Did Women and Children Really Go First?

Here's a new study to keep in mind if you go to see the 3D rerelease of James Cameron's Titanic. Economist Mikael Elinder and Oscar Erixson analyzed data from 18 maritime disasters from 1852 to 2011, and found that the old wisdom of "women and children first" isn't quite what happens. From the abstract:

Our results provide a new picture of maritime disasters. Women have a distinct survival disadvantage compared to men. Captains and crew survive at a significantly higher rate than passengers. We also find that the captain has the power to enforce normative behavior, that the gender gap in survival rates has declined, that women have a larger disadvantage in British shipwrecks, and that there seems to be no association between duration of a disaster and the impact of social norms. Taken together, our findings show that behavior in life-and-death situation is best captured by the expression ‘Every man for himself.'

Our Daily Bleg: How to Get People More Interested in Disaster Preparedness (Without Freaking Them Out)?

In response to our call for blegs, a reader named Lisa Klink writes to ask your advice:

I just started a job at the Red Cross teaching preparedness education. The tough part is convincing people to take action: make an emergency kit, have an evacuation plan, etc. My question for your readers is: You already know that you should be prepared in case of disaster. What would prompt you to actually do it?

Great question. And not so easy. People like me spend a lot of time telling people like you that so many "disasters" they worry about are extremely unlikely. On the other hand:

    1. Disasters do happen
    2. They are often very costly on a number of dimensions
    3. That cost could presumably be curtailed by better preparedness, much of which is relatively cheap and easy

That said, you're reading the words of a guy who lives in New York City, and who lived here during the 9/11 attack, and has two fairly young children, and still never thought it worthwhile to load up a "go bag" with Cipro and cash.

How Hidden Connections Nearly Sank Chicago

One morning in 1992, a Chicago radio reporter looked into the river and, stunned, told listeners he saw "swirling water that looks like a giant drain ... I think someone should wake up the mayor!"

Power Is Not Free

Over at The Big Picture, the Boston Globe's awesome photo blog, there's a series of pictures showing the aftermath of a catastrophe (probably an explosion) at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric dam in south-central Russia on August 17.

Pick Your Apocalypse

Slate's interactive End of America site presents 144 possible ways the U.S. could meet its demise and lets you choose your favorites. We've covered quite a few of them on this blog

Hurricane Foreclosure

Although the 2009 hurricane season has opened with a whisper this month, the Gulf Coast is particularly vulnerable to storm damage. Why? The recession has left the region littered with thousands of foreclosed homes. With nobody around to secure them before a hurricane hits, these houses could break apart under heavy winds, pelting neighboring homes with debris. One possible solution under consideration: turn the foreclosed homes into hurricane shelters.

Catastrophic Top Tens

Here are 20 tips for a safe weekend: Amanda Ripley busts 10 myths that could save your life in a disaster while Nassim Nicholas Taleb outlines 10 points to save the world from financial cataclysm. [%comments]

The Tennessee Coal-Ash Spill, in Pictures

I was stirring the syrup for a pecan pie when the phone rang. My friend Brenda Boozer called to tell me there had been a massive environmental disaster close to home, and could I possibly get away to take photographs?

Why Do Voters Reward Poor Disaster Preparedness?

Politicians reap higher electoral benefits from doling out disaster relief money than they do from spending money beforehand on disaster prevention. According to a new paper by Andrew Healy, an economist at Loyola Marymount University, that creates an incentive for governments to underprepare for natural disasters. So if voters reward poor preparedness, Healy writes, the […]

When Experience and Disaster Collide

Iowans have taken to calling this week’s devastating flooding “our Katrina.” Katrina does come to mind when you look at these photos of Cedar Rapids engulfed by the Cedar River. But Iowa is lucky to have been spared a Katrina-sized death toll. In fact, far fewer lives have been claimed by this round of flooding […]