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Section members responding to this question drew on past crises for warnings and exemplars for contemporary sociology. Full versions of these responses can be found in Timelines issue 29.
The Cholera Pandemic 1854-1860
Charles Perrow described the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear reactor meltdown as a Normal Accident. Normal accidents are a class of events produced when subsystems in risky, complex and tightly coupled systems fail. Tight linkages between subsystems propagate failure, and local breakdowns cascade into systemic collapse. Diane Vaughn applied the normal accident metaphor to the 1986 Challenger Disaster.