Recommend articles, podcasts, TV, and movies about disaster response.
January 28, 2018 12:55 PM   Subscribe

I have been really interested in both fiction and non-fiction narratives where a team of people or a collection of people respond to a disaster. The Radiolab episode on NPR today was about medical triage in disaster situations. I was also fascinated by this article about the response of an ER doctor and his team to the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Can you recommend me more of the same?

What I'm looking for:
Can be fiction or non-fiction.
I'm less interested in a single heroic individual than in the response of a group of people.
I'm interested in stories where their response is successful but also ones where things go wrong.

What I am not looking for:
I am not interested in stories that heavily focus on a single person's tragedy, more on the dynamics of the team working together and how they do it.
Stories that are exploitative or "disaster porn," sharing grisly details just for the shock value.
Big-budget disaster movies, unless they are especially well done.
posted by mai to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
You might like both War Hospital and Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink, which are well-researched nonfiction accounts of medical teams during the Bosnian war and just after Katrina, respectively. The latter is relatively provocative in some of its implications, but both are really well-researched and raise fascinating questions about people forced to make impossible decisions in equally impossible situations.
posted by superfluousm at 1:59 PM on January 28, 2018

You might like CBC Radio's podcast Fault Lines. Their staff meteorologist/seismologist Johanna Wagstaffe sets up two scenarios for an earthquake on Canada's West Coast and walks listeners through both scenarios, episode by episode. She interviews people who have lived through other earthquakes like the one in Christchurch, and speaks to emergency professionals. It's really well done--not about any individual tragedy but rather a provincial/federal response to a major disaster.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:07 PM on January 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Rebecca Solnit is more famous for another of her books, but her 2010 book A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster addresses these questions directly.
posted by megatherium at 2:31 PM on January 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

This minute-by-minute account of the WTC 9/11 disaster might be in the ballpark. Some incredible survival stories and rescue efforts but also (obviously) a lot of tragedy and things going wrong.
posted by Mid at 3:21 PM on January 28, 2018

I am definitely not a big-budget disaster movie person, but I think Only the Brave counts as an especially well-done entry into the genre.
posted by Beardman at 5:27 PM on January 28, 2018

Command and Control documentary video (a fragment of material from schlosser's book of the same name)

Contagion had a bombproof technical advisor.

The Anthrax Files - criminal & public health fiasco.

The biggest disaster, and shittiest disaster response.

I avoided battlefield situations, but consider the events of Gallipoli, Black Hawk Down, My Lai, Battle of Peleliu, The Somme, Verdun. lotta disaster, little response.
posted by j_curiouser at 5:47 PM on January 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

These are all excellent, keep em coming.
posted by mai at 6:48 PM on January 28, 2018

The "Getting Organized" episode of the TED Radio Hour had a great segment about a pair of sisters who used their campaign organizing background to organize disaster response in their hometown after a tornado.
posted by lunasol at 7:44 PM on January 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

about an airplane crash in Sioux City, Iowa in the early 90s.
posted by wwartorff at 8:32 PM on January 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

op: books ok, too?

more digital media...

Big Thompson Flood

Haiti Earthquake

US Army COE 1964 Alaska Quake

ADRA Nepal Earthquake Response
posted by j_curiouser at 6:16 AM on January 29, 2018

I just finished Ghosts of the Tsunami, which had a lot of that.
posted by jabes at 11:42 AM on January 29, 2018

In the non fiction genre see if you can find 'In the Hot Seat' which has a lot about the human factors in managing disasters, particularly on oil platforms. It's a moderately technical read, but I enjoyed it.

Seconding Command and Control. You may not sleep afterwards....

Not quite what you're looking for but a good read too (and an older story) is 'Young Men and Fire' which is the story of the fire at Mann Gulch.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 12:05 PM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

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