During the process of planning for catastrophic events there are many ethical quandaries that must be addressed by the planners but the common denominator in most of them is how to be fair and respectful to all while also providing the best protection for the most people. And just what exactly is fair and what about the situations that present conflicts between fair and safe?
There are several different typologies concerning how to be fair, respectful, and provide the best for the most. During the planning stage of preparing for response to a catastrophic event they may all come into play. The planners may not know or be able to articulate the underlying philosophies by name such as Teleological Ethics or Utilitarianism (right or wrongness based on positive or negative outcomes) or Deontological ethics (Duty-based) but they will be guided by their personal beliefs, morals and standards of what is right and wrong. In other words, they will be operating under what is considered to be applied ethics. Which can be defined as, “Ethics refers to standards of conduct, standards that indicate how one should behave based on moral duties and virtues, which themselves are derived from principles of right and wrong.” (Adams, 2011).
As the planning process is undertaken many questions will need to be answered specifically regarding how to response and they will have direct impacts on the people who have been affected by the catastrophe. Judgment calls made during times of duress and the chaotic circumstances encountered during a response cannot all be covered by careful ethical planning, of course. There will be times when a responder or official will have to rely on their personal ethics during the crisis but at least by having discussions and reaching agreements during the planning phase many of the really tough choices may be covered. The planning phase will lay a guiding foundation for specific response scenarios and hopefully relieve some of the more stressful decision making in the field and provide the responders the ability to just get the job done.
Deciding what is fair while deciding how to protect is probably the toughest question to answer when planning a catastrophic response. The question of value and worth are inevitable when discussing fair and those qualities are usually judgment based. And judgments are usually based on perspective or position. For example, the town has received notice that a dam up river has been breached and within 4 hours the town could be inundated and completed flooded. Priorities...