The Northridge Earthquake: Vulnerability and Disaster

By Robert Bolin; Lois Stanford | Go to book overview



The Northridge earthquake triggered a complex set of organizational, household, and individual actions across a large and dispersed urban area. In Chapters 3 and 4 we considered historical factors that have shaped the urban forms and structures of social inequality across the region. These provide contexts for examining the patterns of vulnerability revealed by the earthquake and the social actions engendered in its aftermath. In this chapter and the next we partition the discussion of the Northridge disaster into two frames. Here we discuss general and localized responses to the disaster, specifically focusing on individual losses and the programs intended to assist victims. The term ‘responding’ is intended to connote the heterogeneous and processual nature of activities undertaken by people, organizations, and governments to cope with the disaster and recover from its direct effects. We avoid analytically dividing the disaster into discrete ‘phases’ (emergency response, restoration, recovery), since such partitions - while having some heuristic value - tend to gloss the complex and contradictory ways different actions can combine in uneven temporal sequences (e.g. Neal 1997).

In the next chapter, we discuss programs which, while initiated as part of recovery, extend into the realms of social change and development. Conceptually, actions that restore conditions to what they were before the earthquake are considered ‘recovery’, while those that involve organizational and economic changes are termed ‘restructuring’ (e.g. Albala-Bertrand 1993). Some social actions and programs involve both simultaneously as with City of Los Angeles’ efforts to promote restoration in heavily damaged neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley (Chapter 6). Using this conceptual distinction, actions that seek to reduce vulnerability will often involve changes in structural arrangements in communities, hence are considered part of restructuring. Economic development, social change, and the structural alterations these involve are ongoing processes. In a common disaster such as Northridge, the event may be of only incidental significance to longer-term trajectories, a means of highlighting existing problems while augmenting resource availability and creating new political opportunities.

In California, existing organizational capacities and intergovernmental networks provide high levels of social protection against disasters, although programs and the extent of protection vary among municipalities and socioeconomic groups. Federal and state actions after the earthquake, activated as part of a national infrastructure of disaster management, moderated the disaster’s impacts through a variety of shelter, temporary housing, and recovery programs. In this chapter, we first review relief programs that were generally available across the entire disaster area, and we examine routinized aspects of response and recovery, specifically federal programs directed towards housing support and rehabilitation. Our focus narrows as we consider local response and recovery issues that emerged in the study sites. A consideration of local conditions and responses reveals dimensions of household vulnerability and the emergence of programs intended to address those with unmet recovery needs. The conclusion returns to the conceptual framework of vulnerability introduced in Chapter 2, and reconsiders it in light of these local contexts.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Northridge Earthquake: Vulnerability and Disaster
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Contents vii
  • Contents viii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - A Common Disaster 1
  • 2 - Perspectives on Disasters 27
  • 3 - Situating the Northridge Earthquake 64
  • 4 - Situating the Communities and the Research 105
  • 5 - Responding to Northridge 130
  • 6 - Restructuring After Northridge 185
  • Notes 217
  • 7 - Vulnerability, Sustainability, and Social Change 218
  • References 238
  • Name Index 256
  • Subject Index 261


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 272

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.