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At first glance, a mudslide, a nuclear accident and a hostage siege seem like quite different events. But a University of Wisconsin Oshkosh political scientist says all disasters share common threads.

Martin Gruberg, who conducted a comprehensive study of disaster responses, recently learned that his manuscript “The Politics of Disasters” has been accepted for publication by Edwin Mellen Press.

“I became interested in the politics of disasters after Sept. 11,” Gruberg said. “Having grown up in New York City, the topic had immediacy for me. I was intrigued by what other disasters people were comparing Sept. 11 with.”

One comparison was to the tragic 1911 Triangle Factory Fire in New York City. While reading a history of Chicago, Gruberg also spotted similarities with the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

“I investigated single disaster events, both manmade and natural, to see what common lessons could be gleaned,” he said. “I researched geologic, meteorological, fire, health, transportation, wartime and other catastrophes.”

What Gruberg found was that before a disaster strikes, there usually are signs that — had they been paid attention to — could have mitigated the disaster’s consequences.

“Also, because of the economic costs of measures to minimize the consequences of disasters, even if attending to these measures would have been cheaper than failure to take these measures, there’s a tendency to procrastinate,” he said.

Gruberg said measures can be taken to prepare for or to prevent some disasters, but throwing money at problems “is a bloody-minded way of achieving readiness.”

“Pork-barrel spending is money down the drain. Color-coded alerts give the appearance, but not the reality, of doing something,” he said.

In addition to his upcoming book, Gruberg has authored “Women in American Politics,” “A Case Study in U.S. Urban Leadership: The Incumbency of Milwaukee Mayor Henry Maier,” “A History of Winnebago County Government” and “Introduction to Law.”

Click here to watch Fox 6 Milwaukee’s interview with Gruberg.

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