Disaster Response on Web Forums

Recent events on this board and elsewhere got me to pondering a few questions; so, I will go ahead and open up the can of worms to see what people think.

During hurricane Gustav the Republicans (and no doubt the Democrats would have done the same thing) suspended their convention activities during the worst of the storm. It was suggested on several coaster discussion boards I read that expressing concern for the Boardwalk Bullet was somehow out of line while people's lives were at stake. I even read a comment yesterday suggesting that space exploration was a horrible waste of resources while people were still suffering on earth.

So…What is an appropriate response to a disaster on a web site dedicated to leisure activities?

Should we shut down all conversation about “trivial” things like coasters and amusements out of respect for those affected by the disaster…or, on the other hand, should we refrain from any mention of the event to provide a safe haven where people can escape the stress of dealing with the disaster? I know reality is somewhere in the middle; but, which way do you lean?

How long after the event is it appropriate to begin discussing “trivial” things?

The owners of Landry’s seemed quite optimistic that they will be up and running relatively soon.Would it be disrespectful to those who will be suffering for years across the bay in Galveston or Bolivar for someone to go out to Kemah for a few rides instead of using their free time to help rebuild?

I have several more questions, but that should be enough to get the ball rolling.

Last edited by Alan T.,

Jeff's avatar

Roller coasters don't cure cancer, which I suppose doesn't even need to be said. This is something we all do in for fun (well, a few of us make a living in the industry, but you know what I mean).

There's no black and white definition to explain what matters and what doesn't, so all you can do is use your best judgment. In the horror of the moment, yes, I'd be appalled by someone worrying about a coaster while half a town is being blown off the map. A little common sense goes a long way.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

I would look at your life away from here for guidance. How did you deal with your friends or co-workers in the days following a disaster? There was probably some discussion of what happened, but there was also normal talking, joking and laughter. So why should things be different here?

If we took things to an extreme, it could be argued that all fun is inappropriate because somebody is suffering somewhere in the world. We know how impossible that would be.

I think the last time the world truly stopped was 9/11/01. Since then, the media has wrapped up it's "Special Reports", "Special, Special Reports", and "Realy, We Mean It....THIS Is A Special Reports". Maybe the 2003 Columbia Disaster was up there too...but I think even that came less "shocking" than Challenger.

What I am trying to say is that it seems the media is desensitizing us. We are, hopefully, at the tail end of a war that most Americans were largely unaffected by. Unless you or someone you knew/loved was in Iraq or Afghanistan you likely went on with your life. Amusement parks did fine in the last decade. The movie business and television are doing fine. So, that suggests that we are somewhat emotionally disconnected from these large events.

I think you can put into context someone asking about the effects of an amusement park during a natural disaster. We all understand the human toll is the bigger concern but on this site (and others) it is natural to be thinking those thing that we talk passionately about 365 days per year. I don't think that makes us cold-hearted.

Jeff's avatar

I don't understand why people like to attribute everything to "the media," as if we're all mindless zombies. It's not like we have greater exposure to natural disasters than we did 20 years ago.

I think it's hard for people to care about what's going on outside of their backyard when they have a hard time wrapping their head around what's going on in their own lives. I'm guilty of that too. People still step up when they should. We raised quite a bit of money in 2005 when I donated club membership revenue to the Red Cross following the tsunami in Southeast Asia.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

Oh, I think we absolutely have more exposure to natural disasters/war/newsworthy events now than we did 20 years ago. For one thing, there are far more 24 hour news stations, the internet, and newspapers who are more marketing today than they are news. I don't think there is any question we have more exposure to...well...everything.

Would Paris Hiton be a celebrity 20 years ago? Absolutely not. Why is she a celebrity today? It doesn't have anything to do with talent and it has everything to do with media exposure.

But yes, I do agree that problems in our own lives also detract from our view to the outside world. I wouldn't deny that.

Jeff's avatar

I'm still not convinced that's the case. I agree that there are more sources, but I'm not convinced that people consume more. I think people consume news from different resources, not more. That's just an observation based on advertising data, which should theoretically correlate to where people are going.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

I think we do get more coverage of storms especially. I could go to a single web site and watch live streaming video from all of the Houston news channels, at the same time, during Ike. When there are potential tornados in North Georgia several Atlanta TV stations have the whole "severe weather team" tracking the storms live on super-duper-doppler radar as they make their way across the state. It's almost like they are hoping to have a disaster to cover because they know the ratings will spike. I know that I was guilty of spending quite a lot of time glued to the coverage of hurricane Ike and I don't have any real connection to anyone/anything in that region.

Of course, after watching the storm damage, my only response was saying/thinking something along the lines of "wow that's rough...I guess I ought to make a donation to some disaster relief organization...too bad we won't get any of that rain to ease our drought here."

Then I get to wondering...when I make that donation, do I do it out of some feeling of connection to other humanity, the hope that if/when I am in that situation I hope someone else would do the same thing, or just because it makes Me feel good.

Jeff's avatar

The two don't have to be at odds. It's OK to feel good to do good.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

Living in an area that is prone to hurricanes I have felt compelled to donate to charitable causes such as Katrina Relief, Tsunami Relief and the 9/11 Survivors Fund because I know there is a pretty high chance that someday I may be on the receiving end of similar help.

We all like to think we are prepared for anything and, living in South Florida, I am probably better prepared than the average Joe (geneartors, supplies of food/water) but no amount of preparation can really be enough as witnessed in Galveston. (Though, granted, many of the structures there were built before significant hurricane building codes were established.)

My "out" is that I have friends/family around the country so I figure, worst-case scenario, I can send my wife and kids out of the area while I am tied down to the reponse. So Jeff, I may be calling on you someday and I hope you have an extra bedroom. The kids can get crazy but my wife is an excellent baker!

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