26 September 2023

When the Dust Settles

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Lucy Easthope, Hodder & Stoughton, $32.99.

Professor Lucy Easthope is the United Kingdom’s leading authority on disaster recovery. She knows every major incident that the UK and its citizens have endured overseas since 1960, and has worked in some way on the response to every single one since 2001.

She is an astute and thought-provoking voice in an area that few people are familiar with: emergency planning.

Easthope’s the one who determines the scope of a disaster and what’s needed to keep things running smoothly in the aftermath. She has provided advice on chemical spills, volcanoes, fires, floods and terrorist strikes.

Having worked in emergency response and planning for two decades, her job is to see the whole picture of the disaster aftermath. Not just the next few hours, days or weeks, but months and years. “I often arrive after the first stage of the response work is done, when the fire and ambulance services are packing up their kit and moving on.”

“The initial adrenaline rush of the emergency is over quickly but disaster recovery is the long game – ‘not the sprint, not even a marathon, more like the worst kind of endurance event imaginable’.”

She has been at the centre of most seismic events of the past few decades, advising on everything including the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, 9/11, the Bali bombings, the 7/7 attacks, the Salisbury Poisonings, the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand, the Grenfell fire and most recently has been advising the Prime Minister’s Office on the COVID-19 pandemic.

In every catastrophe, Lucy is there to pick up the pieces and prepare for the next one. She holds governments to account, helps communities rally together, returns personal possessions to families and holds the hands of the survivors.

Not only is When the Dust Settles an engrossing read, it is also enlightening.

A notable expert on emergency preparedness, Lucy grew up in Liverpool and has a degree in law, a PhD in medicine and a Master’s degree in risk, crisis and disaster management.

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