Introduction to International Disaster Management
Chapter 3: Risk and Vulnerability
- The United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) issues a risk-focused Global Assessment Report (GAR) every two years. Each GAR addresses a unique aspect of disaster risk and the issues surrounding its management. The following GARs have been developed to date:
- GAR2019 (Surprise is the New Normal)
- GAR2017 (GAR Atlas: Unveiling Global Disaster Risk)
- GAR2015 (Making Development Sustainable: The Future of Disaster Risk Management)
- GAR2013 (From Shared Risk to Shared Value: The Business Case for Disaster Risk Management)
- GAR2011 (Revealing Risk, Redefining Development)
- GAR2009 (Risk and Poverty in a Changing Climate)
Report: The State of Fragility on 2020. The Fund For Peace publishes a State of Fragility Report each year, describing each country’s stability on account of multiple social, economic, environmental, and other indicators. Download
REPORT: UNU Interconnected Disaster Risks Report – “This report analyses 10 interconnected disasters that took place in 2020/2021. They were selected for their notoriety and representation of larger global issues, which have changed or will change our lives across the world.”Download
Calculating Hazard Consequences
- INDIRECT CONSEQUENCES
- An Extended Pipeline Shutdown Could Affect Gas Prices In Southeast U.S. (NPR, May 9, 2021)
- In the shadow of Mt. Everest, a business boom goes bust, spoiled by COVID-19 (Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2021): COVID-19 lockdowns are helping to control the spread of the virus, thereby reducing impacts to at-risk populations. The lockdowns, however, present their own indirect impacts to many different people and institutions, including small businesses that have little margin for revenue reductions.
- As the Covid-19 crisis ebbs in the U.S., experts brace for some to experience psychological fallout (STAT, May 7, 2021): “For some people, the feelings of anxiety and depression that emerged during the pandemic will resolve as routines resume. But others will face new or worse mental health issues that persist or even appear down the road, a number that could be quite large given the magnitude of despair and disruption. That burden, however big, stands to put an even greater strain on an already stretched mental health system.”
- A Crisis of Undiagnosed Cancers Is Emerging in the Pandemic’s Second Year (ProPublica, May 4, 2021): This article explains how the full health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is measured not only in the illnesses and deaths that the novel coronavirus caused, but also in terms of the negative effects that lockdowns and distressed medical systems had on other acute and chronic illnesses.
- USING EXCESS DEATHS AS A MEASURE OF DISASTER IMPACT ON HUMAN LIFE
- New analysis finds global Covid death toll is double official estimates (STAT, May 6, 2021)
Climate Risk Assessment
- White House Office of Climate Change and Health Equity “Climate and Health Outlook Portal” (White House, STATIC)
- These are the states in America that are the least prepared for extreme weather (CNBC, July 28, 2023)
- Making Climate Risk Assessments Accessible (Resilient Cities Network) How rapid Climate Risk Assessments (CRAs) enabled by publicly available data sources can inform adaptation action in cities around the globe
Vulnerability and Resilience
- RESILIENCE AS A CONCEPT
- This Article in the New York Times by David Leonhardt (4/30/2021) explains how a combination of factors, each of which contributes to societal resilience, contributed to the prevention of an Ebola epidemic in 2014. Public sector response capacity alone would not have prevented this. Building social capital, increasing organizational competence, and other factors played a huge role in Nigeria’s response and this translates to any aspect of community resilience. CDC report on the crisis in Nigeria here.
- This Article in the Atlantic by Uri Friedman explores Resilience as a form of national power revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Friedman argues that a country’s strength is determined not only by its military and economy, but also by how it is able to manage and bounce back from shocks and stresses. (November 15, 2020)
- This article describes a report by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that found LGBTQ people are at higher risk in disasters. FEMA warned that minorities; single parents; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are “more likely than others to be severely impacted by disasters” and may need extra help. (Scientific American, 12/23/2020) The FEMA Report can be found here.
- DIGITAL DIVIDE
- As disaster technologies become more prevalent, the digital divide is becoming a growing challenge. It is bot ha factor of physical location (in that some countries have less access than others), economic conditions (the poor generally have less access than others, or age (older people may not have the means to adapt as quickly to changing technological advancements. This article explains how the digital divide creates unique vulnerabilities for senior citizens as COVID-19 vaccine campaigns embrace newer technologies for distribution. (KHN, 2/4/2021)
- Women suffer most when disaster strikes (National Observer, May 5, 2021): In every country across the world, women are disproportionately affected by disasters — and not just by a little. Women are 14 times more likely than men to die or be injured following a disaster.
- This report by the World Bank GFDRR reviews existing evidence and data on how men and women, boys and girls are impacted by, prepare for and cope with disasters. It is not about depicting women and girls as perpetually worse-off victims of disasters; rather, it is about recognizing that men and women, boys and girls are affected in different ways. Men and women, boys and girls have different experiences of disasters.
- DISTRUST OF GOVERNMENT
- When Climate Change and Xenophobia Collide (The New Yorker, February 16, 2021). This article describes how Bahamian officials created distrust during Hurricane Dorian by deporting more than 1000 illegal immigrants who had reported to emergency shelters. This has led to a decrease in likelihood that illegal immigrants who are already vulnerable, will seek assistance in a future event.
- ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
- Environmental Justice is described by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be, ” the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.” The current head of the US EPA directed all offices to incorporate environmental justice into all plans and actions. (Government Executive, April 8, 2021)
- CULTURAL RESILIENCE / INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE
- Reading the Landscape for Fire (Bay Nature, January 2021): This article describes the value of cultural, traditional, and indigenous knowledge in building community resilience.
- As Heat Waves Intensify, Europe’s Cities Rely on Age-Old Ways to Stay Cool (New York Times, July 28, 2023)
- Flooding could shut down a quarter of all critical infrastructure in the U.S. (Axios, October 11, 2021): The new national inventory of flood risk during the next thirty years, which takes into account climate change-driven increases in sea levels and heavy precipitation events, is the first of its kind.
- Global land use changes are four times greater than previously estimated (Nature Communications, May 11, 2021): Quantifying the dynamics of land use change is critical in tackling global societal challenges such as food security, climate change, and biodiversity loss. We estimate that land use change has affected almost a third (32%) of the global land area in just six decades (1960-2019) and, thus, is around four times greater in extent than previously estimated from long-term land change assessments.
- New map illustrates startling reality about the most at-risk areas in the US: ‘The impacts…are expected to get worse’. (TCD, November 3, 2023)
- When disaster hits, social circles are crucial lifelines (The Verge, February 21, 2023)
- In graying Puerto Rico, the elderly face climate disasters alone (Washington Post, January 13, 2023): “Experts say the government is woefully unprepared for the challenges of having so many senior citizens.”
- In Climate-Driven Disasters, Older People and the Disabled Are Most at Risk. Now In-Home Caregivers Are Being Trained in How to Help Them (Inside Climate News, July 12, 2022)
- Heat waves are dangerous. Isolation and inequality make them deadly. (Washington Post, July 21, 2021): “As they assess the toll of last month’s heat wave, Oregon officials say ‘social resilience’ is needed to cope with climate change and protect those most vulnerable.”
- During wildfires and hurricanes, a language gap can be deadly (Grist, June 15, 2021): “Migrants like Kouhirostami are especially vulnerable to disasters and systematically left behind when they strike, in part because local governments and institutions often fail to translate important notices.”
- In weather emergencies, a lack of Spanish-language information endangers the public (Washington Post, May 30, 2021): “During extreme weather, the ability to receive storm warnings can save your life. But many non-English speakers in the United States have limited access to information about hazards as dangerous as tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires and floods.”
- Losing Languages, Losing Worlds: The World’s Languages are Dying, and the Pandemic Didn’t Help (CNN, April 2021)
INFOGRAPHIC: Earthquakes can Drain Your Bank Account (US Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2021)Download
- Fires, floods and disappearing beaches: can Mediterranean holidays survive? (The Guardian, June 3, 2023)
- Heat waves and high energy costs are hitting some communities hard (NBC, June 19, 2022): This article shows how the consequences of one hazard (economic stress resulting from an extended pandemic and supply chain issues related to the war in Ukraine) can have compounding impacts on subsequent hazards (a heat wave) for vulnerable populations, resulting in a much more severe event than would have likely occurred in the absence of those concurrent events.
- The Housing Crisis Led Them to Basement Apartments. Climate Change Flooded Them Out (BuzzFeed News, March 4, 2022)
- U.N. warns of ‘colossal’ collapse of Afghan banking system (CNN, November 22, 2021): “Afghanistan’s banking system was already vulnerable before the Taliban came to power. But since then development aid has dried up, billions of dollars in Afghan assets have been frozen abroad, and the United Nations and aid groups are now struggling to get enough cash into the country.”
- 10 deadliest animals to humans – you don’t want to get too close (Discover Wildlife, October 26, 2023): Presenting statistics on risk related to hazards we experience on a daily basis can be useful to calibrate risk perception from other much less likely hazards.
- Risk tolerance as a complementary concept to risk perception of natural hazards: A conceptual review and application (Risk Analysis Journal, May 12, 2023)
- Another City Is Drowning, and We Can’t Look Away (The New Yorker, October 4, 2022): This article offers an interesting viewpoint about the way that individuals are able to voyeuristically observe disasters happening in real time, which raises questions about how this might affect risk perception.
- Woman dies after being impaled by beach umbrella (The Times of London, August 12, 2022): This article highlights an extremely rare risk that often merits media attention because of the sensational nature of the injury or death that results.
- Americans are far more likely to say climate crisis is a threat after facing recent extreme weather (April 6, 2022)
- It’s time to recalculate your COVID ‘risk budget.’ Here’s how (NPR, December 29, 2021): “Think of it like a regular budget: you only have a certain amount of risk to spend, so choose the things you want to prioritize.”
- Car crash deaths have surged during COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s why. (LA Times, December 8, 2021): This article explains how the perception (or misperception) or a prominent risk faced by an individual can cause them to discount other risks, even those that may have greater consequences or be more likely to cause negative impacts.
De Minimis Risk
- The Dirty Secret of America’s Clean Dishes (ProPublica, December 20, 2021): “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency aspires to minimize the number of people exposed to emissions that increase excess cancer risk above 1 in 1 million.”
The Concept of Risk Representing Uncertainty
- California’s ‘phantom lake’ returns with a vengeance, unearthing an ugly history of water (LA Times, March 28, 2023)