assumptions, it would be difficult to pass the information. Firstly, the author assumes that people have a clear knowledge of the risk or hazards existence in the society. However, the analysis, assessment, and management are what lack and make the risk consumes lives and properties when it occurs. Also, they assume that the risk courses havoc when it occurs due to ignorance of some critical factors in decision making and many others.

This makes it easy for the readers to comprehend the knowledge from the book, empirical data has been used and accuracy maintained. The authors have gone ahead and presented a seven principle model as a solution for these challenges. 

Lastly, the authors seem to have several theses in the book. However, the obvious these that clearly come are as follows; the community has insight but lacks the power provided by management knowledge to fight disasters. Another thesis is that the risk occurrence outcome is often negative due to lack of some element in the risk management decision making.

The structure of the book Note-worthy statements, wordings, quotations from the book

The structure of the book is as follows; it has the title page which is followed by the copyright page then praise for the learning of the catastrophes. They are immediately preceded by content, forward and the preface. It has part one which is the setting of the stage, part two which covers and links the risk assessment, analysis management, the third part is about application of the catastrophic risks, part five is the innovation and leadership. It has end notes, world economic forum, about the Authors and the book, ends with the appendices. 

The main quote as well as statement which captures the central pillar of the book is based on chapter four where Sean Cleary argues that "To better overcome Cognitive Constraints and Behavioral Biases, we must compensate for our limited cognitive ability by continuing to design and develop models that help us better understand the complex, nonlinear systems we confront and have helped to create, while recognizing our weakness in responding sensibly to them" (p. 82).


The authors have the knowledge of the topic they are discussing. They have presented seven principles which can be used to solve disaster issue comprehensively. Also, they have based their arguments on empirical data which has a good level of accuracy to justify their claims. The book has numerous theses at each chapter; however, there are two key theses which are the main pillar of the book. The entire book revolves about the tow theses. The authors seem to have achieved what they intended. They have identified the level of the social knowledge of disaster; they have also known some factors which make a program which aims to solve such issues fails. Lastly, they have identified seven principles to solve the issue. The seven key principles form a strong foundation of the theses. The data set which is used had a good accuracy level judging by the comparisons which were made. Lastly, the book is rated as five stars by Boris who reviewed the book on January 7th, 2010. He urges managers to make use of the book.


The book has done well in discussing the disaster management by highlighting points on disaster analysis, assessment response mitigation, and recovery (Banks ton et al., 2010). It has also done well in pinpointing issues which are always ignored when managing risk lastly; it has done well in pinpointing some of the solutions, to these issues. However, the book has a contradiction in some parts; for instance, there is a statement in the book that states that the "experts" should frame their language in a manner that is easy to understand to help others make an informed decision. If the experts cannot even predict the future of their business as the book claims, how can they help one make a decision? Lastly, the book is very critical in management, and I recommend it for risk management.


Kunreuther, H., & Useem, M. (2009). Learning from Catastrophes: Strategies for Reaction and Response . Pearson Prentice Hall.

Bankston III, C. L., Bradshaw, J., Bevc, C., Capowich, G. E., Clarke, L., Das, S. K., ... & Esmail, A. (2010). The Sociology of Katrina: Perspectives on a modern catastrophe . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

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