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July 5, 1995

First Complex Disasters Symposium Features Dramatically Timely Topics

JAMA. 1995;274(1):11-12. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530010023007

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IT SEEMS tragically prophetic that the first Harvard University Symposium on Complex Disasters was held only 9 days before a terrorist's bomb smashed the federal office building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 men, women, and children and sending psychological shock waves throughout the nation.

The bombing and its aftermath illustrate many of the issues discussed at the 2-day conference, which explored ways of meeting the complex medical, public health, psychological, and logistical challenges that follow natural and man-made disasters.

The symposium, held in Boston, Mass, and sponsored by Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, and the Harvard Forum on Disasters, brought together an interdisciplinary group of experts to examine the ethical and logistical problems that follow disasters—from hurricanes to major airplane crashes, earthquakes to civil wars, floods to acts of terrorism.

Among the subjects discussed were ways of improving policy planning for disaster management, handling the logistics of

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