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close this bookAn Overview of Disaster Management (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - United Nations Development Programme , 1992, 136 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword to the 2nd edition
View the documentIntroduction to this training module
Open this folder and view contentsPART ONE: HAZARDS AND DISASTERS
Open this folder and view contentsPART TWO: DISASTER PREPAREDNESS
Open this folder and view contentsPART THREE: DISASTER RESPONSE
Open this folder and view contentsPART FOUR: DISASTER MITIGATION


2nd Edition

GE. 92-01231

Cover Photograph: Building river defense walls, Chosica, Rimac Valley, Peru.
Photo by Andrew Maskrey

Foreword to the 2nd edition

The informal name for this text has been the “Foundation Module.” The information it includes is regarded as the foundation for much of the UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Training Programme (DMTP). This training module describes the components of disaster management and their context within the overall framework of United Nations agencies actively involved in disaster and emergency issues.

This training module has been produced for the UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Training Programme by the University of Wisconsin Disaster Management Center. The Technical Operational Partners for the DMTP provided valuable advice on the format and content. The principal sources for the content include the UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Manual and six complementary training modules prepared for the DMTP. Intertect Training Services has edited the material and prepared the educational components.

For those of you familiar with the first edition, you will see many changes in the second edition. It has been significantly reorganized. The chapters which focus on the UN have been moved adjacent to chapters on related topics - instead of being collected together in the former Part 4.

The chapter on Natural Hazards has been condensed. Each hazard type is described in a one-page summary. More extensive coverage is now available in the companion module, Introduction to Hazards.

A new chapter on Compound and Complex Emergencies has been added, highlighting this topic as an issue that has recently emerged into our collective consciousness. Many other chapters have been modified or rewritten with new exercises and illustrations added.

Introduction to this training module

Purpose and scope

An Overview of Disaster Management is designed to introduce the subject of disaster management to an audience of UN organization professionals who form disaster management teams, as well as to government counterpart agencies, NGOs, and donors. The training is designed to increase the audience’s awareness of the nature and management of disasters. This should lead to better performance in disaster preparedness and response. By questioning the “inevitability” of disasters, we hope you can begin to see mitigation of disasters as a component of development, and disasters as opportunities to further development goals.

In this course we take a broad view of disasters. We will not try to separate out problems rooted in environmental degradation as a distinct set of responsibilities. It also includes emergencies which encompass the need to provide assistance to large populations displaced by the forces of civil conflict or other emergencies.

Much of the course’s content is based on the UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Manual and follows its principles, procedures, and terminology.

Overall learning objectives

The overall objectives of this training module aim to

create interest in disaster management

stimulate motivation

link the learning to your work activities

relate the learning to your values and attitudes about disaster management

We hope this will be achieved through your reading of this text and completing the suggested exercises. Specifically, you should be able to do the following:

describe the relationship among hazard, vulnerability and disasters

describe the basic concepts, aims, and elements of disaster and emergency management

describe the range of available preparedness/mitigation measures, consider their appropriateness, opportunities, limitations and modalities of implementation through development activities

clarify the purpose, function and means of response of the UN agencies involved in the emergency scenario and particularly that of the UN Disaster Management Team.

Q. Before you go on, write down two or three key reasons why you are studying this course on disaster management.

A. ____________________________________________________________


Compare your reasons with those of others that are on the following paragraphs.

Importance of training for disaster management

Why are disasters and disaster management training of concern to country governments, to the UN and, in particular, to UNDP and UNDRO? How can governments and UNDP justify adding disaster management to their long lists of competing priorities? There are several answers to these questions.

Governments are increasingly requesting UN agencies to in-country coordinate all UN post-disaster assistance and sometimes all international assistance. Therefore, governments and the UN need better communication about their mutual needs and capabilities.

Disasters are a growing problem. They will become of increasing concern to governments and an increasing part of the UN’s principal activities. In disaster-prone countries UNDP’s country programmes are inevitably affected by disasters. Projects are set back or suffer delays as a country recovers from the consequences of a disaster.

Disasters are non-routine events that require non-routine responses. Government and development agencies in general cannot rely on normal procedures to implement appropriate responses. They need to learn and practice special skills and attitudes.

Disasters are closely linked with at least four other priorities for which UNDP has accepted either a direct or supportive role: displaced persons, refugees and returnees, women in development, and environmental protection. The issues of all these subjects overlap significantly. A training programme in one will support the professional development of UNDP staff in all.

UNDRO has an established international mandate in this area. It is to coordinate activities promoting preparedness and mitigation as well as the response to disasters. UNDRO’s interests are represented in the field by UNDP. It is incumbent upon both agencies to promote a marked increase of awareness and competence in disasters, and to involve other concerned UN agencies.

In their role as Resident Coordinators, UNDP Res Reps and field office staff need to train with their sister agencies in the procedures of implementing a coordinated and appropriate disaster response.

The world community takes considerable interest in disasters. Governments and the UN system have high profiles in these events which are observed closely by the media. UN agencies and governments must prove their competence in order to project a positive image of providing appropriate support.

Training methods

This module is intended for two audiences, the self-study learner and the participant in a training workshop. The following training methods are planned for use in workshops and are simulated in the written module. For the self-study learner the text is as close to a tutor as can be managed in print.

Workshop training methods include

· group discussions
· simulations/role plays
· supplementary handouts
· videos
· review sessions
· self-assessment exercises

You are invited to use this text as a workbook. In addition to note-taking in the margins, you will be given the opportunity to stop and examine your learning along the way through questions included in the text. Write down your answers to these questions before proceeding to ensure that you have captured key points of the text.

This text is divided into four parts. Part One describes what hazards are, why they become disasters, and how they affect development.

Part Two identifies the scope of disaster management, what your role may be in it, and focuses on preparedness aspects.

Part Three accepts that some disasters will occur and examines how to respond to them.

Part Four presents disaster mitigation as a set of activities that reduce the risk and impact of disasters.

This training module is complemented by two short videos, “The UN and disaster response,” and “Disaster mitigation: how to lessen the damage through proper development.” You would benefit from making arrangements to view these videos and from reviewing the accompanying discussion questions.



After reading the material and completing the exercises you should be able to:

define the key terms of disaster management

describe the causes of disaster vulnerability

reproduce the disaster management continuum diagram

identify the most important hazards and how they affect society

distinguish between natural and human made hazards

identify at least two ways that development can lead directly to a disaster

describe at least four ways that disasters disrupt development


Q. How do you define “hazard” and “disaster”?

A. ____________________________________________________________


Before going any further we should establish a common understanding of the terms hazard and disaster.

Definition of hazard

A hazard is a rare or extreme event in the natural or human-made environment that adversely affects human life, property or activity to the extent of causing a disaster.

Definition of disaster

A disaster is a serious disruption of the functioning of a society, causing widespread human, material, or environmental losses which exceed the ability of affected society to copy using only its own resources. Disasters are often classified according to their speed of onset (sudden or slow), or according to their cause (natural or man-made).

Definition of natural phenomena

This part of the module will focus on the above two terms but we need to examine them in relation to another term: natural phenomena. Natural phenomena are extreme climatological, hydrological, or geological processes that do not pose any threat to persons or property. A massive earthquake in an unpopulated area, for example, is a natural phenomena, not a hazard. So is the annual flood along the Nile, an essential element to the well being of its neighboring inhabitants.

Definition of emergency

Another term closely related to disaster and used throughout this module is emergency. A disaster might be regarded as a particular type (or sub-set) of an emergency. “Disaster” suggests an intense time period and level of urgency. Whereas a disaster is bound by a specific period in which lives and essential property are immediately at risk, an emergency can encompass a more general period in which

there is a clear and marked deterioration in the coping abilities of a group or community, or

coping abilities are only sustained by unusual initiatives by the group or community or by external intervention.

The disaster problem

This section will describe certain phenomena leading to disasters and emergencies: disaster trends, where they occur and who is most affected by them.

From the outset it is worth reminding ourselves that disasters and emergencies are all too often regarded as aberrant events, divorced from “normal life.” In reality, however, the opposite is true. Disasters and emergencies are fundamental reflections of normal life. They are consequences of the ways societies structure themselves, economically and socially; the ways that societies and states interact; and the ways that relationships between the decision makers are sustained. Hence a flood or an earthquake is not a disaster in and of itself.

The disaster stems from the fact that certain communities or groups are forced to settle in areas susceptible to the impact of a raging river or a volcanic eruption. It is essential to make a distinction between hazards and disasters, and to recognize that the effect of the former upon the latter is essentially a measure of the society’s vulnerability.

The following diagram illustrates this combination of opposing forces. Vulnerability is seen as the progression of three stages:

1. Underlying causes: a deep-rooted set of factors within a society that together form and maintain vulnerability.

2. Dynamic pressures: a translating process that channels the effects of a negative cause into unsafe conditions; this process may be due to a lack of basic services or provisionor it may result from a series of macro-forces

3. Unsafe conditions: the vulnerable context where people and property are exposed to the risk of disaster; the fragile physical environment is one element; other factors include an unstable economy and low income levels.

Figure 1.1 The Disaster Crunch Model

This material has been drawn from the first chapter of the forthcoming book: At Risk - Vulnerability and Disasters, by Piers Blaikie, Terry Cannon, Ian Davis and Ben Wisner (Harper Collins, London and New York).


The magnitude of each disaster, measured in deaths, damage, or costs for a given developing country increases with the increased marginalization of the population. This is caused by a high birthrate, problems of land tenure and economic opportunity, and the lack or misallocation of resources to meet the basic human needs of an expanding population. As the population increases, the best land in both rural and urban areas is taken up and those seeking land for farming or housing are forced to accept inadequate land. These offer less productivity and a smaller measure of physical or economic safety. The following section considers each of these issues.



Photo credit: UNHCR/M. Vanappelghem

The most important single influence on the impact of a disaster is poverty. All other factors could be lessened if the affected population were not also limited by poverty. Virtually all disaster studies show that the wealthiest of the population either survive the disaster unaffected or are able to recover quickly. Across the broad spectrum of disasters, poverty generally makes people vulnerable to the impact of hazards. Poverty explains why people in urban areas are forced to live on hills that are prone to landslides, or why people settle near volcanos or rivers that invariably flood their banks. Poverty explains why droughts claim poor peasant farmers as victims and rarely the wealthy, and why famines more often than not are the result of a lack of purchasing power to buy food rather than an absence of food. Increasingly, poverty also explains why many people are forced to move from their homes to other parts of their countries or even across borders to survive. Such crisis-induced migration poses considerable challenges both in terms of immediate assistance to the displaced and of longer-term development.

Population growth

There is an obvious connection between the increase in losses from a disaster and the increase in population. If there are more people and structures where a disaster strikes, then it is likely there will be more of an impact. The growth of population has been so spectacular that it is inevitable that more people will be affected by disasters because more will be forced to live and work in unsafe areas. Increasing numbers of people will be competing for a limited amount of resources (such as, employment opportunities, and land) which can lead to conflict. This conflict may result in crisis-induced migration. Such growth occurs predominantly in developing countries, resulting in various contributors to disasters.

Figure. 1.2 Population growth, 1750-2100.

Source: Thomas Merrick, et. al., “World Population in Transition,” Population Bulletin, Vol. 42, No. 2 (1986).

Rapid urbanization

Rapid population growth and migration are related to the major phenomenon of rapid urbanization. This process is also accelerated in developing countries. It is characterized by the rural poor or civilians in an area of conflict moving to metropolitan areas in search of economic opportunities and security. These massive numbers of urban poor increasingly find fewer options for availability of safe and desirable places to build their houses. Here again, competition for scarce resources, an inevitable consequence of rapid urbanization, can lead to human-made disasters.

Figure 1.3 Population projections for some disaster-prone cities.

Many landslides or flooding disasters are closely linked to rapid and unchecked urbanization which forces low-income families to settle on the slopes of steep hillsides or ravines, or along the banks of flood-prone rivers. Many earthquake victims in urban areas have been impoverished families whose sites have failed rather than their houses, usually through landslides onto the house or out from under it.

Figure 1.4 As population continues to grow, settlements spread to marginal and even unsafe areas.

Transitions in cultural practices

Many of the inevitable changes that occur in all societies lead to an increase in the societies’ vulnerability to disasters. Obviously, all societies are constantly changing and in a continual state of transition. These transitions are often extremely disruptive and uneven, leaving gaps in social coping mechanisms and technology. These transitions include nomadic populations that become sedentary, rural people who move to urban areas, and both rural and urban people who move from one economic level to another. More broadly, these examples are typical of a shift from non-industrialized to industrializing societies.

One example of the impact of these transitions is the introduction of new construction materials and building designs in a society that is accustomed to traditional materials and designs. This often results in new materials being used incorrectly. In disaster prone areas, inadequate new construction techniques may lead to houses that cannot withstand earthquakes or wind storms (see the following figure).

Figure 1.5 New house badly built using modern materials.

Compounding this problem is the new community where the disaster survivors find themselves may not have a social support system or network to assist in the relief and recovery from the disaster. The traditional coping mechanisms may not exist in the new setting and the population becomes increasingly dependent on outside interveners to help in this process.

Conflicting as well as transitional cultural practices can also lead to civil conflict, for example, as a result of communal violence triggered by religious differences.

Environmental degradation

Many disasters are either caused or exacerbated by environmental degradation. Deforestation leads to rapid rain run off, which contributes to flooding. The destruction of mangrove swamps decreases a coast line’s ability to resist tropical winds and storm surges.

The creation of drought conditions - and the relative severity and length of time the drought lasts - is mainly a natural phenomena. Drought conditions may be exacerbated by: poor cropping patterns, overgrazing, the stripping of topsoil, poor conservation techniques, depletion of both the surface and subsurface water supply, and, to an extent, unchecked urbanization.

Figure 1.6 Deforestation for “development”

Lack of awareness and information

Disasters can also happen because people vulnerable to them simply didn’t know how to get out of harm’s way or to take protective measures. This ignorance may not necessarily be a function of poverty, but a lack of awareness of what measures can be taken to build safe structures on safe locations. Perhaps some people did not know about safe evacuation routes and procedures. Other populations may not know where to turn for assistance in times of acute distress. Nevertheless, this point should not be taken as a justification for ignoring the coping mechanisms of the majority of people affected by disasters. In most disaster-prone societies, there is a wealth of understanding about disaster threats and responses. This understanding should be incorporated into any efforts to provide external assistance.

War and civil strife

In this text war and civil strife are regarded as hazards, that is, extreme events that produce disasters. War and civil strife often result in displaced people, a target population of this training programme. The causal factors of war and civil strife include competition for scarce resources, religious or ethnic intolerance, and ideological differences. Many of these are also byproducts of the preceding six causal factors of disasters.

Q. Of the seven causal factors of disasters discussed above, how would you rank them for the region in which you live?

A. List the most serious contributor first.


Disaster terms

Some terminology of disaster management has already been introduced in this module. A brief glossary follows to highlight some of these working definitions.

This glossary lists the disaster management terms as used in the Third Draft of “A list of Disaster Management related terms with their definitions to be included in an internationally agreed multilingual glossary” prepared by UNDRO, and in the UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Manual. However, consensus does not exist among all disaster management practitioners or academicians regarding these definitions. A standardized and universally accepted glossary would obviously be desirable, but is not likely to exist within the next few years. Consequently, the following definitions represent one effort toward developing a consensus. Users of the DMTP training materials are encouraged to adopt these working definitions for the sake of uniformity and to be tolerant of other groups’ definitions.

Q. Can you think of an example of how to use each of these terms? Write your example in the space below each definition.

Disaster management

Disaster management is the body of policy and administrative decisions and operational activities which pertain to the various stages of a disaster at all levels.

A. ____________________________________________________________

Human-made disasters

Human-made disasters are disasters or emergency situations where the principal, direct cause(s) are identifiable human actions, deliberate or otherwise. Apart from “technological” and “ecological” disasters, this mainly involves situations in which civilian populations suffer casualties, losses of property, basic services and means of livelihood as a result of war or civil strife, for example. Human-made disasters/emergencies can be of the rapid or slow onset types, and in the case of internal conflict, can lead to “complex emergencies” as well.

A. ____________________________________________________________

An even broader definition of human-made disaster acknowledges that all disasters are caused by humans because they have chosen, for whatever reason, to be where natural phenomena occurs that result in adverse impacts on people.

A. ____________________________________________________________


Risk is the expected losses (lives lost, persons injured, damage to property and disruption of economic activity) due to a particular hazard. Risk is the product of hazard and vulnerability.

A. ____________________________________________________________


Vulnerability is the degree of loss (for example, from 0 to 100 percent) resulting from a potentially damaging phenomenon.

A. ____________________________________________________________

The following terms are key to understanding slow onset disasters and their impact on populations.

Population displacements

Population displacements are usually associated with crisis-induced mass migration in which large numbers of people are forced to leave their homes to seek alternative means of survival. Such mass movements normally result from the effects of conflict, severe food shortages or collapse of economic support systems.

A. ____________________________________________________________

Complex emergencies

Complex emergencies are a form of human-made emergency in which the cause of the emergency as well as the assistance to the afflicted are bound by intense levels of political considerations. This sort of emergency is normally associated with the problems of displaced people during times of civil conflict or with people in need caught in areas of conflict.

A. ____________________________________________________________


Disasters can be viewed as a series of phases on a time continuum. Identifying and understanding these phases helps to describe disaster related needs and to conceptualize appropriate disaster management activities.

Rapid onset disasters

The definitions below correspond to the time sequence following the occurrence of a rapid onset disaster. See Figure 2.1.

Figure 2.1 Rapid onset disaster management continuum

Relief phase

The relief phase is the period immediately following the occurrence of a sudden disaster (or the late discovery of a neglected/deteriorated slow-onset situation) when exceptional measures have to be taken to search and find the survivors as well as meet their basic needs for shelter, water, food and medical care.

A. ____________________________________________________________


Rehabilitation is the operations and decisions taken after a disaster with a view to restoring a stricken community to its former living conditions, while encouraging and facilitating the necessary adjustments to the changes caused by the disaster.

A. ____________________________________________________________


Reconstruction is the actions taken to reestablish a community after a period of rehabilitation subsequent to a disaster. Actions would include construction of permanent housing, full restoration of all services, and complete resumption of the pre-disaster state.

A. ____________________________________________________________


Mitigation is the collective term used to encompass all actions taken prior to the occurrence of a disaster (pre-disaster measures) including preparedness and long-term risk reduction measures. (Mitigation has been used by some institutions or authors in a narrower sense, excluding preparedness.)

A. ____________________________________________________________


Preparedness consists of activities designed to minimize loss of life and damage, organize the temporary removal of people and property from a threatened location, and facilitate timely and effective rescue, relief and rehabilitation.

A. ____________________________________________________________

Slow onset disasters

The sequence of a disaster continuum for slow onset disasters is similar in framework but has important distinctions. The following terms and definitions reflect those additions or modifications. See Figure 2.2.

Figure 2.2. Slow onset disaster management continuum

Early warning

Early warning is the process of monitoring situations in communities or areas known to be vulnerable to slow onset hazards. For example, famine early warning may be reflected in such indicators as drought, livestock sales, or changes in economic conditions. The purposes of early warning are to enable remedial measures to be initiated and to provide more timely and effective relief including through disaster preparedness actions.

A. ____________________________________________________________

Emergency phase

The emergency phase is the period during which extraordinary measures have to be taken. Special emergency procedures and authorities may be applied to support human needs, sustain livelihoods, and protect property to avoid the onset of disaster. This phase can encompass pre-disaster, disaster alert, disaster relief and recovery periods. An emergency phase may be quite extensive, as in a slow onset disaster such as a famine. It can also be relatively short-lived, as after an earthquake.

A. ____________________________________________________________


Rehabilitation is the action taken after a slow onset disaster where attention must be given to the issues of resettlement or returnee programmes, particularly for people who have been displaced for reasons arising out of conflict or economic collapse.

A. ____________________________________________________________

Q. Test your recall of the two disaster continuum diagrams. Label each circles below with the phases of a rapid onset and slow onset disaster.



1 Sources for this chapter are Disasters and Development, a UNDP/UNDRO training module prepared by R.S. Stephenson and Disasters and Development: a study in institution-building prepared for UNDP by INTERTECT, January 1991.


This training module provides a new conceptualization of the relationship between disasters and development. This new conceptualization has been growing in the development community over the last few years and is a major philosophical underpinning of the United Nations Disaster Management Training Programme. Rarely a week goes by when a major disaster is not reported in the media - a disaster that results in death and destruction - a disaster that frequently wipes out years of development programming and sets the slow course of improvement in third world countries further behind, wasting precious resources.

For a long time the cause and effect relationship between disasters and social and economic development was ignored. Ministries of Planning and Finance and other development planners did not concern themselves with disasters. At best, development planners hoped that disasters would not occur and, if they did, were most effectively handled by relief from donor countries and relief organizations. Development programs were not assessed in the context of disasters, neither from the effect of the disaster on the development program nor from the point of whether the development programs increased either the likelihood of a disaster or increased the potential damaging effects of a disaster.

Disasters were seen in the context of emergency response - not as a part of long term development programming. When a disaster did occur, the response was directed to emergency needs and cleaning up. Communities under disaster distress were seen as unlikely places to institute development. The post-disaster environment was seen as too turbulent to promote institutional changes aimed at promoting long term development.

Figure 3.1 This figure charts aspects of a community’s development and vulnerability to disaster. It shows the various “orientations” with which you may analyze the “field” of development and disaster vulnerability. The field is divided into positive and negative aspects of the disaster/development relationship by the vertical axis. The right half reflects the positive or optimistic side of the relationship and the left side of the diagram deals with the negative aspects of the relationship. The statement in each quadrant sums up the basic concept derived from the overlap of the two realms.

The growing body of knowledge on the relationships between disasters and development indicates four basic themes. The themes presented in the proceeding figure may be expanded as follows:

1. Disasters set back development programming destroying years of development initiatives.

- Infrastructure improvement e.g. transport and utility systems are destroyed by a flood.

2. Rebuilding after a disaster provides significant opportunities to initiate development programs.

- A self-help housing program to rebuild housing destroyed by an earthquake teaches new skills, strengthens community pride and leadership and retains development dollars that otherwise would be exported to large construction companies.

3. Development programs can increase an area’s susceptibility to disasters.

- A major increase in livestock development leads to overgrazing, which contributes to desertification and increases vulnerability to famine.

4. Development programs can be designed to decrease the susceptibility to disasters and their negative consequences.

- Housing projects constructed under building codes designed to withstand high winds result in less destruction during the next tropical storm.

Decision-makers who ignore these relationships between disasters and development do a disservice to the people who place their trust in them. Increasingly, around the world, forward thinking Ministries of Planning and Finance with the support of United Nations and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) officials are assessing development projects in the context of disaster mitigation and are designing disaster recovery programs with long term development needs in mind.

Disruption of development by disasters

Disasters can seriously disrupt development initiatives in several ways, including:

· Loss of resources
· Interruption of programs
· Impact on investment climate
· Impact on the non-formal sector
· Political destabilization

Loss of resources

Development resources are lost when a disaster wipes out the products of investment - it shortens the life of development investments. The disasters affect development through:

· Impact on capital stock and inventory

· Loss of production and provision of services due to disruption and increased cost of goods and services

· The secondary effects of the disaster include inflation, balance of payment problems, increase in fiscal expenditure, decreases in monetary reserves

· Other indirect losses, for example: the impact on a country’s debt position could be that as the debt service burden increases, the country has less resources available to invest in productive enterprises

· The outcome of these losses of resources include: loss of economic growth, delays to development programs, cancellation of programmes, and disincentives to new investment

· There may also be a shift in skilled human resources toward high visibility recovery activity - a diversion from long-term to short-term needs.

Interruption of programs

Disasters interrupt ongoing programs and divert resources from originally planned uses.

Impact on investment climate

Disasters, especially when they have occurred repeatedly within a short period of time, have a negative impact on the incentive for further investment. Investors need a climate of stability and certainty to be encouraged to risk their money. The disaster further clouds the investment picture when it has caused loss of employment, thereby depressing market demand, and resulting in a stagnation which limits overall growth.

Impact on non-formal sector

Disasters have special negative impacts on the non-formal sector where approximate costs of disasters are often underestimated. Disasters depress the non-formal economy through the direct costs of lost equipment and housing (which often also serves as business sites). The indirect costs of disasters include lost employment, and lost income. Sometimes the importation of relief items creates disincentives to producers.

Political destabilization

The stress to a country caused by a disaster often results in the destabilization of the government. This may occur for several reasons. For example, the government may have mismanaged the disaster relief and recovery, leading to discontent on the part of affected communities. Or the survivors may have had unmet expectations which, for whatever reason, translate into some form of protest. The government could also become the scapegoat for problems beyond its control, again leading to its possible downfall. In fact, it is very common for a government to collapse or be overthrown within two or three years of a major disaster.

Q. Recall the most recent disaster with which you are familiar. Based on that experience, respond to the following.



Identify a facility critical to the local economy that was knocked out of service.


Name one development project that was interrupted.


Identify one case of an investment that was withdrawn or reduced because of the disaster.


Identify one case of non-formal sector employment that was lost because disaster relief displaced the need for it.


Describe an example of how the government may have been destabilized by the disaster.

How development may cause disasters

The side effects of well-meaning development efforts sometimes have disastrous consequences. Development projects implemented without taking into account existing environmental hazards may increase vulnerability to natural disasters. For example, projects designed to increase employment opportunities, and thus income, usually attract additional population growth. Low-income people may then have to seek housing in areas previously avoided, on hillsides or in floodplains. The costs of relief assistance after a landslide or flood can easily outweigh the benefits to the economy of more jobs. Similarly, development projects may lead to negative political consequences that increase the vulnerability to civil conflict.

Some types of development projects commence without fully assessing their impact on the environment. This can occur even in programmes resulting from a disaster, such as reconstruction projects that increase demand for wood to fortify houses. The resulting deforestation can then bring increased vulnerability to mudslides and possibly long-term environmental changes.

Development projects may even consciously force a choice between reducing disaster vulnerability and economic vulnerability. A project’s design may require a trade-off between the two and force a decision between the lesser of two evils.

Q. Can you describe how development can contribute to vulnerability based on the following examples of negative consequences?


Watershed erosion ____________________________________________
Deforestation _________________________________________________
Loss of biological diversity _____________________________________
Lack of soil and land management _______________________________
Air and water pollution _________________________________________
Inadequate urban sanitation and waste disposal ___________________

Marine and coastal zone development ____________________________

See next table for examples of answers to this question.

Table 3.1 Examples of development leading to disasters or increased vulnerability

From Disasters and Development: A Study in Institution Building, Intertect, January, 1991.


Development activity



Construction of chemical plant generating employment

Deaths due to inadvertent release of chemicals, increased health problems, hazardous or toxic waste accidents

Agriculture, forestry and fisheries

Introduction of new species to control pests

Uncontrolled expansion of new species into environment, bringing crop failure

Irrigation schemes

Flooding where canals counter natural water flow

Increase in pesticide or fertiliser use to augment crop yields

Contamination of potable water supplies

Natural resources

Construction of hydroelectric dam

Displacement, salinization

Drilling of water wells in marginal areas

Desertification due to population clustering around wells

Transportation, communications Education

Road building in rain forests

Landslides, deforestation

School construction on earthquake fault line

Deaths/injuries due to structural failure

Development issues, policy and planning

Centralisation of planning process

Famine due to lack of organisation of local governments

Concentration of tourist facilities on vulnerable coastlines, unstable hills

Exposure of large populations to risk of death/injury/loss in storm surge, high wind storms, tsunami, landslides

Development opportunities afforded by disasters

Despite an increasing disaster awareness in the international community, and the recognition of the importance of developing coherent plans for relief activities, it often takes the actual or imminent occurrence of a large-scale destructive event to stimulate individual governments to think about a developmental approach. Thus, a disaster can serve as a catalyst for introducing mitigation activities.

Few development workers realize the opportunities that disasters can provide in the development field. Disasters often create a political and economic atmosphere wherein extensive changes can be made more rapidly than under normal circumstances. For example, in the aftermath of a disaster, there may be major opportunities to execute land reform programmes, to improve the overall housing stock, to create new jobs and job skills, and to expand and modernize the economic base of the community - opportunities that would not otherwise be possible. The collective will to take action is an advantage that should not be wasted.

Disasters can also highlight high-risk areas where action must be taken before another disaster strikes. The realization of vulnerability can motivate policy-makers and the public to participate in mitigation activities. Disasters may also serve to highlight the fact that the country is seriously under-developed. They can thus bring in funding and the attention of donor communities to apply to long-term development needs. (Henderson, 1990)


In earlier chapters, the discussion about disasters and emergencies resulting from natural and human-made hazards has been developed in general terms. However, each hazard has its own characteristics. To understand the significance and implications of a particular type of disaster we must have a basic understanding about the nature, causes and effects of each hazard type.

The list of hazard types is very long. Many occur infrequently or impact a very small population. Other hazards, such as severe snowstorms, often occur in areas that are prepared to deal with them and seldom become disasters. However, from the perspective of a disaster victim it is not particularly useful to distinguish between minor and major disasters. Some disasters are now of limited interest to the international community. These include avalanches, fog, frost, hail, lightning, snowstorms, and tornadoes. The international interest is less for these hazards because their impacts affect relatively few people and the countries in which they normally occur have sufficient resources and systems in place to respond without external assistance.

There are several hazard types for which there is widespread concern. They can be categorized as follows:

Sudden onset hazards - (geological and climatic hazards) earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tropical storms, volcanic eruptions, landslides

Slow onset hazards - (environmental hazards) drought, famine, environmental degradation, desertification, deforestation, pest infestation

Industrial/technological - system failures/accidents, spillages, explosions, fires

Wars and civil strife - armed agression, insurgency, terrorism, and other actions leading to displaced persons and refugees

Epidemics - water and/or food-borne diseases, person-to-person diseases (contact and respiratory spread), vector-borne diseases and complications from wounds

These hazard types are highlighted in this training material. The international community has an interest in them because they frequently affect large populations and the need for outside assistance is evident. Many disasters are themselves international events and have an impact on entire regions.

A brief description of each hazard type is presented below. It will be your responsibility to determine which hazards are of concern to your country and then to read the material about them.

Q. Which hazards are of concern to your country?

A. List the most important hazards in order of their severity of impact.
1. ___________________________________________________________

2. ___________________________________________________________
3. ___________________________________________________________
4. ___________________________________________________________

Now learn more about each of these hazards in the material that follows.

Geological Hazards



Volcanic eruptions


Climatic Hazards

Tropical cyclones



Environmental Hazards

Environmental pollution



Pest Infestation


Industrial Accidents


1 The following material on hazards and population displacements is drawn from the UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Manual.

This section provides an indication of the general characteristics of each of the hazard types listed and the kinds of counter-disaster measures which may be required. You should note that disasters have collateral or indirect effects that may endure even after a particular type of disaster has been directly addressed. The problem of displaced people after a sudden onset disaster, such as a cyclone, may continue well after immediate relief, recovery and even rehabilitation programmes have been implemented. Such collateral impact can turn a seemingly rapid onset disaster into a continuing emergency situation.

A further issue that must be borne in mind concerns the consequence of a sudden onset disaster when relief assistance is stymied because civil conflict makes access impossible. In other words, the perverse permutations are many. Nevertheless, the basic characteristics of certain types of disasters and emergencies and appropriate response measures can be structured as follows:

Causal phenomena

General characteristics


Factors contributing to vulnerability

Typical effects

Possible risk reduction measures

Specific preparedness measures

Typical post-disaster needs

Different types of disasters have characteristic effects while retaining unique aspects. Risk reduction and preparedness measures, and emergency and post-disaster response can all be facilitated by some “rules of thumb” - as outlined in this section - but must also be tailored to the specificity of local conditions.


(a) where different types of disaster occur in combination - e.g. floods accompanying tropical storms - the combined effects must be considered; and where one disaster leads to another (for example a famine leading to civil strife) the compound effects must be anticipated

(b) the severity of the actual impact on the society depends on human and organizational factors as well as natural and topographical ones.

Figure 4.1 World map of selected hazards


Volcanic eruptions

Shorelines exposed to tsunami waves

Seismic belts

Land areas affected by tropical cyclones

Desertification likely or active


Causal phenomena

Slippage of crustal rock along a fault or area of strain and rebound to new alignment.

General characteristics and effects

Shaking of earth caused by waves on and below the earth’s surface causing:

Surface faulting
Tremors, vibrations


Probability of occurrence can be determined but not exact timing. Forecasting is based on monitoring of seismic activity, historical incidence, and observations.

Factors contributing to vulnerability

Location of settlements in seismic areas.
Structures which are not resistant to ground motion.
Dense collections of buildings with high occupancy.
Lack of access to information about earthquake risks.

Typical adverse effects

Physical damage - Damage or loss of structures or infrastructure. Fires, dam failures, landslides, flooding may occur.
Casualties - Often high, particularly near epicenter or in highly populated areas or where buildings not resistant.
Public health - Fracture injuries most widespread problem. Secondary threats due to flooding, contaminated water supply, or breakdown in sanitary conditions.
Water supply - Severe problems likely due to damage of water systems, pollution of open wells and changes in water table.

Possible risk reduction measures

Hazard mapping
Public awareness programs and training
Assessing and reducing structural vulnerability
Land use control or zoning, building codes

Specific preparedness measures

Earthquake warning and preparedness programs

Typical post-disaster needs

Search and rescue
Emergency medical assistance
Damage needs and assessment survey
Relief assistance
Repair and reconstruction
Economic recovery

Impact assessment tools

Earthquake scales (Modified Mercalli, MSK), earthquake damage and usability forms.


Causal phenomena

Fault movement on sea floor, accompanied by an earthquake.
A landslide occurring underwater or above the sea, then plunging into the water.
Volcanic activity either underwater or near the shore.

General characteristics

Tsunami waves are barely perceptible in deep water and may measure 160 km between wave crests
May consist of ten or more wave crests
Move up to 800 km per hour in deep water of ocean, diminishing in speed as the wave approaches shore
May strike shore in crashing waves or may innundate the land
Flooding effect depends on shape of shoreline and tides


Tsunami Warning System in Pacific monitors seismic activity and declares watches and warnings. Waves generated by local earthquakes may strike nearby shores within minutes and warnings to public may not be possible.

Factors contributing to vulnerability

Location of settlements in low lying coastal regions
Lack of tsunami resistant buildings
Lack of timely warning systems and evacuation plans
Unawareness of public to destructive forces of tsunamis

Typical adverse effects

Physical damage - The force of water can raze everything in its path but the majority of damage to structure and infrastructure results from flooding. Withdrawal of the wave from shore scours out sediment and can collapse ports and buildings and batter boats.
Casualties and public health - Deaths occur principally by drowning and injuries from battering by debris.
Water supply - Contamination by salt water and debris or sewage may make clean drinking water unavailable.
Crops and food supplies - Harvests, food stocks, livestock farm implements and fishing boats may be lost. Land may be rendered infertile due to salt water incursion.

Possible risk reduction measures

Protection of buildings along coast, houses on stilts
Building barriers such as breakwaters

Specific preparedness measures

Hazard mapping, planning evacuation routes
Establish warning systems
Community education

Typical post-disaster needs

Warning and evacuation; search and rescue; medical assistance; conduct disaster assessment, provide food, water and shelter

Impact assessment tools

Aerial surveys of coastal areas, damage surveys, evaluation of warning systems and evacuation plans.


Causal phenomena

Magma pushed upward through volcanic vent by pressure and effervescence of dissolved gases.

General characteristics

Types of volcanoes are cindercones, shield volcanoes, composite volcanoes and lava domes.
Magma flowing out onto surface is lava and all solid particles ejected are tephra.
Damage results from type of material ejected such as ash, pyroclastic flows (blasts of gas containing ash and fragments), mud, debris, and lava flows.


Study of the geological history of volcanoes mainly located in a clearly defined volcanic belt, along with seismic activity and other observations, may indicate an impending volcano. No reliable indicator has been discovered and precursory signs do not always occur.

Factors contributing to vulnerability

Settlements on the flanks of volcanoes
Settlements in the historical paths of mud or lava flows
Structures with roof designs not resistant to ash accumulation
Presence of combustible materials
Lack of evacuation plan or warning systems

Typical adverse effects

Casualties and health - Death from pyroclastic flows, mud flows and possibly lava flows and toxic gases. Injuries from falling rock, bums; respiratory difficulties from gas and ash.
Settlements, infrastructure and agriculture - Complete destruction of everything in the path of pyroclastic, mud or lava flows; collapse of structures under weight of wet ash, flooding, blockage of roads or communication systems
Crops and food supplies - Destruction of crops in path of flows, ash may break tree branches, livestock may inhale toxic gas or ash; grazing lands may be contaminated.

Possible risk reduction measures

Land use planning for settlements around volcanoes
Protective structural measures

Specific preparedness measures

National volcanic emergency plans
Volcano monitoring and warning system
Training for government officials and community participation in search and rescue, fire fighting

Typical post-disaster needs

Warning and evacuation; medical assistance, search and rescue; provide food, water and shelter; relocate victims; provide financial assistance

Impact assessment tools

Aerial and ground surveys to assess damage; evaluation of evacuation plan and emergency response


Causal phenomena

Downslope transport of soil and rock resulting from naturally occurring vibrations, changes in direct water content, removal of lateral support, loading with weight, and weathering, or human manipulation of water courses and slope composition.

General characteristics

Landslides vary in types of movement (falls, slides, topples, lateral spread, flows), and may be secondary effects of heavy storms, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Landslides are more widespread than any other geological event.


Frequency of occurrence, extent and consequences of landslides may be estimated and areas of high risk determined by use of information on area geology, geomorphology, hydrology and climatology and vegetation.

Factors contributing to vulnerability

Settlements built on steep slopes, softer soils, cliff tops
Settlements built at the base of steep slopes, on mouths of streams from mountain valleys
Roads, communication lines in mountain areas
Buildings with weak foundations
Buried pipelines, brittle pipes
Lack of understanding of landslide hazard

Typical adverse effects

Physical damage - Anything on top of or in path of landslide will suffer damage. Rubble may block roads, lines of communication or waterways. Indirect effects may include loss of productivity of agricultural or forest lands, flooding, reduced property values.
Casualties - Fatalities have occurred due to slope failure. Catastrophic debris slides or mudflows have killed many thousands.

Possible risk reduction measures

Hazard mapping
Legislation and land use regulation

Specific preparedness measures

Community education
Monitoring, warning and evacuation systems

Typical post-disaster needs

Search and rescue (use of earth removal equipment); medical assistance; emergency shelter for homeless

Impact assessment tools

Damage assessment forms

Tropical cyclones

Causal phenomena

Mixture of heat and moisture forms a low pressure center over oceans in tropical latitudes where water temperatures are over 26 degrees C.
Wind currents spin and organize around deepening low pressure over accelerating toward the center and moving along track pushed by trade winds
Depression becomes a tropical cyclone when winds reach gale force or 117 km per hour

General characteristics

When the cyclone strikes land, high winds, exceptional rainfall and storm surges cause damage with secondary flooding and landslides.


Tropical cyclones can be tracked from their development but accurate landfall forecasts are usually possible only a few hours before as unpredictable changes in course can occur.

Factors contributing to vulnerability

Settlements located in low lying coastal areas (direct impact)
Settlements in adjacent areas (heavy rains, floods)
Poor communications or warning systems
Lightweight structures, older construction, poor quality masonry
Infrastructural elements, fishing boats and maritime industries

Typical adverse effects

Physical damage - Structures lost and damaged by wind force, flooding, storm surge and landslides.
Casualties and public health - May be caused by flying debris, or flooding. Contamination of water supplies may lead to viral outbreaks and malaria.
Water supplies - Ground water may be contaminated by flood waters.
Crops and food supplies - High winds and rains can ruin standing crops, tree plantations and food stocks.
Communications and logistics - Severe disruption is possible as wind brings down telephone lines, antennas and satellite disks. Transport may be curtailed.

Possible risk reduction measures

Risk assessment and hazard mapping
Land use control and flood plain management
Reduction of structural vulnerability
Improvement of vegetation cover

Specific preparedness measures

Public warning systems
Evacuation plans
Training and community participation

Typical post-disaster needs

Evacuation and emergency shelter; search and rescue; medical assistance; water purification; reestablish logistical and communication networks; disaster assessment; provision of seeds for planting.

Impact assessment tools

Damage assessment forms, aerial surveys


Causal phenomena

Naturally occurring flash, river and coastal flooding from intense rainfall or innundation associated with seasonal weather patterns
Human manipulation of watersheds, drainage basins and floodplains

General characteristics

Flash floods - Accelerated runoff, dam failure, breakup of ice jam
River floods - Slow buildup, usually seasonal in river systems
Coastal floods - Associated with tropical cyclones, tsunami waves, storm surges
Factors affecting degree of danger: depth of water, duration, velocity, rate of rise, frequency of occurrence, seasonality


Flood forecasting depends on seasonal patterns, capacity of drainage basin, flood plain mapping, surveys by air and land. Warning possible well in advance for seasonal floods, but only minutes before in case of storm surge, flash flood, or tsunami.

Factors contributing to vulnerability

Location of settlements on floodplains
Lack of awareness of flooding hazard
Reduction of absorptive capacity of land (erosion, concrete)
Non-resistant buildings and foundations
High risk infrastructural elements
Unprotected food stocks and standing crops, livestock
Fishing boats and maritime industries

Typical adverse effects

Physical damage - Structures damaged by washing away, becoming inundated, collapsing, impact of floating debris. Landslides from saturated soils. Damage greater in valleys than open areas.
Casualties and public health - Deaths from drowning but few serious injuries. Possible outbreaks of malaria, diarrhea and viral infections.
Water supplies - Contamination of wells and groundwater possible. Clean water may be unavailable.
Crops and food supplies - Harvests and food stocks may be lost to innundation. Animals, farm tools and seeds might be lost. Floodplain mapping. Land use control

Possible risk reduction measures

Flood control (channels, dikes, dams, flood-proofing, erosion control)

Specific preparedness measures

Flood detection and warning systems
Community participation and education
Development of master plan for floodplain management

Typical post-disaster needs

Search and rescue; medical assistance; disaster assessment; short term food and water supplies; water purification; epidemiological surveillance; temporary shelter

Impact assessment tools

Damage survey forms; aerial surveys


Causal phenomena

Immediate cause - Rainfall deficit
Possible underlying causes - El Niincursion of warm surface waters into the normally colder waters of South American Pacific); human induced changes in ground surface and soil; higher sea surface temperatures; increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases.

General characteristics

The reduction of water or moisture availability is temporary and significant in relation to the norm.
Meteorological drought is the reduction in rainfall and hydrological drought is the reduction in water resources.
Agricultural drought is the impact of drought on human activity influenced by various factors: the presence of irrigation systems, moisture retention capacity of the soil, the timing of the rainfall and adaptive behavior of the farmers.


Periods of unusual dryness are normal in all weather systems. Rainfall and hydrology data must be carefully analyzed with influencing factors in predicting drought, however, advance warning is usually possible.

Factors contributing to vulnerability

Location in an arid area where dry conditions are increased by drought
Farming on marginal lands, subsistence farming
Lack of agricultural inputs to improve yields
Lack of seed reserves
Areas dependent on other weather systems for water resources
Areas of low soil moisture retention
Lack of recognition and allocation of resources to drought hazard

Typical adverse effects

Reduced income for farmers; reduction of spending from agricultural sector; increase in price of staple foods, increased inflation rates, deterioration of nutritional status, famine, illness, death, reduction of drinking water sources, migration, breakup of communities, loss of livestock.

Possible risk reduction measures

Drought and famine early warning systems

Specific preparedness measures

Development of inter-institutional response plan

Typical post-disaster needs

Measures to maintain food security: price stabilization, food subsidies, employment creation programs, general food distribution, supplementary feeding programs, special programs for livestock and pastoralists, complementary water and health programs; rehabilitation

Impact assessment tools

Nutritional surveys, socioeconomic surveys, monitoring of rainfall and hydrological data, satellite imagery.

Environmental pollution

Causal phenomena

Air pollution - pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates, carbon monoxide, and lead from industry and transport.
Marine pollution - Sewage, industrial effluents, marine litter, petroleum spills and dumped radioactive substances.
Fresh water pollution - Discharge of human waste and domestic wastewaters into lakes and rivers, industrial effluents, use of irrigation and pesticides, runoff of nitrogen from fertilizers. Increased runoff from deforestation causing sedimentation.
Possible global warming - Accumulation of Carbon dioxide from combustion of fossil fuels, deforestation, and methane from livestock.
Ozone depletion - Chloroflorocarbons (CFCs) released into the atmosphere deplete ozone shield against ultraviolet light.


Pollution is related to per capita consumption so, as countries develop, pollution will also tend to increase. Deforestation is increasing in some countries.

Factors contributing to vulnerability

High levels of industrialization and per capita consumption
Lack of regulation of pollutants
Insufficient resources to counter the impact of pollution

Typical adverse effects

Air pollution - Damages agricultural crops, forests, aquatic systems, structural materials and human health.
Water pollution - Spread of pathogens, injury to marine animals, spread of chemicals to the environment effecting the health of humans, animals and sealife.
Global warming - Sea level rise, climate change, temperature rise
Ozone depletion - Increase in skin cancer, cataracts, reduction in immune system functions, damage to marine life.

Possible risk reduction measures

Set ambient air quality standards
Set emission limits for every pollutant
Establish protection policies for water supplies
Reduce the use of pesticides by integrated management
Reduce the rate of deforestation and increase planting of trees
Promote energy efficiency
Regulate use of aerosols and disposal of refrigeration units
Prohibit manufacture and use of CFCs

Specific preparedness measures

Establish a national environmental safety and protection plan
Create education programs for environmental awareness
Training of government personnel as part of development programs

Impact assessment tools

Aerial, remote sensing and ground surveys
Air, water and soils testing
Comparison of climatic data
Socioeconomic surveys


Causal phenomena

The spread of farming and grazing
Firewood collection
Timber harvesting

General characteristics

Contributes to other hazards by
- removing root systems which stabilize soil, acting as a filter and buffer, allowing percolation of water into soil and retaining moisture in soil.
- removal of leaf biomass and forest products
- burning and decay of dead wood.


An increase in global focus on the hazard is expanding data base leading to an increased awareness of the problem and to identifying where the problem exists. Overall, the global trend is decreasing as conservation measures are enacted but destruction of forests is rising at alarming rates in some countries.

Factors contributing to vulnerability

Dependence on wood for fuel and income
Unregulated logging and land clearance
Rapid population growth
Rapid expansion of settled or industrialized areas

Typical adverse effects

Deforestation results in loss of free products from the forest such as fruits and medicines, and decline in traditional cultures. It stresses economies which import forest products and are dependent on wood products. It contributes to other hazards, such as:

Flooding - Deforestation of watersheds can increase severity of flooding, reduce streamflows, dry up springs in dry seasons and increase sediment entering waterways.
Drought - Removal of roots and leaf canopy can alter moisture levels drying soil and decreasing precipitation.
Famine - Decrease in agricultural production due to erosion of topsoil and collapse of hillsides may lead to food shortages.
Desertification - Deforestation and removal of vegetation lead to soil compaction and reduction of land productivity.
Environmental pollution - Increases contamination of soil and water and reduces carbon dioxide absorption capacity. Burning of forests and decay of trees releases carbon dioxide to the air, possibly contributing to global warming.

Possible risk reduction measures

Protection of forests through management, legislation, conservancies

Specific preparedness measures

Education of the communities
Promoting alternatives to fuelwood
Soil conservation measures

Impact assessment tools

Forest mapping by use of aerial or remote sensing or ground surveys. Monitoring of reforestation programs.


Causal phenomena

Basic conducive climatic conditions such as low or uncertain rainfall and higher temperatures as found in dryland areas.
Poor land use management practices particularly overcultivation, overgrazing, deforestation and poor irrigation practices.

General characteristics

Soil degradation by water erosion, wind erosion, soil compaction and waterlogging (salinization and alkalinization)
Degradation of vegetation initially by reduction in density of biomass and then by change of vegetation types to less productive forms.


Global surveillance of drylands can be achieved through remote sensing and aerial surveys. As land use increases without measures to conserve soil and vegetation, desertification will likely increase. One estimate claims 202,000 square km are desertified each year.

Factors contributing to vulnerability

Low rainfall and high temperatures
Heavy land use
Deforested areas
Poor irrigation management
Lack of conservation measures
Poverty and lack of appropriate agricultural technologies

Typical adverse effects

Desertification contributes to other hazards by reducing the productivity of the land. These include drought and famine. Reduced productivity has socioeconomic impacts and may reduce standards of living.

Possible risk reduction measures

Establish community programs to meet needs and improve practices and institutions.
Increase monitoring of desertification
Develop policies for sustainable agricultural systems
Develop agricultural institutions and train personnel

Specific preparedness measures

Promote projects to improve agricultural and livestock production
Promote soil and water conservation

Impact assessment tools

Socioeconomic surveys are needed to ascertain needs of people and for agricultural development. Aerial and remote sensing surveys will help determine the rate and scope of desertification.

Pest infestations

Causal phenomena

Increase in pest numbers due to one or a combination of ecological factors including temperature, monoculture of crops, introduction of plants to new locations, introduction of pest species, overcoming genetic resistance in host, overcoming pesticide effects, conducive weather patterns, migration.

General characteristics

Plants can be damaged in various ways such as consumption of parts, tunnelling in stems, attack of root systems, injection of toxins.


Pest forecasting determines whether application of a pesticide will be cost effective, by examining the stages of development of the crop and the pest and by determining the economic threshold.

Factors contributing to vulnerability

Large numbers and varieties of pests
Lack of controls on imported plant products
Constraints on resources to predict and treat pest infestations
Insufficient crop yields in normal times
Areas inaccessible to surveillance for pests
Underdevelopment of agricultural technologies

Typical adverse effects

Crop losses could lead to food shortages, even famine, and stress economic systems.

Possible risk reduction measures

Integrated pest management employing appropriate methods of physical control, cultural control, crop plant resistance, biological control, legislation, chemical control and possibly eradication.

Specific preparedness measures

Establishing a national plan for pest control
Training for government personnel and extension to farmers

Typical post-disaster needs

National or international control efforts
Provide needed food supplies

Impact assessment tools

Assessment of incidence and severity of infestation
Aerial and ground surveys of damage to crops


Definition: Exposure to a toxin resulting in pronounced rise in number of cases of parasitic or infectious origin.

Causal phenomena

Unsanitary conditions, crowding, poverty
Ecological changes that favor breeding of vector
Non-immune persons migrate to endemic disease area
Decline in nutritional status
Contamination of water or food supply

General characteristics

Risk of introduction or spread of the disease
Possible large number of cases
Severe disease leading to disability or death
Risk of social or economic disruption
Lack of adequate professional personnel, needed supplies
Danger of international transmission


Epidemics may increase due to rise in travel or migration and long-term dormant symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases. Reports of epidemics may increase due to better medical coverage. Prediction is assisted by epidemiological studies but may be constrained in newly formed settlements or emergency camps.

Factors contributing to vulnerability

Lack of immunity (or vaccination) to diseases
Poor nutrition, poor sanitation, poor water quality, crowding
Poorly organized health care delivery
Drug resistant diseases

Typical adverse effects

Illness and death
Social and political disruption, economic loss
Increased trauma in emergency settlements

Possible risk reduction measures

Structuring an emergency health service
Preparing a contingency plan with inventory of required resources
Establishing an early warning system through routine surveillance
Training of national staff in emergency operations

Specific preparedness measures

Intervention measures - Verify and confirm diagnosis; identify cases; find source of epidemic; treat cases and control spread; write report.
Community health education

Typical post-disaster needs

Emergency medical assistance; international aid, if outbreak uncontained

Impact assessment tools

Epidemiological surveys; evaluation of health care systems and emergency response

Chemical and industrial accidents

Causal phenomena

Disaster/explosion in a plant or storage facilities handling toxic substances
Accidents during the transportation of chemicals
Contamination of food or the environment by misuse of chemicals
Improper waste management of toxic chemicals
Technological system failures
Failures of plant safety design or components
Natural hazards such as fire, earthquake or landslides
Arson or sabotage


Incidences of chemical and industrial accidents are expected to increase as industrialization increases in developing countries.

Factors contributing to vulnerability

Those persons, structures, livestock, crops, and environment closest to the scene of an accident are most vulnerable, however, large scale releases of airborne pollutants may spread for hundreds of kilometers.
Lack of safety features or lack of evacuation plan.
Unawareness by vulnerable persons of the potential danger.

Typical adverse effects

Physical damage - Damage or destruction may occur to structures and infrastructure. Transportation accidents damage vehicles and other objects on impact. Industrial fires may reach high temperatures and affect large areas.
Casualties - Many people may be killed or injured and require medical treatment.
Environmental - Contamination of air, water supply, land, and animal life may occur. Areas may become uninhabitable for humans and animals. Ecological systems may be disrupted even on a global scale.

Possible risk reduction measures

Development of a plan, such as the APELL (Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at the Local Level) process, to assist decision makers and technical personnel to improve community awareness of hazardous installations and aid them in preparing disaster response plans.

Specific preparedness measures

Hazard mapping
Hazardous materials identification
Inspection of chemical plants and storage facilities
Monitoring toxic waste disposal procedures
Improve fire fighting capacity
Monitoring pollution levels
Prepare and practice evacuation plans
Test warning sirens

Typical post-disaster needs

Evacuation from area; search and rescue; alternative sources of water; cleanup; monitor environmental effects.

Impact assessment tools

APELL process forms for emergency response plan evaluation, CHEMTREC (Chemical Transportation Emergency Center) information systems.


1 The material from this chapter is drawn from the DMTP special topic module Displaced Persons in Civil Conflict by Frederick Cuny; General Assembly Resolution 46/182: The Executive Summary of the 1992 Consolidated Appeal for the Horn of Africa: and the Themes of Emergencies stated in the First SEPHA Situation Report.

Socio/political forces

Increasingly throughout many parts of the world one type of hazard can trigger a disaster which in turn triggers another hazard and subsequent disaster. For example, a drought may lead to a famine which in turn leads to a civil conflict that results in the mass displacement of people. A flood may force people to seek refuge across an international border where conflicts ensue between refugees and local communities.

Such compound hazards and disasters need not happen sequentially; they can also occur simultaneously. Thus, people caught between contending forces in a civil war find that in the midst of a major drought they have no means either to grow food or to receive outside assistance.

In a growing number of countries, complex disasters are also becoming more evident. Essentially a complex disaster is a form of human-made emergency in which the cause of the emergency as well as the assistance to the afflicted are bound by intense levels of political considerations. The single most prevalent political condition of a complex emergency is civil conflict, resulting in a collapse of political authority in all or part of a country. In such cases, at least one of three situations arise:

1. The government’s ability to assist the disaster-afflicted becomes severely constrained.

2. The government becomes extremely suspicious of or uninterested in afflicted people who have fled from non-government to government held areas.

3. The government or opposition groups actually create or compound a disaster through actions that generate refugees and the mass displacement of people.

In fact, many affected people live in areas outside of government control. They are often the persons who are most in need and they are often the most difficult to reach with aid.

The disaster becomes “complex” because either the collapse or diffusion of political control makes assistance highly problematic. Solutions ultimately depend upon agreements with all parties involved in the conflict to permit assistance to be provided to recognize civilian noncombatants. These solutions may be agreements that are seen essentially as compromising fundamental aspects of sovereignty for what have been labelled as “new mechanisms of humanitarian assistance” (for example, corridors of tranquility).

An acute example of a situation illustrating the characteristics of both compound and complex emergencies is the Horn of Africa. For the past several years the situation in the Horn of Africa has been characterized by internal conflicts in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Somalia. These conflicts have been exacerbated by recurrent droughts and have resulted in famines on a massive scale and the flight of large numbers of people across national borders. After years of drought in some parts of the region, by 1991 food shortages were widespread. It became apparent that the crisis in the region was less the result of inadequate rainfall than that of a human-made emergency.

During the last half of 1991, the situation in many parts of the Horn remained highly volatile and fragile, largely due to conflict and a break down of law and order. This resulted in further population displacement and in intense misery for millions of people.

Displaced persons

One of the most serious consequences of compound and complex emergencies is the creation of populations of displaced persons. The example of the Horn of Africa refers to many of the displaced populations but there are millions more in other parts of the world.

The term “displaced person” applies in several contexts. These include people who are:

forced to leave their homes as a result of drought, famine, or other disaster, usually in search of food

non-combatant individuals and families forced to leave their homes because of the direct or indirect consequences of conflict but who remain inside their country

forcibly resettled by their government if the resettlement is ethnically, tribally or racially motivated

expelled from a country, especially as an ethnic or national group, forced out for economic or political reasons.

Reasons for concern

The international humanitarian relief system is just now beginning to meet the challenge of working with the displaced. There are three principle reasons for concern by relief agencies. One is that displaced persons are often ineligible to receive relief and assistance available to refugees (individuals who have crossed an international border seeking protection). A second reason is that the displaced are often insecure about relying on their own government for protection. A third reason is the obstacle of national sovereignty that limits outside agencies to assist this population.

Consequences and effects

The variety of possible situations generating displaced persons makes generalizations difficult, but the following may be experienced in varying degrees.

loss of means of livelihood

communities becoming separated from any services previously provided

loss of normal sources of food

lack of shelter and household necessities

lack of fuel for cooking

lack of potable water

communicable diseases and over-crowding

additional burdens particularly for women heads of households

possibly large numbers of unaccompanied children

loss of land tenure

possible communication and logistics problems

insecurity due to tensions and military activities

Not to be forgotten is the population that may remain at home and, even though they are not “trapped in combat areas,” they nonetheless are in places that are hard to reach because of political, logistical and/or security obstacles. They may suffer many of the above problems and be isolated from international humanitarian relief.

The role of the UN in complex emergencies

In light of the issues created by complex emergencies and the special needs of displaced populations, the United Nations has determined to strengthen and make more effective the collective efforts of the international community, in particular the UN system, in providing humanitarian assistance. This determination is reflected in the implementation of General Assembly resolution 46/182, passed in December of 1991.

This resolution affirms that humanitarian assistance must be provided in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality. Accordingly the UN has a central and unique role to play in providing leadership and coordinating the efforts of the international community to support the affected countries.

The implementation of resolution 46/182 includes the creation of a contingency funding arrangement, that is, a central emergency revolving fund of US $50 million as a cash-flow mechanism to ensure the rapid and coordinated response of the organizations of the system. The UN will also establish a central register of specialized personnel and teams of technical specialists, supplies and other resources that can be called upon at short notice by the UN.

The leadership of this UN initiative will be provided by a high level official, the emergency relief coordinator, designated by the Secretary-General, to work with the entities of the UN system dealing with humanitarian assistance. This position combines the functions previously carried out in the coordination of UN response by representatives of the Secretary-General for major and complex emergencies, as well as by the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator.

This emergency relief coordinator, among other duties, is charged with facilitating the access by the operational organizations to emergency areas for the rapid provision of emergency assistance. In cases of complex emergencies this may require negotiation with all parties concerned to obtain their consent and, where needed, the establishment of temporary relief corridors, days and zones of tranquility and other forms.

Safety of relief teams in conflict zones

There are many operational considerations in complex emergencies. One of the most crucial is that of the safety of relief teams in conflict zones. As coordinators of assistance for the displaced, the UN staff bears a special responsibility for ensuring that all personnel operating in or adjacent to conflict zones work in conditions of minimum risk and maximum security. Guidelines and procedures for personnel should be established in conjunction with the host government and, where possible, with insurgent groups. The UN is often charged with the responsibility of notifying relief workers and other organizations about the risks they may face from military operations in or near their relief activities. In this regard, the UN is often able to obtain clearances for special flights into contested areas on airplanes bearing United Nations markings, to arrange for safe transport through the front lines in specially-marked UN vehicles, and to establish special relief corridors whereby food and relief supplies can be delivered under flags of truce or through designated corridors, without undue restraint. It is important for the UN to carefully assess the risks before encouraging relief organizations to commit personnel and resources to operations in non-secure areas. A UN assurance that an area or means of transport is safe carries much weight - and responsibility.

Two of the most important aspects of working in remote and insecure areas are communications and stand-by evacuation support. To the greatest extent possible, UN coordinators should ensure that relief personnel have immediate and 24-hour access to telecommunications facilities and that suitable means are immediately available to evacuate personnel in case of an emergency. This may entail the assignment of light aircraft to be available on short notice to evacuate staff.



Part One of this module introduced background information regarding hazards, disasters, and the disaster continuum. The rest of the module will address each of the phases of the disaster continuum with a special focus on preparedness, response and mitigation.

The framework for studying these disaster phases is disaster management which has been defined as

the body of policy and administrative decisions and operational activities which pertain to the various stages of a disaster at all levels.

The scope of disaster management, therefore, can include all disaster-related activities. These activities become so inclusive that no one individual is responsible for the entire range. Instead the responsibility is divided according to job descriptions and limited by the organization’s primary functions. The Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies, for example, work mainly in preparedness and emergency response phases and less often in reconstruction. Some NGOs work only in reconstruction. Even government, with its broad responsibility for overall aspects of disaster management, breaks down these components to be managed by several of its agencies. The UN has similar allocations of responsibility as a function of its agencies’ mandates and sectoral expertise.

The following chapters will discuss the component activities of disaster management. You will be asked to examine your individual and organizational responsibilities in relation to each phase of activity.


After reading this part of the text and completing the exercises, you should know the basic concepts, aims and elements of disaster and emergency management. You will be able to:

describe the UN and country disaster management teams and the role of each member

identify the components of disaster preparedness planning

describe the role of vulnerability and risk assessment as a prerequisite to disaster mitigation


Part One was a brief introduction to hazards and disasters. But, before we go further into describing the nature of disasters, we will introduce part of your role in the management of them.

One of the primary purposes of this overall training program is to introduce the concept of managing disasters as a team. The objectives of disaster management through teamwork include:

· a forum for communication, information exchange and developing consensus
· a format for coordination, eliminating duplication and reducing gaps in services
· the possibility of being more effective through pooled resources

The UN Disaster Management Team

Figure 6.1 The UN disaster management team

The United Nations General Assembly believes that the objectives of team management are applicable to the UN agencies oriented to emergencies. They have mandated that a standing UN Disaster Management Team (UN-DMT) be formed in each disaster-prone country, convened and chaired by the UN resident coordinator. The composition of the UN-DMT is determined by taking into account the types of disaster to which the country is prone and the organizations present, but should normally include a core group consisting of the country-level representatives of FAO, UNDP/UNDRO, UNICEF, WFP, WHO and, where present, UNHCR. It may be enlarged to include additional representatives or project personnel from other relevant agencies when an emergency arises.

The original and primary purpose of the UN-DMT is to ensure a prompt, effective and concerted response by the UN system at country level in the event of a disaster. The team should also ensure similar coordination of UN assistance to the Government in respect to post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction, and relevant disaster mitigation measures through long-term development programs. It should be emphasized that for all aspects of disaster management the UN-DMT is in a support role of the government.

The UN-DMT recognizes and in no way supersedes the mandates and specific functions of the various organizations in the exercise of those mandates. It supports and assists the office of the resident coordinator in the exercise of its system-wide functions. In line with General Assembly resolution 46/182, the latter will maintain close contact with, and receive leadership from the Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Country Disaster Management Team

Figure 6.2 Country disaster management team

Most disaster prone countries already have a formal or informal disaster management team. It is typically headed by a national disaster focal point body. This body functions in liaison with the Office of the President or Prime Minister, with civil defense organizations, key government ministries, the Red Cross/Red Crescent, and other NGOs and major donors. The UN-DMT needs to interface with this team and, where practical, to be a team member. Where national officials do not participate in UN-DMT meetings or activities, the resident coordinator should ensure that they are consulted and briefed on all relevant matters. In practice it is vital that the policies of the DMT relate to those approved by the Government even under the pressure of events.

Q. In your country which UN agencies are present that could become operational in a disaster? Which additional governmental and non-governmental organizations and donors should work together on a country disaster management team?

A. ____________________________________________________________


Tasks, roles and resources of the UN

This part of the chapter is condensed from Chapter 1 of the UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Manual. It describes the role of the UN system and its agencies in disaster management.

Organizational tasks and general roles

Primary responsibility for all aspects of disaster management rests with the Government of the affected country. This includes: planning and implementing long-term risk reduction and preparedness measures; planning and administering disaster relief and rehabilitation operations, requesting international assistance if required; and coordinating all disaster-related assistance programs, both nationally and internationally-funded.

Each UN organization or agency is responsible for providing advice and assistance to the Government of a disaster-prone or disaster-affected country, in accordance with its mandate and the resources available to it. In so doing, each agency is accountable to its own governing body, but it is also called upon to act as a member of a united team. In the case of refugee emergencies, UNHCR remains responsible for their protection and the coordination of international assistance for the refugees.

In relation to disaster relief and other post-disaster assistance, each organization and agency of the UN system is called on to:

· Mobilize and provide timely technical assistance and material support to disaster-affected countries, according to its own mandate and the resources available to it.

· Co-operate with the UN resident coordinator, UNDRO, or any other coordination mechanism established by the Secretary-General to ensure appropriate, coordinated UN system assistance in the context of a concerted plan and program.

Roles and resources of UNDP, UNDRO, and other UN agencies

The role of UNDP

UNDP focuses primarily on the development-related aspects of disaster risks and occurrences, and on providing technical assistance to institution-building in relation to all aspects of disaster management. Its emphasis is therefore on:

a) Incorporating long-term risk reduction and preparedness measures in normal development planning and programs, including support for specific mitigation measures where required.

b) Assisting in the planning and implementation of post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction, including the definition of new development strategies that incorporate risk reduction measures relevant to the affected area.

c) Reviewing the impact of large settlements of refugees or displaced persons on development, and seeking ways to incorporate the refugees and displaced persons in development strategies.

d) Providing technical assistance to the authorities managing major emergency assistance operations of extended duration (especially in relation to displaced persons and the possibilities for achieving durable solutions in such cases).

In addition, UNDP provides administrative and operational support to the resident coordinator function, particularly at country level, but also at headquarters.

In the event of a disaster, UNDP may grant a maximum of $50,000 from SPR funds to provide immediate relief. UNDP is not otherwise involved in the provision of “relief using any of its own resources or other funds administered by the Program.

Where a major emergency substantially affects the whole development process within a country, IPF resources may be used to provide technical assistance to plan and manage the operation, with the agreement of the Government.

Technical and material assistance in support of long-term risk reduction and preparedness measures is included in the country program, and may be funded from IPF resources or from other UNDP-administered funds. The same can also be used to assist rehabilitation and reconstruction. Special additional grants (up to $1.1 million) may be made from SPR funds for technical assistance to such post-disaster recovery efforts following natural disasters.

The particular responsibilities of the UNDP resident representative are summarized in the following panel.

Disaster management responsibilities of the UNDP resident representative

The resident representative is responsible for:

a) Ensuring that all concerned in planning development programs are aware of any known or potential hazards and their likely effects, and that these are appropriately taken into account in the country program.

b) Designating a “disaster focal point,” and ensuring that the field office is adequately prepared to respond to an emergency.

c) In the event of a disaster:

· Mobilizing UNDP staff and technical assistance personnel and other resources that meet the needs of the situation, particularly those needed for the initial assessment and immediate response.

· Ensuring that UNDP assistance is used to good effect, and the capacity of the office is strengthened if necessary to ensure effective response.

Disaster focal point

In all disaster-prone country field offices, a senior national officer is designated a “disaster focal point” for all disaster-related matters including mitigation, response and international UN/UNDP preparedness. Section 3A and appendix 3A of the UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Manual provide detail on the duties and qualifications of the disaster focal point.

In a major or complex emergency of extended duration (typically involving displaced populations), UNDP may temporarily assign an additional deputy resident representative. That deputy may either manage normal UNDP business while the resident representative concentrates on the resident coordinator functions, or may take day-today responsibility for matters relating to the emergency which are within the UNDP mandate. In the countries with the most severe or prolonged emergencies UNDP has established UN Emergency Units. These units are able to focus exclusively on addressing the emergency and are often staffed by persons seconded from sister UN agencies that are operational in that country.

In the event of a sudden influx of refugees into a country in which there is no UNHCR representation, the resident representative immediately notifies UNHCR and initiates the assessment process on behalf of the UNHCR. (See section 4A.5 of the manual.)

The role of UNDRO

UNDRO is the focal point for disaster management in the UN system (except in those countries where a UN Emergency Unit is established). In relief it provides a framework for coordination of assistance by the UN agencies and helps to coordinate such assistance with that from other sources. In addition, UNDRO has an important role in mobilizing external assistance and serving as a clearing house for information concerning disasters. In the area of mitigation, UNDRO promotes long-term measures to reduce disaster-related risks and enhance preparedness in disaster-prone countries. UNDRO is represented at country level on a permanent basis by the resident coordinator/representative.

Coordination at headquarters level is often effected by contacts between the Head of Agencies concerned at the beginning of a relief operation, and through frequent ongoing contacts between the relevant focal points. At the country level, coordination is undertaken by the resident coordinator who is also the UNDRO representative. Whenever possible and required, UNDRO supports the resident coordinator by dispatching an UNDRO delegate or emergency assistance team.

UNDRO concentrates on problems related to natural hazards and sudden disasters, but as its mandate covers all kinds of emergencies UNDRO may also offer its services and advice in situations including droughts, and cases of war and civil conflicts, unless and until the Secretary-General makes other arrangements.

Following a disaster, UNDRO, acting on behalf of the Secretary-General, offers its services to the Government of the disaster-stricken state in assessing the need for external relief assistance, and communicating that information to prospective donors and others concerned. (Contacts with the Government are conducted through the resident coordinator/representative and the country’s mission in Geneva or New York.) Where international assistance is required or requested, UNDRO:

· Helps to identify priority needs on the basis of information from the Government, the resident coordinator/representative, UN-DMT, and other competent bodies.

· Issues international appeals and acts as a clearing house for information on needs and contributions, the assistance extended or planned by all donors, and the progress of relief operations.

· Seeks to mobilize resources and coordinate relief assistance by various UN organizations and agencies, bilateral donors, and inter- and non-governmental organizations and administers funds channelled through it.

Depending on the particular situation after consultations, wherever possible, with the Government or the resident coordinator/representative, UNDRO may:

· Assign one or more delegates on mission to assist the national authorities in organizing the assessment and administering relief operations, and assist the resident coordinator/representative in information management, the local coordination of international relief assistance, and in his reporting responsibilities to UNDRO.

· Provide logistic support to ensure the timely arrival of relief supplies and their prompt delivery to the affected population. This may include organizing shared or joint relief flights.

The Coordinator may approve a grant of up to US$ 50,000 per disaster from funds available to UNDRO, subject to certain conditions. In some situations, UNDRO can release supplies from the emergency stockpile it administers in Pisa, Italy.

UNDP/UNDRO collaboration

UNDP and UNDRO complement each other. UNDP has a wealth of experience in development planning and administration, and well-established field offices. UNDRO has specific knowledge and experience in disaster management, and established contacts with relevant specialist bodies. The fact that the UNDP resident representative also represents UNDRO helps to ensure fruitful cooperation between the organizations.

At the country level UNDP field offices generally administer funds and resources channelled through UNDRO, following normal inter-agency procedures. This includes the local procurement of supplies and services, and the recruitment and appointment of temporary staff.

Disaster-related roles of the core members of the UN-DMTs


Provides technical advice in reducing vulnerability and helps in the rehabilitation of agriculture, livestock, and fisheries, with emphasis on local food production. Monitors food production, exports and imports, and forecasts any requirements of exceptional food assistance.


Promotes the incorporation of disaster mitigation in development planning, and funds technical assistance for all aspects of disaster management. Provides administrative support to the resident coordinator and UN-DMT.


Mobilizes and coordinates international emergency relief assistance, issuing consolidated appeals. Assists in assessments and relief management if required. Provides advice and guidance on risk assessments and in planning and implementing mitigation measures.


Assures the protection of refugees and seeks durable solutions to their problems. Helps to mobilize and assure the delivery of necessary assistance in the country of asylum if it is a developing country.


Attends to the well-being of children and women, especially child health and nutrition. Assistance activities may include: social programs; child feeding (in collaboration with WFP): water supplies, sanitation and direct health interventions (in collaboration with WHO). Provides related management and logistical support.


Provides “targeted” food aid for humanitarian relief, and to support rehabilitation, reconstruction, and risk-reducing development programs. Mobilizes and coordinates the delivery of complementary emergency and “program” food aid from bilateral and other sources.


Provides advice and assistance in all aspects of preventive and curative health care, including the preparedness of health services for rapid response to disasters.

Role of other UN organizations and agencies

A number of other UN organizations and agencies have specific responsibilities, organizational arrangements, and capabilities relating to disaster mitigation, and/or relief or recovery assistance. UNDP, UNDRO, and resident coordinators must respect the mandates and skills of these agencies, and seek to ensure that all work together in harmony. All should use their expertise and resources to best effect in helping people in disaster-prone and disaster-affected areas.

UN system resources available to initiate responses to disasters and emergency needs


Up to $20,000 at discretion of FAOR within the context of an ongoing emergency or long-term aid project.


Up to $50,000 per occurrence for immediate relief; approved by the Director DOF following a request from the resident representative.

Up to $1.1 million for technical assistance for rehabilitation and reconstruction; approved by the Administrator or Governing Council.

IPF funds for technical assistance to emergency management in major operations agreed with Government; approved by Director PCO.


Up to $50,000 per disaster, subject to the availability of resources; approved by the UNDRO co-ordinator following a request by the Government and proposal by the resident representative or other UN organization or agency.


Allocations from a global emergency reserve for assistance to refugees; approved by the High Commissioner.


Up to $25,000 diversion of existing programme funds or in-country supplies at discretion of the country representative in agreement with Government. Larger amounts from global emergency reserve ($4 million per year); approved by Executive Director following a specific proposal by the country representative.

Possibility of diverting some existing country programme funds in case of a major national catastrophe.


Possibility of borrowing food aid commodities from ongoing WFP-assisted development projects, governmental or other donor’ stocks, subject to headquarters approval to assure replacement.

Up to $50,000 for local purchases of commodities at the discretion of the Director of Operations where there are no other means of arranging timely deliveries.

Allocations primarily from the International Emergency Food Reserve (IEFR), managed by WFP, and from WFP general resources ($45 million annually).


Global reserve from which allocations can be made for priority medical needs in anticipation of special donor contributions; approved by the Director ERO.

Coordination: the resident coordinator and the UN-DMT

The national Government is ultimately responsible for requesting and coordinating all international assistance. It also approves all programs and emergency work in the country. However, the UN system stands ready to assist upon request. At the country level, the resident coordinator/representative and the UN Disaster Management Team (UN-DMT) are the essential UN coordinating institutions. Their responsibilities apply to all situations which require significant interventions from more than one UN organization or agency. At the international level, UNDRO promotes the coordination of responses to particular disaster situations, both within the UN system and in the wider international community, essentially through information-sharing.


Coordination as used in the manual, means:

· The intelligent sharing of information and the frank, constructive discussion of issues and possible courses of action.

· Achieving consensus on objectives and an overall strategy.

· The voluntary adoption by those concerned of specific responsibilities and tasks in the context of the agreed objectives and strategy.

Coordination is based on mutual respect for the competencies and agreed responsibilities of each party, and willingness to co-operate in addressing and solving problems in pursuit of a common aim.

Role of the UN resident coordinator

The resident coordinator, also representing UNDRO, is both the UN system’s team leader at country level, and chairman of the UN-DMT. Following the occurrence of a major disaster, the resident coordinator/representative must be ready to give absolute priority to this coordination role, which also includes helping to ensure the coordination of all international emergency assistance.

The resident coordinator should fulfill the general responsibilities indicated in the panel below.

Coordination arrangements for emergencies

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has appointed an Emergency Relief Coordinator at the level of the Under Secretary-General, who has been entrusted with the responsibility for the coordination of emergency assistance as outlined in General Assembly resolution 46/182 of 19 December 1991. The Emergency Relief Coordinator is in charge of the Central Emergency Revolving Find, which has been established as a cashflow mechanism of US$ 50 million to ensure the rapid and coordinated response of the organizations of they system. He has direct access to the Secretary General in New York and maintains contacts with, and provides leadership to, the field Resident Coordinators.

Disaster management responsibilities of the resident coordinator (also representing UNDRO)

On an ongoing basis, the resident coordinator must:

· Ensure that the UN organizations and agencies active in a disaster-prone country are collectively “prepared* to offer appropriate technical and material assistance as part of an overall international response in the event of a disaster.

· Ensure that the same agencies take account of disaster risks in their long-term development programs, and provide concerted assistance in relation to disaster mitigation, in consultation with any national IDNDR committee.

In the event of a “multi-sectoral” disaster:

· Bring the various agencies of the UN system together and ensure the provision of prompt, effective, and concerted multi-disciplinary advice and assistance.

· Maintain contact with the government authority responsible for conducting relief operations. Ensure concerted UN assistance to that authority in assessing the situation and the requirements for international assistance.

· Keep UNDRO informed of the situation and needs for international assistance. Provide a clear statement of priority needs for international assistance rapidly to UNDRO for distribution internationally, and provide similar information to the local representatives of the international community. Update the information continuously to keep it current.

· Recommend that the UN team be reinforced by the appropriate agencies at the country level when necessary.

· Help to secure co-operation and coordination between all international assistance bodies, the government, and other national organizations to ensure proper management of international assistance.

In case of a refugee influx or “mono-sectoral” disaster:

· Consult with the local representative of the competent UN organization or agency (UNHCR or other) to determine what the resident coordinator and UN-DMT should do to support that agency.

Q. State three disaster management roles of UNDP that are distinct from UNDRO and three roles of UNDRO that are distinct from UNDP.

A. ____________________________________________________________




The concept of disaster preparedness is quite straightforward. Its objective is to ensure that in times of disasters appropriate systems, procedures and resources are in place to assist those afflicted by the disaster and enable them to help themselves.

The aims of disaster preparedness are to minimize the adverse effects of a hazard through effective precautionary actions, and to ensure timely, appropriate and efficient organization and delivery of emergency response following the impact of a disaster.

This definition establishes the broad framework for disaster preparedness, but it is worth dwelling on some of the points implicit in the definition.

“to minimize the adverse effects of a hazard”

Disaster risk reduction is intended to minimize the adverse effects of a hazard by eliminating the vulnerabilities which hazards otherwise would expose and by directly reducing the potential impact of a hazard before it strikes. Disaster preparedness in its starkest form assumes that certain groups of people will nevertheless remain vulnerable, and that preparedness will have to address the consequences of a hazard’s impact.

“through effective precautionary actions”

It is important to note that the term used is “precautionary actions,” for all too often the end product of disaster preparedness is seen as a static plan to be devised and then filed until it is needed. Disaster preparedness, to the contrary, must be seen as an active and continuing process. Of course, both plans and strategies are required, but they both must be dynamic ventures, which are frequently reviewed, modified, updated and tested.

“to ensure timely, appropriate, and efficient organization and delivery”

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of disaster management is that of timing. Timing also impinges upon the concept of disaster preparedness. Speed and timeliness have often been treated synonymously, a major conceptual flaw. Decisions related to timing must consider the relationship between relief inputs and their effects. In some types of disasters, flood, for example, there are certain basics such as shelter and clothing that may be required immediately. In terms of alleviating immediate distress, speed is critical. However, there are other forms.

Similarly, appropriate assistance demands careful scrutiny. The issue goes beyond the standard stories of canned pork and high heeled shoes to flooded, Muslim communities. The issue goes to the important and natural link between disaster preparedness, recovery and rehabilitation. Ultimately we need to ask if one of the key objectives of disaster preparedness - the provision of appropriate assistance - is designed merely to ensure the immediate survival of affected communities or, in ensuring immediate survival, to simultaneously pave the way for recovery?

“efficient organization and delivery”

Efficient organization and delivery suggest obvious criteria for effective disaster preparedness. Systematic planning, well executed distribution, clear cut roles and responsibilities are all vital. However, too often disaster situations create conditions of chaos. The best laid plans can mitigate but not eliminate the chaos. To the extent possible, preparedness plans should seek to anticipate the sources of chaos and equally as important should try to anticipate what to do when plans go awry. However, where a criterion of efficiency becomes particularly important is in the context of distribution. The key here is to ensure that efficiency is measured in terms of the ability to deliver needed assistance to those most vulnerable. All too often in disaster relief situations, food and non-food relief arrives at the scene of a disaster, but no system or structure has been established to ensure that those in greatest need are the beneficiaries. In the final analysis, the most important test of efficiency is that those in need are adequately provided for.

Components of disaster preparedness

There are nine major components involved in disaster preparedness which provide a framework upon which a national disaster preparedness strategy can be developed.

Disaster Preparedness Framework

Vulnerability Assessment


Institutional Framework

Information Systems

Resource Base

Warning Systems

Response Mechanisms

Public Education and Training


Assessing vulnerability

Fundamental to all aspects of disaster management is information. It is a point that may appear obvious, but it is frequently overlooked. The disaster manager may know that a particular geographic region or community is susceptible to the impacts of sudden or slow-onset hazards. However, in reality, until a decision is made on systematic ways to compile and assess information about disaster vulnerabilities, the manager is and will be working in a void.

Developing and compiling vulnerability assessments is one way of approaching a systematic means of establishing an essential disaster management tool. There will be more on this subject in the next chapter.


Throughout all the activities designed to promote disaster preparedness, the ultimate objective is to have plans in place that are agreed upon, that are implementable and for which commitment and resources are relatively assured. The plan itself will have to address other points in this framework.

Institutional framework

A coordinated disaster preparedness and response system is a prerequisite to any disaster preparedness plan. Each system design will depend upon the traditions and governmental structure of the country under review. However, without ensuring that there is “horizontal coordination” at central government levels among ministries and specialized government bodies and “vertical coordination” between central and local authorities, a plan will rapidly disintegrate. This requires a structure for decision-making, inter-ministerial committees to coordinate the plan, focal points within each ministry to be responsible for the plan implementation and communication, as well as regional and community structures to implement the plan at the local level.

Information systems

The preparedness plan must have an information system. For slow onset disasters this should consist of a formalized data collection process, and early warning system (especially for regions prone to famine), and monitoring system to update the early warning information. For sudden onset disasters a similar system must be in place for prediction, warning, and evacuation communication.

Resource base

The requirements to meet an emergency situation will clearly depend upon the types of hazards the plan anticipates. Such requirements should be made explicit, and should cover all aspects of disaster relief and recovery implementation. The range of relief requirements is too extensive to put in this module, but this list indicates some of the major requirements:

supplementary food
communications systems
logistics systems
relief workers
clearance equipment

Warning systems

For most types of rapid onset disasters, a warning system can save many lives. By giving a vulnerable population adequate notice of an impending disaster, they can either escape the event or take precautions to reduce the dangers. However, you must assume that functioning communications systems, such as telephones and telexes, may not be available in times of a major disaster. Begin to plan a warning system around that assumption. Consider what type of communications equipment will be needed and sustainable if power lines and receiving stations are destroyed. Preparedness plans should include provisions for access to alternative communication systems among police, military and government networks.

Warning is also critical for slow onset disasters and population displacements. In this case it is called early warning and has to do with information and its distribution regarding either:

giving timely notice of an impending world crisis in the supply of food
making ready for or preventing forced migrations of people.

Response mechanisms

The plan’s ultimate test is the effectiveness of response to warnings and disaster impacts. At a certain stage in the warning process, various responses will have to be mobilized. The staging of responses becomes an essential factor in designing a preparedness plan. Chapter 9 lays out the required responses.

Public education and training

The focus of a disaster preparedness plan should be to anticipate, to the extent possible, the types of requirements needed for action or responses to warnings and a disaster relief operation. The plan should also specify the most effective ways of ensuring that such requirements are met. Yet, the process will only be effective if those who are the ultimate beneficiaries know what to do in times of disasters and know what to expect. For this reason, an essential part of a disaster preparedness plan is the education of those who may be threatened by disaster. Such education takes many forms, such as: (1) Public education in schools for children and young adults, emphasizing what actions should be taken in case of a disaster threat (for example, earthquake tremors); (2) Special training courses, designed for an adult population either specifically or as an extra dimension of on-going programmes such as Preventive Health Care or Maternal and Child Health programmes; (3) Extension programmes, in which community and village-based extension workers are instructed to provide relevant information and trained for the tasks they should undertake during the event; (4) Public information, through mass media, be they television, radio or the printed word, will never really replace the impact of direct instruction. However, if sensitively designed and presented, mass media may provide a useful supplement to the overall educational process.

Rehearsals (drills)

Fujieda, Japan School children practicing an earthquake safety drill.

From Nature on the Rampage. Photo by Paul Chesley.

As military maneuvers cannot fully portray the reality of battle, neither can disaster preparedness rehearsals portray the full dynamics - and potential chaos - of a disaster relief operation. However, that fact should provide no excuse for avoiding the need to rehearse the disaster preparedness plan. Not only will rehearsals reemphasize points made in separate training programmes, but they will also test the system as a whole and, invariably, reveal gaps that otherwise might be overlooked. 1

1 The preceding part of this chapter is drawn from the UNDP/UNDRO training module, Disaster Preparedness. by Randolph Kent.

Preparedness for slow onset and sudden onset disasters

Preparedness activities for slow onset disasters often vary from those of sudden onset. Slow onset disasters may require more active involvement on the part of planners, especially in terms of monitoring early warning systems, for famine, war, and civil strife. The remedial response to problems indicated by the early warning (of potential disasters) is an extension of preparedness.

Preparedness for sudden onset disasters include the monitoring of the predictions and warnings of disasters that may occur within a matter of days or hours. The emergency may develop over a very brief time frame and depend on a very different set of procedures and resources than the slow onset emergency.

Q. On the following list of disaster preparedness components identify at least one responsibility that you, in your official capacity, can or should assume for that component. If you have none, list who is the most responsible agency in your country for that component.


Assessing vulnerability ___________________________________________

Planning ______________________________________________________

Institutional framework ___________________________________________

Information systems _____________________________________________

Resource base _________________________________________________

Warning systems _______________________________________________

Response mechanisms __________________________________________

Public education and training ______________________________________

Rehearsals ____________________________________________________

Preparedness within the United Nations 2

2 The remainder of this chapter is from the UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Manual.

The UN system at the country level must be able to facilitate and deliver appropriate and co-ordinated assistance in an emergency. The UN Disaster Management Team (UN-DMT) is the standing inter-agency body for this.

The UN-DMT should meet at regular intervals to:

· review prevention and preparedness arrangements within the country, including the progress of any relevant ongoing development projects

· review preparedness arrangements within the UN team of agencies (as described below)

· discuss the analysis and interpretation of data from in-country and external famine early warning systems

· decide on any specific actions to be taken by members of the group individually and/or collectively

Q. Match the list of disaster preparedness components with the list of examples of each component.


Disaster preparedness components

1. ____

Vulnerability assessment

2. ____


3. ____

Institutional framework

4. ____

Information systems

5. ____

Resource base

6. ____

Warning systems

7. ____

Response mechanisms

8. ____

Public education and training

9. ____



A. Updates to vulnerability assessments
B. Assessment teams and search and rescue
C. A map showing a population living in a flood zone
D. Practice
E. Designing the activities promoting disaster preparedness
F. The required material and logistical support for an emergency
G. Organizational arrangements to maximize coordination
H. A poster explaining what to do when an earthquake hits
I. Communications procedures as part of the system


1 - C
2 - E
3 - G
4 - A
5 - F
6 - I
7 - B
8 - H
9 - D

Checklist of basic information required by a UN-DMT 3

3 From UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Manual, Appendix 3B.

In order to facilitate rapid, appropriate responses to disasters, the following kinds of information should be readily available in advance to all members of the UN-DMT.

The Government should have much of this information incorporated and maintained up-to-date in the framework of a national disaster preparedness plan. This information should be made available to the Resident Coordinator, and member agencies of the UN-DMT.

If this information is not available, or only partially available, the UN-DMT should compile and maintain it as a team effort, normally in collaboration with national counterparts. The specialized agencies would each address respective areas of concern. The resident coordinator should see that all sectors are covered.

The check list presented here should be adapted to local circumstances. Special care and attention should be given to information relevant to areas and communities which are particularly vulnerable and disaster-prone.

This checklist often refers to agency or organizational contacts. To keep your information current, you should have for all contacts:

· name
· office address and telephone, fax, and telex numbers
· home address and telephone number
· electronic mail address, if the person has one

You should have the same information for any alternates or deputies.

Disaster profile of country

The history of the incidence and magnitude of particular types of disasters in different areas; their impacts on the population and the economy.

The types of emergency and post-disaster assistance provided from all sources in the past; the effectiveness of that assistance given the problems faced - the lessons learned.

The kinds of needs which can therefore be anticipated in particular areas and circumstances, and the kinds of assistance interventions which might be required.

National policies, objectives and standards

Policies with regard to the soliciting, acceptance and use of international assistance, including external personnel.

The authority delegated to local institutions, and the possible roles of national NGOs and outside assistance agencies.

Policies (both whether or not and how) regarding vaccinations, prophylactic distribution of drugs, the care of unaccompanied children, and salvaging of materials.

Policies and criteria for any distribution of relief: whether to be on a free, for-sale or on-credit basis; what, if any, differentiation should be encouraged within and between different population subgroups.

The particular objectives and standards which should be applied to ration scales for food and water, and any distribution of shelter materials and household supplies.

Specification of the kinds of food and other commodities which are appropriate and acceptable as donations, and those which are not.

General specifications for the kind of energy sources normally preferred for vehicles (diesel or petrol) and generators and pumps (diesel or electric).

General priorities for the restoration of infrastructure and services.

Policies and arrangements for importing emergency assistance supplies, such as arrangements for waiving fees and taxes, and for the clearance of special relief flights.

Government structures for warning and emergency response

The contact responsible for all national hazard forecasting and warning systems.

The government contact (and deputy) normally responsible for the management of emergency relief and post-disaster assistance operations in a central co-ordination body, if one exists. Contacts in individual ministries.

The address and telephone/fax/telex numbers of any national disaster co-ordination centre, and whether and how foreign donor officials will have access to the centre during emergencies.

The procedures established (at national and local levels) for assessing damage, needs and resources following the impact of a disaster.

The contacts in the national disaster management body or the sectoral ministries responsible for arranging and assuring:

· Coordination and liaison with the international community (UN system, embassies. NGOs)
· Search and rescue operations
· Post-disaster surveys and assessments
· Food supply assistance, where needed
· Medical and preventive health care
· Water supplies
· Environmental sanitation
· Emergency shelter and other relief supplies
· Communications
· Logistic services (transport, storage and handling)
· Information management (including records and reports)
· Security

Role of the national armed forces and relationship between the civil and military authorities in directing operations.

Other external and national assistance organizations

The contacts at the principal embassies and donor agencies, the potential contributions of their governments and organizations to post-disaster assistance operations, and the resources they have on immediate call locally.

The contacts at the national Red Cross/Red Crescent Society and the principal NGOs, their potential contributions to emergency and post-disaster assistance operations, and the resources (human, material, and financial) they have on immediate call.

Base-line data on each distinct disaster-prone area

Demographic details: the location, size and socio-economic characteristics of communities, including average family size, sources and levels of income, and any traditional patterns of seasonal migration.

Formal and informal leadership structures, any particular social or religious considerations, traditional community support processes at times of disaster, and any taboos.

General climatic conditions, including day and night temperatures at different times of year.

Local food habits, including weaning practices, of the various socio-economic groups.

“Normal nutritional status of children, including any normal seasonal variations.

Diseases endemic to the area, including prevailing patterns of mortality and morbidity.

Normal sources of water: sources and methods of extraction; treatment; and distribution.

Food supply systems and local production: types, seasonal production cycles and normal yields of both major crops and small gardens, and average on-farm stock retention levels.

Services operating (official and non-official): health, education, rural development, public works, and social welfare. This should include the location and specific nature of the services provided and the personnel employed.

Coverage and general condition of the infrastructure, including roads, telecommunications, and electricity supplies.

Resources: material and human

“Resources” include supplies and services which can be mobilized in-country for emergency and post-disaster assistance operations. Potential sources include government bodies, commercial companies (locally or in a neighboring country), NGOs and other aid organizations and development projects operating in or near the areas at risk.

Medical/health care 4

4 Information should be assured by WHO staff in the context of preparedness profiles issued by WHO headquarters.

Hospitals, clinics and other health facilities: number of beds, ambulances, availability of special equipment, number of trained doctors, nurses and nurses’ aides; contacts at all facilities.

Stocks and sources of medical supplies: names, addresses, and telephone/fax/telex numbers of all medical supply stores; manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and supplies; and laboratories producing vaccines and serums.

Food supplies

Location, capacities, and normal stock levels of food stores; telephone/fax/telex numbers of government marketing boards, food supply departments, commercial importers, food wholesalers, and food aid donors.

Details of existing food rationing and distribution programmes (including food-for-work), their organizational arrangements, procedures, and capacity to meet emergency needs.

Nutrition and epidemiology 5

5 Nutrition aspects may not be a priority concern in the immediate aftermath of a sudden natural disaster, but are crucial in all emergency situations of extended duration, especially droughts, famines, and in all cases involving population displacements.

Nature, location, and capacity of any nutritional rehabilitation (therapeutic feeding) activities; their organizational arrangements, procedures and capacity to meet emergency needs.

Extent and validity of any nutritional status surveys or surveillance programmes: in-country sources of nutritional expertise (with relevant field experience).

Location and capacity of epidemiological surveillance and survey expertise linked to communicable disease control programmes.

Water supplies, hygiene and environmental sanitation

Names, addresses, telephone/telex numbers of producers, large wholesalers, and retail outlets for the following types of supplies, including location and usual stock levels on inventory:

· Water pumps, tanks, pipes and fittings
· Road tankers for hire or purchase
· Lime or other chemicals for water disinfection
· Hard bar soap, detergents, and disinfectants
· Materials for establishing temporary latrines
· Supplies and equipment for vector control operations

The quantities of these supplies normally available in government stocks in specified locations.

The availability of mobile water treatment units and generators through the military or major contractors.

Sources of trained personnel and tools to undertake rapid repairs or to construct new or temporary installations.

Emergency shelter and relief materials

Names, addresses, telephone/telex numbers of producers, large wholesalers, and retail outlets for the following types of supplies, including location and usual stock levels on inventory:

· Heavy-duty tents, tarpaulins, thick polythene sheeting
· Corrugated roofing sheets, lumber, cement
· Blankets
· Cooking pots and utensils (household size, and institutional size for communal kitchens)

The quantities of these supplies normally available in government stocks in specified locations.

Construction equipment

Names, addresses, telephone/telex numbers of road and building contractors, including their approximate availabilities of bulldozers, drag-lines, hoists, cranes, hydraulic jacks, mobile generators, and pumps.

Contact points of government sources for the same types of equipment, for example, within the Ministry of Public Works or Defense.


Contacts within the responsible authorities for establishing telecommunications services, including the repair of normal systems and the installation of temporary radio networks, where needed.

Policies concerning the use of communications equipment by international teams and aid organizations.

Logistics systems and facilities

Logistics considerations include details of normal transport routes and capacities to and within the disaster-prone areas, and knowledge of the specific logistical problems likely to be faced moving supplies following a disaster.


· Have copies of the best available maps

· Identify essential road links and best alternative routes

· Mark potential constraints on truck traffic (such as bridge load capacities and ferry movement capacities), and any points vulnerable to occurrences such as flooding or landslides

Trucking capacity

· Government fleets: the number and condition of trucks of specified types and capacities in different departments and locations which might be available to transport relief supplies

· Commercial capacity: private transport contractors able to operate to or within the areas concerned, including details of their fleets, the locations of their offices and maintenance facilities, and normal rates


· Track gauges, wagon capacities, and any loading constraints on various lines

· Daily movement capacities on various lines, and the numbers of locomotives and wagons which might be available during each season

· Reliability and operational constraints, including any feasible measures to improve performance

Sea and river ports

· Harbor depths, quay lengths, cargo handling equipment
· Daily discharge capacity, and seasonal patterns of exports and imports
· Size of covered and open storage areas, and amount normally available at different seasons
· Normal offtake capacities: road and rail.

Coastal and river craft

· Government craft: the numbers and condition of boats, tugs and barges (of specified types and capacities) in different locations which might be available for rescue operations or to transport relief supplies

· Commercial capacity: contacts with private shipping contractors able to operate in the areas concerned, including details of their fleets and normal rates

Airports and air-strips

· The precise locations and the length, width, surface and load classification of runways in the affected areas

· Largest type of aircraft able to operate

· Fuel availability (avgas and jet fuel)

· Navigation and landing aids, and hours open for flying

· Cargo handling equipment and storage capacity

Aircraft and air transport

· Government: number and types of aircraft and helicopters likely to be available to transport personnel and relief supplies; the approximate costs of operation of military and other government aircraft and helicopters

· National airline and other companies: number and types of aircraft and helicopters likely to be available to transport personnel and relief supplies; approximate charter costs

Storage and handling

· Government warehouses: the location, size, and type of stores in different areas which might be available for relief supplies; the general condition of the stores, level of security, access to road and rail transport, the availability of pallets, hand trucks, and forklifts, and the adequacy of staff and record systems

· Private warehouses: as above for stores which might be requisitioned or rented.

Fuel supplies (diesel and petrol)

· The locations, capacities, and normal stock levels of government and commercial fuel storage depots; the arrangements by which fuel can be drawn or delivered from those depots.

Q. The information referred to in the checklist must be assembled from a variety of sources. Where would you be able to obtain the information requested under each main heading?


Disaster profile of country _________________________________________
National policies, objectives and standards ___________________________
Gov’t structures for warning/post-disaster response _____________________
Other external and national assistance organizations ___________________
Base-line data on each distinct disaster-prone area _____________________

Human and material resources:

Medical/health care ____________________________________________
Food supplies ________________________________________________
Nutrition and epidemiology ______________________________________
Water supplies, hygiene and environmental sanitation ________________
Emergency shelter and relief materials ____________________________
Construction equipment ________________________________________

Communications ________________________________________________

Logistics systems and facilities:

Roads ______________________________________________________
Trucking capacity _____________________________________________
Railways ____________________________________________________
Sea and river ports ____________________________________________
Coastal and river craft _________________________________________
Airports and air-strips __________________________________________
Aircraft and air transport _______________________________________
Storage and handling __________________________________________
Fuel supplies _________________________________________________

Q. In your opinion what agency should be responsible for collecting, up-dating and communicating this information.




1 This chapter has been drawn from the UNDP/UNDRO training module Vulnerability and Risk Assessment written by A.W. Coburn. R.J.S. Spence and A. Pomonis

This chapter considers the nature of risk; discusses the techniques by which natural hazards and the accompanying risk of future losses can be estimated; and it discusses the ways in which future risk estimates can be used to assist the choice of the optimum disaster mitigation strategy.

First, let us review the definitions of the key terms. Risk is the expected lives lost, persons injured, property damaged, and economic activity disrupted due to a particular hazard. Risk is the probability of a disaster occurring and resulting in a particular level of loss.

Risk assessment determines the scale of the estimated losses which can be anticipated in particular areas during a specified time period.

Risk management

One of the underlying principles of this training module is that most people working in development are involved in disaster management at one time or another. Even if you, as a generalist or a sectoral specialist, do not have an active role to play in some of the other disaster phases, you do play an important role when it comes to risk management. The design of development projects should include an exercise in risk management.

The overall task of risk management must include both an estimation of the magnitude of a particular risk and an evaluation of how important to us the risk is. The process of risk management therefore has two parts: risk assessment and risk evaluation. Risk assessment requires the quantification of the risk from data and understanding the processes involved. Risk evaluation is the judgment that a society places on the risks that face them in deciding what to do about them.

Risk probability

Risks are often quantified in generalized ways. For example, there is a probability of an individual dying in any one year of: 1 in 200 if he or she smokes 10 cigarettes a day; 1 in 23,000 in an earthquake in Iran; and 1 in 10,000,000 of being hit by lightning in the USA. Such gross risk estimates can be useful for comparative purposes, but usually conceal large variations in the risk to individuals or different regions. In the case of Iran, people who live closer to an earthquake fault are at greater risk than those that live far away. Similarly, people who live in poorly constructed masonry houses near a fault are more at risk than those who may live nearby in well built wood structures.

The first step in risk management, therefore, is quantifying the probability of the risk. The second step is evaluating the risk, that is, passing judgment on how serious it is. The importance a community places on the risk of a disaster is likely to be influenced by the type and level of other everyday risks it faces. Even if the risk from a natural hazard is quite significant, it is unlikely to compare, for example, with the risk of child mortality in a society with minimal primary health care. Villages in the hazardous mountain valleys of Northern Pakistan, regularly afflicted by floods, earthquakes, and landslides, do not perceive disaster mitigation to be one of their priorities. Their priorities are protection against the greater risks of disease and irrigation failures.

As societies develop economically, risk reduction is likely to assume greater importance to them. Development itself can increase the likelihood of disasters, but as societies become richer more resources can be made available to invest in some degree of protection. Protection of the development process itself becomes a disaster mitigation issue.

Acceptable levels of risk

Many risks are associated with benefits. Living close to a volcano may bring the benefit of fertile soils for good agriculture. Generally, though, the exposure to natural and environmental hazards does not have any specific benefit associated with it - the exposure is a simple consequence of living or working in a particular location. This can have the effect of making such risks less acceptable than those from which some benefit is obtained. Generally the acceptable levels of risk appear to increase according to the benefits derived from being exposed to it. However, the acceptable level of risk appears to decrease over time as more people become exposed to a particular type of risk.

Assessing risk and vulnerability

The estimation of probably future losses is a matter of increasing interest to those concerned with development planning in hazard-prone regions. Fundamental to disaster preparedness and mitigation planning is an understanding of what to expect. This needs to be quantified, if only in a crude and approximate way, in terms of the degree of risk faced, the size of event that is likely, and the consequences of an event if it occurs.

The calculation of risk generally needs to consider several types of loss. The most common parameter of loss, and the one most easily dealt with, is economic cost. Cost is widely used because many types of loss can be converted into economic cost. Effects which are considered in terms of economic costs are known as tangible losses. But there are a range of other effects resulting from disasters which are important but which cannot be converted into a monetary equivalent, and these are referred to as intangible losses.

A full consideration of risk would include a complete range of effects, both tangible and intangible, and of several qualitatively different types. The range of undesirable consequences of natural hazards what we might consider as loss parameters are listed in Table 1.

Table 1 Loss parameters for risk analysis







Number of people

Loss of economically active individuals

Social and psychological effects on remaining community


Number and injury severity

Medical treatment needs, temporary loss of economic activity by productive individuals

Social and psychological.
Pain and recovery

Physical damage

Inventory of damaged elements, by number and damage level

Replacement and repair cost

Cultural losses

Emergency operations

Volume of manpower, man-days employed, equipment and resources expended for relief

Mobilization costs, investment in preparedness capability

Stress and overwork in relief participants

Disruption to economy

Number of working days lost, volume of production lost

Value of lost production

Opportunities, competitiveness, reputation

Social disruption

Number of displaced persons, homeless

Temporary housing, relief, economic production

Psychological, Social contacts, cohesion, community morale

Environmental impact

Scale and severity

Clean-up costs, repair cost

Consequences of poorer environment, health risks, risk of future disaster

How is risk determined?

There are three essential components in the determination of risk, each of which should be separately quantified:

a) the hazard occurrence probability: the likelihood of experiencing any natural or technological hazard at a location or in a region

b) the elements at risk: identifying and making an inventory of people or buildings or other elements which would be affected by the hazard if it occurred, and where required, estimating their economic value

c) the vulnerability of the elements at risk: how damaged the buildings or injured the people or other elements would be if they experienced some level of hazard.


There is a variety of methods of presenting the above information to illustrate the data describing risk. These can often be represented on a map. This is an essential tool in evaluating development projects because you can see if a project site is located in an area of high risk.

An example of mapping is the Potential Loss Study. This consists of mapping the effect of expected hazard occurrence probability across a region or country. It shows the location of communities likely to suffer heavy losses. The effect of the hazard of each area is calculated for each of the communities within those areas to identify the “Communities Most at Risk”. This shows, for example, which towns or villages are likely to suffer highest losses, which should be priorities for loss-reduction programs, and which are likely to need most aid or rescue assistance in the event of a major disaster.

The following is an example of potential loss mapping. It presents risk as the levels of losses that would occur if a certain level of hazard were to occur at all the locations simultaneously. In this case the type of loss plotted (Map 4) is urban earthquake casualties in Turkey. Casualties are defined as those people whose houses are liable to be totally destroyed by the largest expected earthquake - a measure used because it has been found in Turkey to correlate closely with the numbers of killed and injured. The potential loss plotted in each location is derived from three other types of geographically varying data, which are shown in Maps 1,2 and 3. (See figure. 8.1)

Figure 8.1 Potential loss study

Map 1 shows the earthquake hazard in terms of the maximum intensity of earthquake which might possible occur there.


Map 2 shows the elements at risk - in this case the total size of the urban population. Larger towns and dries are plotted individually, and are identified by circles whose area represents the population. The population in the smaller towns of 2,000 to 25,000 population is shown in the form of a population density. Other elements at risk could be mapped in a similar way.

2 - ELEMENTS AT RISK (population)

Map 3 shows one aspect of the vulnerability of those elements at risk. The casualties are caused by the collapse of buildings. The vulnerability of a building depends primarily on the type of construction. A useful approximate classification of the building types in Turkey divides them into just three types: rubble and adobe walls, brick and timber walls, and reinforced concrete frame. An estimate has been made about the expected proportions of buildings that will collapse.


Map 4 shows the analysis of the three preceding maps for each location. This is derived by estimating the numbers of people living in each building type, (from Maps 2 and 3) and then estimating the potential proportion of collapsed buildings of each type if the largest earthquake were to occur there. The total potential casualties are obtained by adding those from all three building types.

4 - CASUALTY RISK (potential loss of life)

Vulnerability evaluation

Vulnerability is the propensity of things to be damaged by a hazard. People’s lives and health are at risk directly from the destructive effects of the hazard. Their incomes and livelihood are at risk because of the destruction of the buildings, crops, livestock or equipment which these depend on. Each type of hazard puts a somewhat different set of elements at risk. Most of disaster mitigation work is focused on reducing vulnerability, and in order to act to reduce vulnerability, development planners need an understanding of which elements are most at risk from the principal hazards which have been identified.

Vulnerability assessment is the process of estimating the vulnerability to potential disaster hazards of specified elements at risk. For general socio-economic purposes it involves consideration of all significant elements in society, including physical, social and economic considerations, and the extent to which essential services will be able to continue functioning.

As we have noted in Chapter 1 the root causes of vulnerability to disasters in developing countries are poverty and inequitable development. Rapid population growth, urban or mass migration, inequitable patterns of land ownership, lack of education, and subsistence agriculture on marginal lands lead to vulnerable conditions such as unsafe siting of buildings and settlements, unsafe homes, deforestation, malnutrition, unemployment, underemployment, and illiteracy.

It is the interface between these vulnerable conditions and natural hazards such as an earthquake, tropical storm, drought, and heavy rains, that results in a disaster or protracted emergency. (See Fig. 1.1)

Vulnerability derived from poverty can best be addressed by long-term development projects targeted at the underlying reasons that large population groups remain poor, while at the same time introducing measure to mitigate disaster effects.

Vulnerability may also be a result of factors more easily solved by specific risk reduction measures. These factors include inappropriate building codes and materials, and a lack of public awareness. However, many of these measures depend on the extent of a society’s development. For example, it is unrealistic to expect building codes to be enforced where governments do not have staff and resources to carry out inspections. Likewise, public awareness depends, to some extent, on the community’s educational level and the availability of communication facilities, which are frequently deficient in developing countries.

Vulnerability and risk assessment is the link between development project implementation and disaster mitigation. In UNDP, for example, a proposed project should be examined against the vulnerability and risk of the project location. If the location or the nature of the project design are inherently vulnerable to disasters, then the location should be reconsidered or disaster mitigation/risk reduction measures must be taken. (See Chapter 13 for additional discussion on how this may be achieved.)

Reducing vulnerability for displaced persons

Much of the preceding discussion on vulnerability and risk relates more to sudden onset disasters than slow onset disasters and population displacements. Nevertheless, much of the assessment process and technologies apply to these situations. For example, mapping of hazards is also of prime concern to identify areas subject to drought, or even civil conflict. Meeting the needs of a migrating population or one recently arrived at a new location will be assisted by mapping the best routes and survival resources along the way. Strategies for vulnerability reduction in zones of conflict might include development inputs which can reduce the conflict, such as installing water points for nomads in areas where water is a scarce resource subject to competition.

These topics are discussed in more detail in the special topic modules “Disaster Mitigation” and “Vulnerability and Risk Assessment.”

In summary, because hazards tend to be uncontrollable, much mitigation work is centered on reducing vulnerability. Improved economic conditions reduce many aspects of vulnerability and a sound economy may in many cases be the best defense against disasters and emergencies.

Q. Imagine that you are working for an agency responsible for the economic development of a community in an area where tropical storms occur. You want to do an analysis of the most appropriate types of projects to achieve economic development. As part of your analysis how would you conduct a risk and vulnerability assessment?

A. ___________________________________________________________



Step one: Review the history of tropical storms to estimate the probability of one occurring during the lifetime of your project.

Step two: Inventory the elements at risk.

Step three: Determine the vulnerability of the elements at risk by estimating

a) how badly damaged the buildings might be.
b) the number of people potentially killed or injured.

c) the level of disruption or employment or the economic base of your project



After reading the material and completing the exercises in Part 3 you should be able to:

identify the major categories of activities and responsibilities of disaster response

identify the objectives of disaster assessment and how assessment data is used

describe the role of your UN organization in the various disaster response activities

identify key points for action in coordination and information management

describe development opportunities within the disaster reconstruction phase



Disaster response is the sum total of actions taken by people and institutions in the face of disaster. These actions commence with the warning of an oncoming threatening event or with the event itself if it occurs without warning. Disaster response includes the implementation of disaster preparedness plans and procedures, thus overlaping with disaster preparedness. The end of disaster response comes with the completion of disaster rehabilitation programmes.

This chapter identifies the principal activities of disaster response. Each activity is, formally or informally, governed by a set of policies and procedures, and each activity is typically under the auspices of a lead agency. In the end, disaster response activities are implemented by a myriad of government organizations, international and national agencies, local entities and individuals, each with their roles and responsibilities.

A full discussion of disaster response would, for each activity, identify:

Who is responsible for its implementation, who supports it

What means are required for its implementation

When are its activities implemented

What is its scope

Why does it need to be done


The overall aims of emergency and post-disaster assistance are:

· To ensure the survival of the maximum possible number of victims, keeping them in the best possible health in the circumstances.

· To re-establish self-sufficiency and essential services as quickly as possible for all population groups, with special attention to those whose needs are greatest: the most vulnerable and underprivileged.

· To repair or replace damaged infrastructure and regenerate viable economic activities. To do this in a manner that contributes to long-term development goals and reduces vulnerability to any future recurrence of potentially damaging hazards.

In situations of civil or international conflict, the aim is to protect and assist the civilian population, in close collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and in compliance with international conventions.

In cases involving population displacements (due to any type of disaster), the aim is to find durable solutions as quickly as possible, while ensuring protection and assistance as necessary in the mean time.

The following are typical activities of emergency response. There are important differences, however, between sudden and slow onset disasters. Differences also emerge when comparing the specific geographical situation and the disaster’s socio/political context.


SUDDEN ONSET Warning refers to arrangements to rapidly disseminate information concerning imminent disaster threats to government officials, institutions and the population at large in the areas at immediate risk. These warnings normally relate to tropical storms and floods.

SLOW ONSET Early warning is the term used regarding slow-onset disasters, especially famine. Early warning activities include the process of monitoring the situation in communities or areas known to be particularly vulnerable to the effects of droughts, crop failures and/or changes in economic conditions. An adequate warning will enable remedial measures to be initiated before hardships become acute. Early warning is a disaster response activity only if it has failed to detect the warning signs or where such signs were ignored.


SUDDEN ONSET Evacuation involves the relocation of a population from zones at risk of an imminent disaster to a safer location. Evacuation is most commonly associated with tropical storms but is also a frequent requirement with technological or industrial accidents. For evacuation to work there must be a timely and accurate warning system, clear identification of escape routes, an established policy that requires everyone to evacuate when an order is given, and a public education programme to make the community aware of the plan.

SLOW ONSET The movement of people from the zone where they are at risk to a safer site is not, in fact, evacuation but crisis-induced migration. This movement is usually not organized and coordinated by authorities but is a spontaneous response to the perception by the migrants that food and/or security can be obtained elsewhere.

Search and rescue

SUDDEN ONSET Search and rescue, often known by the acronym SAR, is the process of identifying the location of disaster victims that may be trapped or isolated and bringing them to safety and medical attention.

In the aftermath of tropical storms and floods. SAR usually includes locating stranded flood victims, who may be threatened by rising water, and either bringing them to safety or providing them with food and first aid until they can be evacuated or returned to their homes.

In the aftermath of earthquakes, SAR normally focuses on locating people who are trapped and injured in collapsed buildings.

Post-disaster assessment

SUDDEN AND SLOW ONSET The primary objective of assessment is to provide a clear, concise picture of the post-disaster situation, to identify relief needs and to develop strategies for recovery. It determines options for humanitarian assistance, how best to utilize existing resources, or to develop requests for further assistance. The post-disaster assessment must distinguish among pre-disaster chronic conditions, the needs of disaster survivors and their resources.

This activity is so vital that we will devote the next chapter exclusively to disaster assessment.

Emergency relief

SUDDEN ONSET Emergency relief is the provision on a humanitarian basis of material aid and emergency medical care necessary to save and preserve human lives. It also enables families to meet their basic needs for medical and health care, shelter, clothing, water, and food (including the means to prepare food). Relief supplies or services are typically provided, free of charge, in the days and weeks immediately following a sudden disaster.

SLOW ONSET Emergency relief may need to be provided for extended periods in the case of neglected or deteriorated slow-onset emergency situations and population displacements (refugees, internally and externally displaced people). The impact of the disaster may be mitigated for these populations through additional assistance to the host community as well.

Logistics and supply

SUDDEN AND SLOW ONSET The delivery of emergency relief will require logistical facilities and capacity. A well-organized supply service is crucial for handling the procurement or receipt, storage, and dispatch of relief supplies for distribution to disaster victims. The logistical system is perhaps more vital and of higher priority for slow onset emergencies.

Communication and information management

SUDDEN AND SLOW ONSET All of the above activities are dependent on communication. There are two aspects to communications in disasters. One is the equipment that is essential for information flow, such as radios, telephones and their supporting systems of repeaters, satellites, and transmission lines. The other is information management: the protocol of knowing who communicates what information to whom, what priority is given to it, and how it is disseminated and interpreted.

Survivor response and coping

SUDDEN AND SLOW ONSET In the rush to plan and execute a relief operation it is easy to overlook the real needs and resources of the survivors. The assessment must take into account existing social coping mechanisms that negate the need to bring in outside assistance. On the other hand, disaster survivors may have new and special needs for social services to help adjust to the trauma and disruption caused by the disaster.

Participation in the disaster response process by individuals to community organizations is a key to healthy recovery. Through them appropriate coping mechanisms will be most successfully utilized.


SUDDEN ONSET Security is not always a priority issue after sudden onset natural disasters. It is typically handled by civil defense or police departments.

SLOW ONSET The protection of the human rights and safety of displaced populations and refugees can be of paramount importance, requiring international monitoring.

Emergency operations management

SUDDEN AND SLOW ONSET None of the above activities can be implemented without some degree of emergency operations management. Policies and procedures for management requirements need to be established well in advance of the disaster. More attention is given to this subject in the following chapter on Responding to a sudden disaster.

Rehabilitation and reconstruction

Rehabilitation and reconstruction complete the disaster response activities. As much of this activity is within the scope of UNDP’s concern. Chapter 12 is devoted to it.

Q. In the following matrix of disaster response activities and agencies, select a disaster type of interest to you and fill in the matrix with the agency that has primary responsibility for that activity. Indicate agencies with secondary responsibilities.


Local government

Nat’l gov’t disaster response focal point

Civil Defense


Ministry of planning/finance

Ministry of public works

Ministry of housing

Ministry of health

Other government ministries

Red Cross/Red Crescent

Development Bank








Other voluntary agencies, e.g.



Search and Rescue


Emergency relief


public health













Information management

Management coordination

Social services



critical facilities





sea or river ports


Economic recovery







1 This chapter has been drawn from the UNDP/UNDRO training module Disaster Assessment by Rob Stephenson of the Relief and Development Institute.

Assessment is the process of determining the impact of a disaster on a society. The first priority is to establish the needs for immediate emergency measures to save and sustain the lives of survivors. The second priority is to identify the possibilities for facilitating and expediting recovery and development.

Assessment is an interdisciplinary process undertaken in phases and involving on-the-spot surveys and the collation, evaluation and interpretation of information from various sources. These surveys concern both direct and indirect losses as well as the short- and long-term effects. Assessment involves determining not only what has happened and what assistance might be needed, but also defines objectives and how relevant assistance can actually be provided to the victims.

Some assessments are specifically conducted as damage assessments. They include the preparation of specific, quantified estimates of physical damage resulting from a disaster. The damage assessment may also include recommendations concerning the repair, reconstruction or replacement of structures, and equipment, as well as the restoration of economic activities.

Objectives of assessment

The first objective of a post-disaster assessment is to determine when an emergency exists. Next, define the actions and resources needed to reduce immediate threats to health and safety and to pre-empt future serious problems.

A frequent problem of assessment is to assume that all property losses or survival needs must be replaced or furnished from outside sources only. Instead the assessment must also identify the local response capacity, including organizational, medical, and logistical resources. The assessment must help decide how best to use existing resources for relief. It must also identify the priorities of the affected people themselves.

Another problem is that people making the assessment who are not from the disaster area may have a difficult time distinguishing chronic needs from problems created by the disaster. Knowledge of base line data is essential to identify the “starting point” for post-disaster needs. This information is established in the preparedness checklist in Chapter 7.

If the results of the assessment are to contribute to the design of a disaster response program, then the response agency must also know the policies of the government with regard to emergency assistance. These policies will affect the estimate for the additional support required from national and international sources for relief.

Figure 10.1 Evolving objectives of assessment


Warning Phase

Determine extent to which affected populations are taking measures to protect lives and facilities from expected hazard impact

Activate arrangements in the preparedness plan regarding the implementation of assessment

Emergency Phase

Confirm the reported emergency and estimate the overall magnitude of the damage

Identify characterize and quantify “populations at risk” in the disaster

Help to define and prioritize the actions and resources needed to reduce immediate risks

Identify local response capacity including organizational medical and logistic resources

Help anticipate future serious problems

Help manage and control the immediate response

Rehabilitation Phase

Identify the priorities of the affected people

Identify the policies of the government with regard to post-disaster assistance

Estimate the additional support required from national and international sources for relief and recovery

Monitor the outcome and effectiveness of continuing relief and rehabilitation measures

Recovery Phase

Determine the damage to economically significant resources and its implications for development policy

Assess the impact of the disaster on current development programs

Identify new development opportunities created by the disaster

The assessment process

Assessments must be carefully planned and managed. A sequence of activities is involved and each must be planned in detail. The following activities typically constitute the assessment process:

Identify information needs and sources of reliable data

Collect data

Analyze and interpret data

Report conclusions, forecasts and alternatives to appropriate planner and decision-makers

As the response actions begin to influence events, assessments become part of the monitoring and control loop, allowing those involved to monitor outcomes and attempt to correct the response. It becomes part of a continuing process of assessment, review, and correction by which those managing the operation begin to restore the framework for survival and recovery.

Figure 10.2 This figure identifies how the objectives of assessment evolve as the recovery process proceeds.

Assessments for different disaster types

The design and execution of assessments are very different for sudden onset disasters versus the slow onset. For sudden onset, there are typically many different needs in many locations involving casualty management, support for local rescue efforts and recovery of lifeline services during the first two days of an emergency. Initially the needs change from hour to hour often resulting in confusion. In fact, some activities need to be done so quickly that action has to precede detailed assessments, using strategies determined during preparedness planning on the basis of previous emergencies.

For displaced persons and famine emergencies the lead times are sometimes long and donors may be unwilling to commit large amounts of assistance in response to ambiguous information. The initial priority needs which should be assessed include immunizations (particularly measles), emergency water supply, nutritional monitoring, bulk food logistics, and registration systems. Early geographical assessments of the size of the populations at risk are vital.

These prolonged emergencies may last for months, and often for years. This allows for detailed analysis of the assessment system’s performance and the opportunity to adapt them as requirements change.

How assessment data is used

Assessment provides support for emergency decision makers. Assessment is conducted for a specific user or group of users who are making decisions about emergency resource allocation and response strategies in what may be a fast-changing environment. There are three aspects involved in the assessment process: picture building, situation assessment, and response planning.

Start by building up a picture of where people are, what condition they are in, what services are still available, and what resources have survived.

The situation assessment involves the identification of operational priorities. The situation itself is usually fast-changing and messy, this leads to the need to be able to forecast how the situation is likely to develop. The assessment data needs to be structured to help with the following:

· recognition and assessment of situations requiring decisions
· formulation of the operational strategies
· objectives and needs
· potential alternatives generated
· analysis of the alternatives: evaluate their impact
· interpretation and selection: alternatives compared by evaluating impacts

The last process of decision-making is response planning. This includes the detailed assignment and scheduling of resources (people, equipment, and supplies) to meet specific relief objectives.

The subject of assessment will also be discussed in relation to the UN Disaster Management Team and the UN response to disasters. See also the specialized training module. Disaster Assessment, for a broader discussion of these topics and the UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Manual.

Q. Name an assessment objective for each of the listed disaster phases.

A. warning: ____________________________________________________
emergency: ___________________________________________________
rehabilitation: _________________________________________________

recovery: _____________________________________________________


Review Figure 10.1 for sample answers.

Sample assessment format

By Intertect for the Office Of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.


The questions in this appendix may be used as a guide to prepare surveys of family needs in the aftermath of major disasters. These questions will help identify the most critical needs. Responses to some questions should be referred to public health authorities or to the public works (or appropriate utility) department.


Name of Surveyor:__________________________________



Name of Head of Household:__________________________

Pre-disaster Address:________________________________

Post-disaster Address:_______________________________

Identification Number:________________________________


1. Family Composition





Head of household








Number of teenagers (age 13-18) living at home




Number of children (ages 1-12) living at home




Others living at pre-disaster address




Total people living at pre-disaster address



2. Casualties (Write in appropriate number)


Number with minor injuries (first aid required)



Number with broken bones or seen by doctor (unhospitalized)



Number hospitalized



Number killed


3. Have all survivors been located? Yes____ No____

4. If no, how many are missing? ____


5. Prior to the disaster, where did household obtain drinking water?


Water line to house


Well on property


Public water faucet


Public well


River or stream


Lake or reservoir



6. Where do you get your water now?


Same place as noted above



Water tank truck provided by



Temporary water tank serviced by





7. Does this water appear to be dirty? Yes____ No____

8. Is your normal water supply working now?


Yes, full-time




No, not at all

9. If paying for emergency water supply, how much are you paying and to whom?


Amount____ per____(ltr/gal.)


Paid to:____________________

10. Since the disaster, has anyone in the family had


Severe diarrhea?




11. Was family able to recover food from house? Yes____ No____

12. If yes, how long will it last?


1-2 days


3-7 days


more than one week

13. Can you purchase adequate food from local markets? Yes____ No____

14. If no, how much food do you estimate that you will need?


1-week ration


2-week ration


more than 2-week ration

15. Was any member of the family receiving food from any of the following before the disaster?




UN agency


Church or church agency




Charitable organization




16. Remembering that many people need help, does the family require any of the following?









Plastic tarps






Storage boxes



Clothing for adult males



Clothing for adult females



Clothing for teens



Clothing for children



17. What type of cooking and heating fuel did you use before the disaster?


Gas supplied by gas line


Bottled gas







18. If (a) or (b), is any gas leaking now? Yes____ No____

19. If (a), has service been restored to your line? Yes____ No____


20. What type of sanitary facilities did you have before the disaster?


Flush toilet in dwelling


Communal flush toilet in building


Access to public toilet


Bucket latrine


Pit latrine (earthen)





21. If (a) or (b), is toilet working now? Yes____ No____


22. Will family require assistance for any of the following?


Temporary shelter


Building materials/tools for shelter


Building materials/tools for housing repairs


1 This chapter is condensed from the UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Manual. Chapter 4.

Principal elements and actions in response to a sudden disaster

The vast majority of international emergency and post-disaster assistance is funded by special contributions to the UN agencies, or is delivered bilaterally or through NGOs. Action by UNDRO, the resident coordinator/representative and the UN-DMT is therefore extremely important: information management and exchange, coordination, preparation of appeals, and the mobilization of resources. The extent to which the resident coordinator/representative and the UN-DMT are involved in these activities, and in the provision of direct operational support to the Government, will depend on the nature and scale of the emergency situation, on the capacity and wishes of the national authorities, and on the resources which can be mobilized.

The above applies in emergency situations which require action by a number of UN organizations/agencies (possibly including UNDP) and, in consequence, coordination by the resident coordinator and UNDRO. In situations which fall entirely within the mandate of one specific organ of the UN system (e.g. an epidemic or crop pest attack), primary responsibility rests with the appropriate agency (e.g. WHO, FAO) although the country-level UN Disaster Management Team may, if required, play a role in support of that agency. (The information dissemination services of UNDRO may also be made available to the agency concerned at the international level.)

The following is a list of the principal actions to be taken by the resident coordinator/representative and the UN-DMT immediately before and during a disaster.

Actions to be taken on receipt of a disaster warning

On receipt of a warning of an imminent disaster threat:

Ö Contact and exchange information with UNDRO: review need for precautionary measures.

Ö Contact the relevant government authorities: confirm readiness of UNDRO and UN-DMT to assist, if needed.

Ö Convene the UN-DMT, review preparedness arrangements, alert personnel and review the UN security plan.

Actions to be taken following the occurrence of a disaster

Immediate action in all cases:

Ö Ensure the security of all UN personnel: activate the security plan, if necessary.

Ö Ensure reliable telecommunications between the field office and Geneva, New York and the affected areas.

Ö Contact and exchange information with UNDRO: send an alert message and then regular field sitreps, and maintain telephone contact, if possible.

Ö Contact the government emergency management authorities: get information, offer UN assistance and reaffirm the capabilities of the various agencies; confirm arrangements for ongoing contacts and collaboration.

Ö Determine whether the Government requires international assistance and wishes UNDRO to launch an international appeal. Consider needs for:

· Search and rescue (SAR), or other specialist assistance
· Relief assistance.

Ö Convene the UN-DMT: review whatever information is available; confirm/define responsibilities within the team; arrange follow-up meetings and information-sharing.

Ö Gather and collate information on the situation; participate in initial reconnaissance visits to the affected areas. Mobilize and provide technical assistance for the assessment process.

If international emergency assistance is required:

1) Immediate needs and action

· Determine, on a provisional basis, the specific functions to be undertaken by the UN at country level in the light of the particular situation and the capacity of the Government.

· Define any needs for SAR teams or other specialist assistance; inform and consult with UNDRO immediately.

· Consult with UNDRO concerning the possible assignment of one or more UNDRO delegates.

· Ensure the convening of an early, broad-based coordination meeting to coordinate immediate responses and arrangements for assessment.

· Institute necessary organizational arrangements and systems within the field office: redeploy staff, define work priorities, and ensure the availability of office equipment and clerical and administrative support to staff engaged in emergency activities.

· Put information systems into operation to record and track needs and contributions of international assistance.

· Consider and, where appropriate, make recommendations for the provision of emergency grants by UNDRO and UNDP, and/or the release of supplies by UNDRO from Pisa.

2) Continuing action during the early days of emergency assistance operations:

· Maintain close contact and exchange information with the Government and other concerned parties (donors, NGOs); participate in and support in-country coordination mechanisms.

· Maintain a dialogue and frequent information exchanges with UNDRO (through field sitreps and by telephone).

· Help to define priority needs for international assistance:

- Participate in the overall assessment

- Make an independent judgement of the priority needs for international emergency assistance

- Help in formulating and screening requests

· Develop a concerted programme of assistance and a consolidated UN appeal including the proposals and requirements of all UN agencies.

· Disseminate information on needs for international assistance to local representatives of donors and NGOs, and help to mobilize resources to cover unmet needs.

· Help to monitor assistance operations, and provide operational assistance, where required.

· Make arrangements for relations with the news media, and the reception and servicing of visiting missions.

· Undertake a review (post mortem) of the UN assistance to the emergency operation as it draws to a close.

If there are political complications or humanitarian needs which are not being met, advise the Secretary-General through the office of Emergency Relief Coordinator. (See Appendix 1.)

Additional support functions (on a continuous basis) depending on the need and the capacity of the Government:

· Convening and providing secretariat services to broad-based coordination meetings.

· Providing operational support to management information systems, logistics, or communications.

Assistance to rehabilitation and reconstruction:

· Help to plan and introduce assistance to rehabilitation and reconstruction in phases from the earliest possible moment.

Assistance to populations in areas of conflict:

At present the UN has little role in active conflict areas for people in need caught in the conflict. This role is mainly left to the ICRC and certain NGOs. (See also Appendix 1).

Sitreps - exchanging information with UNDRO

This section describes the responsibilities of the resident coordinator/representative in respect of reporting to UNDRO, and provides guidelines for the preparation of the required field sitreps. It describes UNDRO’s reporting (information dissemination) system in the context of international information flows.

Contacting UNDRO, Geneva

UNDRO maintains a 24-hour duty system, 365 days-a-year. To contact:



(Direct line for use in case of an emergency: out of office hours the call is received by Air Call answering service which conveys the message to the UNDRO duty officer who then calls back)



(United Nations Office Geneva switchboard: ask for UNDRO duty officer)


414242 DRO CH



Electronic mail


Use the UNDP E-mail facility. (Message is delivered to UNDRO via UNIENET)

Alert message and field sitreps

To ensure a timely, appropriate, and coordinated international response, it is essential that the resident coordinator report rapidly to UNDRO any disaster occurrence, with an early assessment of damage and needs, however tentative. This must then be followed up by regular and systematic reporting of increasing detail.

Send an alert message to UNDRO as soon as information of a disaster occurrence is received, or an occurrence in a remote area is confirmed. This serves to let UNDRO know that something has happened and that the field office is following up. Do not delay while waiting to get more information.

Send the first field sitrep as quickly as possible, and in any case not more than 24 hours after the disaster occurrence. Send whatever relevant information is available: do not delay because certain information is lacking. Send information as it becomes available, indicating what additional information is anticipated and arrangements made to gather more.

Send field sitreps regularly, at least daily during the initial emergency period (typically 10-20 days) and until a reduced frequency is agreed with UNDRO. Always follow the basic format but, if necessary, adapt the sub-headings of the individual sections depending on the needs of the particular situation.

Send sitreps by fax (or Email) when possible. This takes full advantage of word processing facilities in preparing and updating the reports.

Involve the UN-DMT in the preparation of the sitreps to help ensure comprehensive reporting and a unified UN system presentation to the Government and the international community. The UNDP disaster focal point should normally be responsible for collating information from the various agencies and preparing the first draft. Arrange for copies of the field sitreps to be sent promptly to the headquarters of the UN agencies most directly concerned (normally the core members of the UN-DMT).

For detailed guidelines for the format of the field sitrep see the UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Manual. Chapter 4. Appendix 4A.

Main headings for field sitreps

1. General situation
2. National response
3. Country-level international response
4. Requirements for international assistance
5. Channels for delivery of international aid
6. International pledges and contributions
7. Other information

Fig. 11.1 Sitreps and international information flows

The importance of coordination and information

Coordination is even more important in emergency assistance operations than in development work: lives might be at risk, logistic and other resources are likely to be limited, and decisions are made quickly. There are many possibilities for duplicating effort, wasting resources, and leaving gaps in both geographic and sectoral coverage.

Timely, reliable information is crucial to planning and implementing emergency and post-disaster assistance operations, and to mobilizing national and international resources. The regular dissemination of relevant information is a precondition for effective coordination and co-operation - at national and local levels - between sectors and between Government, operational agencies, and donors.

Key action points in co-ordination and information management

Maintain frequent, direct contacts with government focal point, operational departments, donors, and NGOs.

Review within the UN-DMT and discuss with the government focal point whether help from the resident coordinator or UN-DMT is required in:

· Compiling and analyzing information and preparing reports on needs for and use of international assistance

· Establishing and operating more comprehensive management information systems in support of the responsible government authorities

· Convening information and co-ordination meetings involving government bodies, donors, NGOs, and the UN organizations and agencies.

Ensure the convening of regular, broad-based co-ordination meetings (probably weekly); encourage constructive discussion; promote consensus on actions by all concerned; provide secretariat service, if required.

Specify the information management functions to be fulfilled by the resident co-ordinator and UN-DMT, and the resources (staff, equipment, office space, budget) required.

Initiate the needed information systems and services using existing staff and facilities; inform UNDRO, the regional bureau, and local donor representatives of requirements to develop and continue.

Establish an emergency information and co-ordination (EIC) support unit, where needed, as a collaborative UN-DMT effort; encourage all UN-DMT members to second staff, co-operate in mobilizing other needed resources, and use the facilities.

Disseminate information regularly to all concerned government departments, donors and NGOs; fax copies to UNDRO.

Encourage all concerned to be consistent in the use of agreed criteria, standards, and terminology, and to harmonize reporting periods to the extent feasible.

Help direct the attention of NGOs to areas and activities where they can make the greatest contribution (not necessarily in the most affected areas).

Q. In your position with a UN agency what would you do in the event of the most likely disaster to strike your country in terms of the following:

A. Learning of a warning of an imminent disaster? _____________________
Would you be on the UN-DMT? ____________________________________
Do you know the UN personnel security plan? What would you do? ________
What would be your contribution to the field sitrep to UNDRO? ___________

What would be your role in an assessment? Concerning which sectors? ____



Rehabilitation and reconstruction comprise most of the disaster recovery phase. This period following the emergency phase focuses on activities that enable victims to resume normal, viable lives and means of livelihood. It also includes the restoration of infrastructure, services and the economy in a manner appropriate to long-term needs and defined development objectives. Nevertheless, after some disasters, there also may be a need for continuing humanitarian assistance for selected vulnerable groups.

This chapter provides brief guidelines concerning assistance to rehabilitation and reconstruction following a disaster. Although presented here as a separate chapter, rehabilitation and reconstruction must, in fact, be planned for either at the same time as relief, or built up during the relief operations.


For some agencies it is important to distinguish between rehabilitation and reconstruction. Specifically, rehabilitation is the actions taken in the aftermath of a disaster to enable basic services to resume functioning, assist victims’ self-help efforts to repair dwellings and community facilities, and facilitate the revival of economic activities (including agriculture).

Rehabilitation focuses on enabling the affected populations (families and local communities) to resume more-or-less normal (pre-disaster) patterns of life. It may be considered as a transitional phase between (i) immediate relief and (ii) more major, long-term reconstruction and the pursuit of ongoing development.


Reconstruction is the permanent construction or replacement of severely damaged physical structures, the full restoration of all services and local infrastructure, and the revitalization of the economy (including agriculture).

Reconstruction must be fully integrated into ongoing long-term development plans, taking account of future disaster risks. It must also consider the possibilities of reducing those risks by the incorporation of appropriate mitigation measures. Damaged structures and services may not necessarily be restored in their previous form or locations. It may include the replacement of any temporary arrangements established as a part of the emergency response or rehabilitation.

Under conditions of conflict, however, rehabilitation and reconstruction may not be feasible. For obvious reasons of safety and security, activities in rehabilitation and reconstruction may need to wait until peace allows them.

Priorities and opportunities in rehabilitation and reconstruction 1

1 The rest of this chapter is taken from the UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Manual.

The disaster occurred because the society was vulnerable to the impact of the hazard concerned. Rehabilitation and reconstruction must therefore not be seen as a process of simply restoring what existed previously. The need is rather to develop strategies and modalities to reconstitute services and renovate or replace essential structures such that vulnerability is reduced. These strategies must include long-term development policies and plans which take account of the current situation including any basic changes resulting from the disaster.

The disaster may, in fact, have created new opportunities for development by changing the environment and the point of departure, both in terms of physical structures and/or social patterns and attitudes. It will certainly have heightened awareness concerning disaster risks, and both the local populations and national authorities are likely to be especially receptive to proposals for risk reduction and preparedness measures. Such opportunities must be recognized and seized in the planning of rehabilitation and reconstruction projects, as well as in the formulation of new, long-term development programmes.

Assistance to rehabilitation and reconstruction must therefore be planned on the basis of a thorough assessment and appraisal of the technical and social issues involved. While the planning of such assistance cannot be unduly rushed, it must be accomplished as expeditiously as possible. There are two reasons for this:

· Certain rehabilitation and reconstruction measures, if organized rapidly enough, can shorten the period for which emergency relief assistance is needed and eliminate the need to invest resources in temporary measures.

· The “window of opportunity” may be short for the incorporation of risk reduction measures in reconstruction (of housing, for instance) or for new development initiatives (especially social aspects).

Seasonal factors must be considered and may determine the needed timetable for reconstruction, for example, the replacement of emergency shelter or the rehabilitation of irrigation systems in time for the next crop.

The aim is to promote and assist recovery. Assistance during the post-disaster phase must be planned and implemented with this clearly in mind. Damaged structures and services which are essential to the society must be repaired or replaced, duly protected against future risks. At the same time, and no less important, ways must be found to help people recover, particularly those people who have the least resources to call on.

As noted earlier, “the majority of people affected are the poor.” For the poor, disasters represent lost property, jobs, and economic opportunity. In real terms that can represent an enormous economic setback. Therefore, reconstruction assistance should be designed to:

· relieve economic constraints and reduce the cost of reconstruction
· inject capital into the community
· create employment opportunities
· support and strengthen existing economic enterprises.” 2

2 Frederick C. Cuny, quoted by Ian Davis in “Disasters and the small dwelling, progress in the past decade and key issues for IDNDR,” outline position paper. September 1990.

Timely and imaginative planning is therefore required to dovetail rehabilitation and reconstruction with short-term “relief” measures, and to make the most effective use of external financial resources, materials, and technical assistance in achieving development gains while satisfying humanitarian needs.

The danger of planning and conducting reconstruction in haste

“Post-disaster programmes - even reconstruction programmes, are often planned and carried out in haste. The rush may occur because of the reconstruction planners’ perceived need to return the community to “normal” as soon as possible or because of time constraints on donor funding. Thus the sort of careful planning and community involvement necessary for development planning is often overlooked. Without such planning, these programmes may infringe on longer-term development efforts or delay their implementation. Reconstruction programmes that are ill-planned and merely return communities to the status quo may leave them almost as vulnerable again to a future disaster, while at the same time creating a sense of complacency because something has been seen to have been done.”

From ‘Disasters and Development - a study in institution building’ prepared by INTERTECT for UNDP. April 1990.

Zenon hurricane: A case study 3

3 This case study has been adapted from Disasters and Development by Frederick C. Cuny. Oxford University Press. New York. 1983.


The following is a fictitious case study. However, it is constructed from events as they often occur and demonstrates how each part of the disaster system works or does not work. All of the events and actions of the agencies are based on actual occurrences.

A hurricane has been chosen for this exercise because it enables us to look not only at post-disaster actions, but also at activities that occur prior to a disaster when there is a warning period. While each type of disaster is unique, the following scenario is typical of all sudden natural disasters. Although based on actual occurrences, the examples here are intended for educational purposes only and do not reflect on the ability or capacity of any individual or agency. Most agency names are fictitious.

Your assignment is to read the following account and to analyze each management action regarding its appropriateness. That is, was the management action an example of good or bad judgment, was it the right or wrong decision, good or poor planning, was appropriate action taken upon the available information or was there oversight? You are encouraged to make notes in the margin about your analysis of these management actions. Perhaps you could circle the sentence in the text to which your analysis refers.

The setting

The Republic of Zenon is a small, heavily populated country situated on the coast of a major landmass in the Tropics. The land bulges out into a shallow gulf, and coastline forms 60 percent of its border. Isolated fishing villages dot the coast, but most of the fertile coastal plain is inhabited by farmers who work small subsistence rice paddies. The remainder of the countryside is mountainous, and here small farmers strive to eke a living from eroded hillsides denuded by years of deforestation.

The poverty of the mountains has driven thousands of families to the capital, which lies on the south coast of the country. Many families live in squalid shanty towns scattered throughout the city, and many have recently been moved to Port Sound, a controversial new town built on a marshy area several kilometers from the capital. Port Sound, touted by the government as a model community and criticized by the opposition as an instant slum, is less than one meter above the high-tide level.

Chronology of events for the Zenon Republic hurricane

August 27

Ships passing through the central tropics report a rapid drop in barometric pressure to weather stations nearby. The weather stations pass this information to the International Hurricane Tracking Network (IHTN), which soon verifies the formation of a tropical depression and notifies the surrounding countries.

August 28

Satellite observation and aircraft monitoring indicate that the depression has become a tropical storm.

In Zenon, the chief weather service forecaster follows procedure and notifies the director of the Emergency Preparedness Committee (EPC). The forecaster also reviews the difference between a hurricane watch (a first-stage alert given 48 hours before a hurricane is expected to strike) and a hurricane warning (posted when the hurricane is only 24 hours away). The director of the EPC notifies a few key government personnel and suggests that preliminary actions be taken in case a hurricane should develop. One hour later, a synopsis of the storm is broadcast over the national radio system.

The public takes little notice of the storm, which is still more than 1200 kilometers away.

August 29

Satellite photos and reconnaissance flights through the storm indicate that it is now a full-fledged hurricane. The IHTN alerts governments of the countries in the region and various international organizations.


At 2:00 p.m., the director of the EPC calls a meeting for 7:00 p.m. to bring members up-to-date on the hurricane’s progress and projected direction.

Later the meeting convenes with only seven of the twelve members present. The weather service forecaster repeats the briefing. The committee asks the forecaster to predict the hurricane’s path, but the request is refused. One of the committee members goes into another room and telephones the International Hurricane Tracking Network (IHTN). She is given a more detailed briefing and a description of the projected hurricane track. The briefer at the IHTN adds that in his own estimate the hurricane is not likely to strike Zenon because it is moving in a direction that will take it north of the country. The committee member returns and tells the committee what she has learned. The committee decides not to issue a statement because it would alarm the public.

Elsewhere, the monthly meeting of the Association of Humanitarian Agencies in Zenon (AHAZ) is being held. At the end of the meeting, one of the members asks what plans are being made to prepare for the hurricane. The chair replies, “Zenon doesn’t have hurricanes.”

August 30

The hurricane intensifies and begins to move in a westward direction. The radio gives hourly reports on its position and notes that it has changed direction and is now moving toward the northeastern coast of Zenon.


At 10:00 a.m., another meeting of the EPC is called. The weather service has indicated that it will issue a hurricane watch that afternoon unless the storm changes direction. The committee begins to draw up its operational plans. The first item is to find a strong building with good communications to use as an emergency operations center.


During the afternoon, meetings are held at various government ministries to prepare for the hurricane. The protection of equipment critical to the operation of each ministry is given a high priority. Building materials and sandbags are requested from the public works department to protect installations in the low-lying and exposed areas, but available supplies are soon exhausted. Precautionary measures along the coast are fairly extensive; little attention is given to areas further inland.

The Zenon Red Cross reviews its plans for dealing with the disaster. It has a series of guides issued by the League of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies to serve as a model for its own activities. As staff review the guides, it becomes clear that most are for actions that should have been taken long ago, and there is little that can be done before the disaster strikes. Nevertheless, at the end of its meeting, the director notifies the government that “the Red Cross is ready.”

August 31


At 1:00 a.m., the storm intensifies again. At 1:15 a.m., the weather service issues a hurricane warning.

The prime minister calls the EPC to check on its activities. The director assures the prime minister that everything possible is being done. At the same moment, the EPC is trying to develop an evacuation plan and to find a list of buildings designated as hurricane shelters to give to the news media.

At dawn, the citizens of Zenon awake to hear the radio announce the hurricane warning. The newspaper publishes the newly found list of buildings designated as hurricane shelters, some of which no longer exist. The EPC later goes on the radio with a “new” list of shelters and urges persons in low-lying areas along the coast to evacuate.

By noon the only signs of the approaching hurricane are the rising tides along the upper portions of the eastern coast. Winds are now gusting, and there are intermittent rain showers.

Members of the EPC are running out of time. Hundreds of details remain, and each minute someone thinks of some new precautionary measure that should be taken.


At 4:30 p.m., the foreign news teams arrive and begin their live televised reports. The first story describes the profiteering in the sale of emergency supplies and shows pictures of several well-armed store owners defending their property against looters.


At 5:00 p.m., the weather service announces that the hurricane’s course has now changed, putting it on a track for the central and southern portions of the country. The impact is predicted for the early morning hours of the following day. Winds are now gusting up to 60 kilometers per hour.

The EPC receives the news with great anxiety. Most of the preparedness activities have focused on the northern regions, not the south. Warnings are quickly issued to evacuate Port Sound.


Twenty minutes later, the prime minister goes on the national radio and television to issue a plea to all persons in low-lying areas to evacuate as quickly as possible. He suggests that those who cannot escape should seek shelter in churches and schools.

In Port Sound, the sea level is one meter above normal. Water is coming across the road that separates the community from the sea, and large breakers are quickly eroding the roadbed. Vehicles attempting to evacuate have stalled. The residents of Port Sound begin moving away from the sea on the only other road that links the area with higher ground, but this road is also low and crosses two streams that are now flooding.


At 10:00 p.m., a bridge collapses and the people are stranded.

Word of the plight of Port Sound is flashed to the EPC. It orders an army engineering battalion to attempt to evacuate the people. The army sends a truckload of small boats to the fallen bridge but, by the time it arrives, the surface is too rough and the plan is abandoned. Twenty-five hundred families begin scrambling to their rooftops. Two thousand people will not make it to safety.

September 1

Communication from the capital to outlying areas is lost.


At 2:00 a.m., passage of the eye of the hurricane is recorded at Port Williams, 45 kilometers north of the capital. Winds in the capital reach a peak of 200 kilometers per hour.



By dawn on September 1, the winds have subsided to 100 kilometers per hour, and a few people are beginning to venture outside to see the damage. By 10:00 a.m., winds are still gusty, but it is possible to leave shelters and other structures without too much danger.

In the capital, wind damage is severe. Almost every house has been damaged somewhat. The slums have suffered heavily, with total destruction of buildings as high as 85 percent in some areas. Casualties exceed the capacity of the hospital by 200 percent. A major disaster is reported at Port Sound, but has not yet been verified.


At noon, the prime minister orders a helicopter to take him, the director of the EPC, the Red Cross chair, and several cabinet ministers over the affected area. In their flight over the capital, the prime minister is shocked at the extent of the damage. As the helicopter moves over Port Sound, the extent of the devastation and loss of life is shockingly apparent. The few survivors cling to the tops of the few buildings that have survived the storm. As the helicopters of the prime minister’s party swoop low overhead, all aboard see frantic gestures for help.

At the Emergency Operations Center, reports are fragmented and confused. The death toll and damage are reported high in all parts of the affected area It is difficult to discern a pattern because the reports are not submitted in any standard form or classified according to priority. The Emergency Preparedness Committee is barraged by reporters clamoring for information. Members of the EPC decide that their first action should be to conduct an extensive survey of the damage. Their second action is to appoint the Red Cross as coordinator for all emergency relief.

By nightfall, more contingents of foreign press arrive. By the next day, their reports will have made Zenon the number one news story in the world.


At 8:00 p.m., the EPC meets with representatives of the voluntary agencies and the foreign embassies. The director of the EPC reports on casualties and damage and lists the pledges of aid and assistance that have been received from other governments. The agencies ask for instructions, but it soon becomes dear that no reconstruction plans or activities have been prepared. The EPC’s apparent indecision and lack of leadership is reported to the prime minister.

All through the night, casualties continue to arrive at hospitals and aid stations in the affected zones.

September 2


At 7:00 a.m., the prime minister announces that he has taken personal command of the emergency operations and reconstruction and has appointed a new Disaster Relief Committee to take over from the EPC.

In the foreign ministry, offers of assistance are pouring in. At the airport, the first flights of relief goods are arriving. They consist of tents, medicine, blankets, and military ration packs.


At 10:00 a.m., a local doctor reports a possible case of cholera. The prime minister orders mass inoculation of all persons in the disaster area.

Churches report that spontaneous donations of clothing are heavy and ask the Red Cross to arrange for helicopters to carry the donations to the mountains. The Red Cross agrees and diverts several helicopters from search-and-rescue operations. The director of the Red Cross will later lose his job over this decision.

At Red Cross headquarters, the first accurate casualty reports from outside the capital are beginning to arrive. Heavy losses are reported in the delta. The largest number of casualties occurred when churches and schools used as shelters collapsed or were flooded. In one church alone, 400 people are reported dead.

The Red Cross, severely constrained by lack of resources and with no real organizational infrastructure outside the capital, asks for a meeting with the government to clarify responsibilities. At this meeting, it is decided that the Red Cross will continue to have responsibility for relief coordination in the capital and that the government will reassume responsibility for all other areas.

In the industrialized countries, televised reports of the devastation have begun to arrive. The most vivid reporting is about the tragedy of Port Sound. The story depicts the ineptitude of the government and ends with a statement that, unless massive international assistance is received, survivors will starve to death. Overnight, relief agencies report donations in excess of half a million dollars.

Several agencies decide to send their disaster officers or senior personnel to the area to assess needs and to coordinate emergency activities.

September 3

The airlift of aid continues. The majority of aid is provided by foreign governments, many of which have stockpiles of relief goods. Shipments from non-governmental agencies also begin to arrive. Some of these materials, especially aid from governments, come from stockpiles, and these are sorted, bundled, and well-marked. Other materials are simply packed according to size, with each bundle containing a hodgepodge of different materials, which must be sorted upon arrival in Zenon.


By noon, groups of villagers from remote highland areas begin to filter into aid stations to report massive destruction and heavy loss of life due to landslides and flooding in the denuded mountains. Overseas, more news stories arrive daily with scenes of death and destruction in Zenon.

September 4

Now that certain roads have been re-opened, the government begins distribution of relief goods outside the capital. Supplies had been confined to deliveries of food and medicine by helicopter, but now truck convoys are able to take larger amounts and a wider variety of aid to the rural areas.

At the airport, a call goes out for volunteers to help sort relief materials. The sheer volume of the material and the confusion caused by poor packaging require several thousand people working at the airport and at other sorting centers.

Throughout the affected area, a tremendous salvage effort is taking place. People are busy trying to gather up as much building material as possible, especially the tin roofs found wrapped around trees, curled on the ground, or lying intact. Thousands of makeshift shelters have been built out of the rubble. Several foreign press correspondents assigned to do a story about the need for tents ask a group of victims to stop hammering so that their sound technician can record an interview with a relief official arriving with a shipment of tents.

September 5

Helicopters arrive from the overseas military bases of a friendly government. Their first activity is to airlift a complete field hospital to the delta region.

In the capital, the Disaster Relief Committee (DRC) calls a meeting of relief agencies. To reduce duplication of effort, the government asks each agency to take responsibility for relief and reconstruction in one particular sector. A list of communities is placed on the board and each agency selects one to assist. Several voluntary agencies that have worked in the country for many years are not present at the meeting (later referred to as the “lottery”), and the areas where they have had extensive experience are assigned to other agencies. No attempt is made to verify the qualifications or capacities of any of the new agencies present at the meeting.

September 6

Reports of corruption and favoritism in the distribution of relief supplies are reported in the press. The prime minister asks the churches to form committees to oversee the distribution of relief goods in each community.

During the day, three different voluntary agencies call coordination meetings in separate locations.

September 7

At 10:00 a.m., the Disaster Relief Committee calls a coordination meeting between the government and voluntary agencies to discuss housing reconstruction.

September 8-14 (Week Two)

During the week, numerous coordination meetings are held - some under government sponsorship, others at the instigation of one or more of the voluntary agencies.

Early in the week, the relief agencies in Zenon are offered large donations from foundations, intergovernmental organizations, and their own government. Most of the donors are anxious that the money benefit the victims as soon as possible; therefore they attach a restriction that the money be spent within thirty to ninety days.

Daily, new relief agencies (some “instant agencies,” such as Friends of Zenon) arrive. They are assigned areas of responsibility by the DRC. Expatriate volunteers also start to arrive. Among this group are several doctors who pester local medical officials for assignments and interpreters.

Also arriving are a number of manufacturers’ representatives from companies that produce small prefabricated buildings. Each claims to have the “ultimate solution” for rebuilding low-cost housing. Some houses are touted as temporary and others as permanent. The DRC, unable to choose among them, decides to hold a housing fair where the manufacturers can set up their units and show them to the public. The people’s preferences will be determined and a housing system will be selected.

At a meeting of the DRC, many village relief committees report long lines for food at distribution centers. The same day, the government Is offered a huge food-aid package of surplus commodities. There is one restriction: the food must be given away. Despite some opposition from farmers and cooperatives, the government signs the food-aid agreement.

At a meeting of the DRC, several agencies point out that the distribution of free aid to the victims can be counterproductive. The chair of the DRC reacts firmly, saying that to ask victims to pay for food or other aid would be against the humanitarian principles of disaster relief, and he orders that all aid be given free to the victims. Several local development groups argue that this will create dependencies, but the government is adamant.

In the private sector, architects and engineers offer their services to the voluntary agencies as advisors. At first the agencies are excited at the prospect of having this technical assistance, but they soon discover that few of the professionals are familiar with the traditional housing built by the majority of the people in the country and that their idea of low-income housing is far too expensive for most of the agencies, not to mention the survivors themselves.

September 15-21 (Week Three)

During the third week, emphasis begins to shift away from emergency relief activities to concern about interim recovery and longer-term reconstruction needs.

The prime minister, sensing a change in mood, appoints a National Reconstruction Committee to coordinate long-term recovery, but announces that the Disaster Relief Committee will remain active until all relief needs have been met.

Late in the week, groups of international banking officials arrive for talks on reconstruction loans to the government. The prime minister orders the Finance Ministry to give top priority to refinancing the national debt.

There are reports that a boom economy is developing and prices are climbing at an astounding rate, especially for materials and tools that will be used in reconstruction. The government, fearful of creating a black market, hesitates to establish price controls.

Local farmers protest the distribution of free food, and farmers’ organizations report that, if the food donations continue, farmers who have been able to salvage some of their crops will have no market for them.

Housing reconstruction and agricultural recovery are proving difficult for some of the volunteer agencies. They cable their headquarters for permission to hire several noted specialists recommended by a local university. Fearful that the hiring of consultants will add to overhead costs that donors would criticize, the headquarters decide against hiring the specialists.

September 22-28 (Week Four)

The government announces a change in policy on the distribution of relief goods and agrees to allow sales of certain items. It also goes on record as encouraging the subsidized sale of building materials. It is left to the agencies to establish eligibility requirements. In the countryside, the differing programs and varying levels of assistance provided by each agency lead to complaints by the disaster survivors. The National Reconstruction Committee (NRC) considers setting uniform reconstruction policies. After much discussion, it decides not to set the policies, fearing that the voluntary agencies and their donors will resent such a move.

News media in Zenon report that reconstruction programs are inadvertently helping only landowners and homeowners, because renters will not rebuild houses for fear that the owners will then force them out. The issue of the land tenure pattern and the need for land reform are not mentioned.


Aid continues to arrive. The local relief committees have been re-formed as reconstruction committees. Food aid is now arriving in ever increasing quantities. There is continuing opposition to the food program, however, especially from the Agricultural Ministry. Its fears that farmers would not replant are coming true. The ministry thus proposes a system of price supports, but the only farms eligible are the larger farms along the coast.

As reconstruction progresses, the government realizes that its policy on permanent housing is unrealistic and agrees to permit reconstruction programs to rebuild traditional housing as long as the resulting construction is “safe.” The Housing Bank, however, refuses to grant loans to people working with traditional materials.

At a meeting of the NRC, the secretary reports on a survey of housing reconstruction programs. Forty-five nongovernmental organizations are involved in housing reconstruction. Twenty-nine are located in the capital or the immediate vicinity, ten are located along the highway connecting the capital and the delta, and the other six are located in the mountains. The report also shows that only 35 percent of the total area affected by the hurricane is receiving reconstruction assistance. Therefore the government must establish a housing program to fill the gaps.


Six months after the disaster, all but a few foreign agencies have departed, claiming to have completed reconstruction of their assigned areas. The NRC surveys indicate that work is incomplete. Sixty percent of the urban residents and 85 percent of the people in the rural areas are still without replacement housing.

Midyear marks the end of the first post-disaster harvest. Observers notice a resurgence in housing demand, as people now have the time and capital to rebuild. However, only a few agencies remain to provide technical or financial assistance. Even among those agencies that want to stay, funds for continued operations are not available. To help meet the new demand, the government seeks a loan from the International Bank to finance other reconstruction activities. After two months, the loan is approved in principle, but funds cannot be made available until the next fiscal year, further delaying reconstruction.

In the agricultural sector, surveys indicate that decreased agricultural production necessitates continued food aid for another year. A report by the Agricultural Ministry that the number of small farmers has declined by seven to ten percent, and that a significant portion of the land formerly devoted to growing rice in the delta region is now used to produce cotton and other cash crops, goes unnoticed.

Q. Identify three key issues that subverted the reconstruction process and prevented it from becoming a good development opportunity.

A. ___________________________________________________________



After reading Part Four and completing the exercises, you should know the basic concepts, aims and elements of disaster mitigation. You will be able to describe:

the principle objectives of disaster mitigation

several available mitigation techniques

how to consider disaster mitigation as a development theme

how to appraise a country’s capacity to implement disaster mitigation projects

how to take hazards into account in project identification and formulation


1 Adapted from the UNDP/UNDRO training module, Disaster Mitigation by A.W. Coburn, R.J.S. Spence, and A. Pomonis, Cambridge, June 1991.


Mitigation is one of the positive links between disasters and development. Agencies, communities, and individuals can use their development resources to reduce the risk of hazards through mitigation projects. They can also ensure that their other development initiatives contain components that mitigate against future disaster.

In its broadest usage, mitigation has become a collective term used to encompass all actions taken prior to the occurrence of a disaster (pre-disaster measures). This includes long-term risk reduction and preparedness measures.

Many individuals and institutions, however, apply a narrower definition to mitigation. They use mitigation to mean actions taken to reduce both human suffering and property loss resulting from extreme natural phenomena. The concept of mitigation accepts the fact that some hazard event may occur but tries to lessen the impact by improving the community’s ability to absorb the impact with minimum damage or disruptive effect. More simply stated, for this group, mitigation is risk reduction.

Mitigation applies to a wide range of activities and protection measures that might be instigated: from the physical, like constructing stronger buildings or agricultural diversification, to the procedural, like standard techniques for incorporating hazard assessment in land-use planning.

In the 1990s, a major effort is underway to encourage the implementation of disaster mitigation techniques in development projects around the world. The General Assembly of the United Nations has adopted the decade of the 1990s as the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. The aim is to make a significant reduction in the losses of life and material damage caused by disasters by the end of the decade.

Disasters have, until recently, been seen in much the same way as disease was in the early 19th century: unpredictable, unlucky and part of the everyday risk of living. Concentrations of people and rising population levels across the globe are increasing the risk of disasters and multiplying the consequences of natural hazards when they occur. However, the “epidemiology” of disasters - the systematic science of what happens in a disaster - shows that disasters are largely preventable. There are many ways to reduce the impact of a disaster and to mitigate the effects of a possible hazard, accident, or conflict.

Just like the fight against disease, the fight against disasters has to be fought by everyone together. It must involve public and private sector investment, changes in social attitudes and improvements in the practices of individuals.

Governments can use public investment to improve their countries’ infrastructure and to promote a physical environment where a disaster is less likely to occur. Individuals must also learn how to act to protect themselves. Just as public health depends on personal hygiene, so public protection depends on personal safety.

The type of cooking stove an individual uses, and their awareness that a sudden earthquake could tip it over is more important in reducing the risk of a disastrous fire than having the community maintain a large fire brigade. The type of house individuals build and where they consider a suitable place to live affects the potential for disaster in a community more than large engineering projects to reduce flood risk, or landslide stabilization efforts or sophisticated typhoon warning systems.

Saving life and reducing economic disruption

The worst effects of any disaster are the deaths and injuries caused to the population. The scale of disasters and the number of people they are capable of killing is the primary justification for mitigation. Understanding the way that people are killed and injured in disasters is a prerequisite for reducing casualties.

Q. Summarize what you think are the principal objectives of mitigation.

A. ____________________________________________________________



The principle objectives of mitigation include: saving lives: reducing economic disruption: decreasing vulnerability; increasing capability to resist disasters; decrease chance of civil conflict.

Targeting mitigation where it has most effect

Understanding how the occurrence of a natural hazard or an accident turns into a disaster enables us to forecast likely situations where a disaster is possible. For example, some buildings (elements) are more vulnerable to earthquakes (hazard) than others. Identifying these elements most at risk, can indicate priorities for mitigation.

Identifying locations and situations where combined risk factors coincide helps indicate the elements most at risk. Elements most at risk are the elements (buildings, networks, social groups) that are likely to contribute most to the losses incurred in a future disaster or that are most likely to suffer from the effects of the hazard. These elements may be the least able to recover after the event. Within a city, for example, the portions of housing stock most likely to be damaged can be identified. Mitigation measures applied to that sector will again have the most effect on reducing risk.

Q. In Chapter 4, you identified the most likely disaster that could occur in your community or country. In the discussion on vulnerability in Chapter 8, you identified a community at risk. Within that community, what are the elements at risk?

A. ____________________________________________________________


Actions to reduce risk

Ö Reduce the hazard or reduce vulnerability

Protection against the threats of disaster can be achieved by modifying or removing the causes of the threat, (reducing the hazard) or by reducing the effects of the threat if it occurs (reducing the vulnerability of elements affected). For most types of natural disasters, it is impossible to prevent the actual event from occurring. The focus of mitigation policies against these hazards is primarily on reducing the vulnerability of elements that are likely to be affected. Obviously, some natural hazards can be reduced. The construction of levees along a riverbank is an example of risk reduction.

Ö Tools, powers and budgets

It is evident that risk reduction is complex and needs to be built up through a range of activities happening together. Governments, for example, can employ a wide range of tools and use their powers in many ways to influence the safety of the community. Legislative powers, administrative functions, spending and project initiation are all part of the tools they can employ to bring about change. Powers of persuasion are sometimes classified into two types: passive and active. These are summarized toward the end of this chapter. Another power of persuasion is diplomacy, perhaps the most useful tool to mitigate against warfare or civil conflict.

The menu of mitigation actions

The range of techniques that an authority might consider in order to assemble an appropriate package for disaster mitigation can be classified into:

· engineering
· spatial planning
· economic
· management and institutionalization
· societal
· conflict reduction


Engineering measures are those that result in stronger individual structures that are more resistant to hazards. This is sometimes referred to as “hardening” facilities against hazard forces. Building codes are critical defensive measures for achieving stronger engineered structures. Training techniques to teach builders the practicalities of disaster resistant construction are now well understood and form part of the menu of mitigation actions available to the disaster planner.

Spatial planning

Many hazards are localized with their likely effects confined to specific known areas. For example, floods affect flood plains, and landslides affect steep soft slopes. The effects can be greatly reduced if it is possible to avoid having hazardous areas used for settlements or as sites for important structures. Urban planning needs to integrate awareness of natural disaster risk mitigation into the normal procedures of planning a city.

For populations displaced by hazards or conflict, opportunities to reduce their risk include the identification of safe zones for resettlement in areas with adequate security and resources to support displaced persons.


Economic development is key to disaster mitigation. A strong economy is the best protection against a future disaster. A strong economy means more money to spend on stronger buildings, safer sites, and larger financial reserves to cope with future losses.

Mitigation measures can help a community reduce future economic losses. They can help members withstand losses and improve their recoverability after loss and measures that make it possible for communities to afford higher levels of safety are important elements of an overall mitigation programme.

Economic activities which help a community which hosts displaced persons to absorb this population can mitigate against the development of serious social or political problems.

Some aspects of economic planning are directly relevant to reducing disaster risk. Diversification of economic activity is an important economic principle. A single-industry economy is always more vulnerable than an economy made up of many different activities. The linkages between different sectors of an economy - the transportation of goods, the flow of information, and the labor market may be more vulnerable to disruption from a disaster than the physical infrastructure that is the means of production.

Management and institutionalization of disaster mitigation

Disaster mitigation also requires certain organizational and procedural measures. The timescale over which a significant reduction can be achieved in the potential impact of a disaster is medium and long term. Changes in locational planning, upgrading structures and changes in the characteristics of building stock are processes that take decades. The objectives and policies that guide the mitigation processes have to be sustained over a number of years. They have to survive the changes in political administration that are likely to happen within that time, the changes in budgetary priorities and policies on other matters. The institutionalization of disaster mitigation means the acceptance of a consensus of opinion that efforts to reduce disaster risk are of continual importance.

Education, training and the development of professional expertise are necessary components of institutionalizing disaster mitigation.


The mitigation of disasters will only come about when there is a consensus that it is desirable. In many places, the individual hazards that threaten do not result in disasters, the steps that people can take to protect themselves are not known and the mandate of the community to have itself protected is not forthcoming. Mitigation planning should aim to develop a disaster “safety culture,” one in which the general public is fully aware of potential hazards, chooses to protect itself as fully as possible and can readily support protective efforts made on its behalf.

Conflict reduction

In the disasters and emergencies created by conflict, mitigation must include conflict reduction. Measures at conflict reduction must start with identifying and addressing the root causes of the conflict. Although negotiation will often be the primary tool of conflict reduction, the issues may arise over such causes as land tenure, employment, access to resources, and intolerance of ethnic or religious differences. These issues need to be anticipated through a form of early warning and defused before conflict erupts.

Classification of mitigation measures

Developing a mitigation strategy should include a structure to facilitate decision making. The following series of questions suggests such a structure.

What risk is being reduced?
To what level should the risk be reduced?
What criteria are used to reduce the risk?
Who decides what the criteria are?
What is the political process to implement the measure?

Mitigation measures may be classified in several ways. The following list of such classifications includes many categories which overlap in their implementation.

Active and passive: For active measures, authorities promote desired actions by offering incentives. For passive measures, authorities prevent undesired actions by using controls and penalties.

Structural and non-structural: Structural mitigation involves physical measures taken to reduce risk by erecting structures (such as dams). Non-structural measures are policies and practices of development whose implementation reduces the risks to development.

Short-term and long-term: Short-term measures are those which are taken rapidly and which have a short life or usefulness such as sand bag reinforcements of a dyke. Long-term measures may include a process that is itself long in implementation, consider an extended timeframe, and change public attitudes through education.

Restrictive and incentive: Restrictive measures result in practices that promote safety by making some actions or development unlawful or prohibitively expensive. Incentive measures provide financial, legal or other advantages to promote activities which are also beneficial in terms of mitigation.

Sectoral based activities: Sectoral based activities start from the vantage point of a sector, such as agriculture, and ask: “within this sector, what can be done to reduce risk?” A response might be to introduce hazard resistant crops, or to diversify cropping patterns.

Timing for mitigation

The risk reduction measures of mitigation are often placed in the pre-disaster time frame. In fact, the most opportune time to implement mitigation is in the period after a disaster. Public awareness of the problems posed by hazards is high and the political will to act may also be at its peak. This period probably will not last for more than two to three years before other development priorities take precedence.

Q. Select one of the mitigation activities from the preceding discussion and apply it to the element most at risk that you identified in the previous question. Describe one example of a mitigation activity that will reduce the vulnerability to an element at risk.

A. ____________________________________________________________



Including risk reduction and preparedness in the UNDP country programme 1

1 This chapter is adapted from Chapter 2 of the UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Manual.

This chapter focuses primarily on promoting disaster mitigation in the context of long-term development planning and programs, in particular through the UNDP country program and other projects funded through UNDRO. Mitigation measures must also be actively promoted in the context of post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Disaster mitigation as a development theme

Hazards are a part of the natural and human-made environment. Exposure to hazards and the risks of disastrous consequences must be considered in all development planning. They must certainly be considered by UNDP at an early stage of program and project formulation and design.

An awareness of the relationship between disasters and development must be maintained in the UNDP country program and project cycles. The needs and options for mitigation must be specifically addressed in:

· The continuing dialogue between UNDP, other UN agencies, the Government, and aid donors.

· The country program cycle: in the preparation of the UNDP Advisory Note and the Administrator’s Note, and in the country program document, review and evaluation processes.

· The project cycle: in project identification, design and formulation, approval (PAC/A.C), implementation (PPER, TPR), and evaluation.

It is essential that government bodies responsible for development priorities and planning be fully aware of the impact of natural and man-made hazards on societies and economies. This itself may require certain institution-building initiatives during both the preparation and the implementation of the country program.

The UN-DMT should review the priorities and possibilities for international assistance, especially in cases where technical assistance is anticipated in different sectors and different UN organizations or agencies and expected to be involved or provide financing.

The context for disaster mitigation efforts lies within the policy for UNDP and UNDRO as set forth in the following panel.

Panel 2A/1 Disaster-related policy goals of UNDP and UNDRO.

From UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Manual.

Panel 2A/1
Disaster-related policy goals of UNDP and UNDRO.

With the aim of ensuring that developing countries are fully aware of disaster risks and take advantage of the most effective techniques (or disaster mitigation, UNDP and UNDRO seek to:

· Strengthen the ability of societies to avoid, or protect themselves, their property and means of livelihood, against the risks associated with natural and human-made hazards.

· Encourage the integration of disaster risk reduction and preparedness measures in planning and budgetary processes related to development in all sectors.

· Build on local understanding and experience of disaster threats and coping mechanisms.

· Facilitate exchanges between disaster-prone countries of experience, knowledge and skills related to disaster management.

· Ensure that programmes and projects funded by UNDP contribute to lessening of risks, are not themselves subject to major risks and do not exacerbate the potential adverse effects of hazards.

Q. At what point in the UNDP country programming and project cycle can a program officer address mitigation opportunities?

A. ____________________________________________________________


Appraising disaster mitigation needs, policies, and capacity

Almost all countries have established some institutional arrangements for the various aspects of disaster management. Many have instituted some risk reduction and/or disaster preparedness measures. Some countries are well-advanced, others less so. This national capacity for risk assessment, mitigation planning, and implementation will need to be determined, based on an appraisal of the Government’s mitigation policies, strategies, and measures.

Appraisal is needed and must enable the resident representative to determine, with the Government:

· Whether technical assistance is required for hazard and risk assessments.

· The priority to assign to risk reduction and preparedness in the country program.

· The extent to which risk reduction measures can be incorporated into projects being planned or undertaken in various sectors.

· The need for “freestanding” risk reduction and/or preparedness projects.

Informed judgments must be made concerning the likely hazard effects, the adequacy and cost-effectiveness of existing risk reduction and preparedness measures, and on the capacity of all concerned to act on these measures. Appendix 2B of the manual lists what to consider in this appraisal.

The appraisal will be the basis for the inclusion of disaster-related concerns in the UNDP Advisory Note and Administrator’s Note, which draw on or address the issues listed in panel 2B/1 of the manual. They may also refer to UNDP’s policy with respect to reaching the objectives of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.

Panel 2B/1 Elements to be explicitly considered during the early stages of country programme development.

UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Manual.

Panel 2B/1
Elements to be explicitly considered during the early stages of country programme development.

· The experience of recent disasters.

· The extent to which the relationship between hazards and socio-economic objectives is explicitly addressed in national development plan, sectoral or multi-sectoral studies.

· The effects of natural disasters on past development activities, including those funded by UNDP through the country programme.

· Discussions in World Bank Consultative Group meetings, and UNDP-assisted Round Tables, that underscored the link between disaster and development.

· The options available (or reducing overall socio-economic losses and setbacks to development by integrating risk reduction and preparedness measures into general development activities.

· Specific possibilities for reducing risks and enhancing national and local-level preparedness through technical assistance within sectoral programmes.

· The availability of national and international resources for mitigation.

· The possible usefulness of technical assistance to assess needs in disaster mitigation.

· The institutional arrangements for inter-sectoral co-ordination of disaster mitigation activities.

Q. Choose one sector with which you are familiar, such as housing, health, agriculture, etc. Then, with this sector in mind, analyze your own experiences and responsibilities with the elements in Panel 2B/1.


Identify the most recent major disaster in your country. ________________

Is the extent of the relationship between hazards and socio-economic objectives explicitly addressed in national development plan, sectoral or multi-sectoral studies? __________________________________________

What have been the effects of natural disasters on past development activities? ____________________________________________________

Are there discussions in World Bank Consultative Group meetings and UNDP-assisted Round Tables that underscore the link between disaster and development? _________________________________________________

What are the options available for reducing overall socio-economic losses and setbacks to development by integrating risk reduction and preparedness measures into general development activities? ______________________

Identify one specific possibility for reducing risks and enhancing national and local-level preparedness through technical assistance within sectoral programs. ____________________________________________________

What is the availability of national and international resources for mitigation?

What is the possible usefulness of technical assistance to assess needs in disaster mitigation? _____________________________________________

What institutional arrangements exist for inter-sectoral coordination of disaster mitigation activities? ______________________________________

Sources of information: needs for technical expertise

The integration of all elements involved in risk assessment is a complex, multidisciplinary task. The resident representative, in collaboration with other members of the UN-DMT, should:

a) Determine whether the relevant government ministries or other organizations have already compiled relevant risk assessment data, or whether they are capable of doing so.

b) Review the available information, and identify any gaps or inadequacies in the available information.

Where more data collection and analysis is required, the resident representative and the UN-DMT should:

a) Identify in-country and regional institutions that could be approached to gather and consolidate the required data.

b) Encourage the Government to begin the required studies.

c) Define requirements for technical assistance in data gathering and analysis, where needed.

Technical assistance from UNDRO should be requested as necessary.

The analysis should be undertaken before the Advisory Note is prepared, where possible. With Government and UNDP Headquarters consent, SPR funds may be made available for this purpose if required.

The analysis and the consequent discussions with the government and other concerned agencies should lead to the definition of a strategy that addresses disaster-related issues in the country program.

Project identification and formulation

Project identification and selection must take into account hazard-related risks and national mitigation policies and strategies. There are two contexts to consider:

a) Possible interaction between proposed projects in all sectors, and known hazards in the project areas. The chief aim of such projects is improvement in the sector concerned. But because a project is in a known hazard area, it must:

· Be protected from the hazard
· Not increase the vulnerability of the population to the hazard
· Not worsen the existing hazard or create a new one.

b) Possible need for “freestanding” disaster mitigation projects to reduce the risk of disaster or enhance national preparedness. The chief aim of such projects is to improve some aspect of disaster management - for example to prepare national and local-level preparedness plans, or to equip and train officials and community leaders for effective disaster response.

Freestanding disaster mitigation projects aim at reducing the risk of disaster by reducing or eliminating the hazard or society’s vulnerability to it, or by increasing the capacities of organizations, officials, and communities to prepare for and respond to the hazard. Such projects can be placed within one organizational sector, for example a Ministry of Health or Interior. However, the “multi-sectoral” impact of disasters makes it more appropriate to place the project in more than one sector, or under the domain of a lead entity responsible for coordinating multiple sectors.

Typical freestanding disaster mitigation projects are:

a) Institution-building projects which strengthen the capacity of governmental institutions to incorporate disaster management considerations in the planning process, or to undertake risk assessment.

b) Projects to prepare national or sub-national disaster preparedness plans, develop warning and response mechanisms, and ensure the necessary training.

c) Projects to introduce or strengthen particular kinds of protective measures, such as controlling floods or introducing cyclone- or earthquake-resistant construction.

d) Projects to strengthen famine early warning systems, and the links between these systems and disaster management bodies, in countries prone to drought, crop failure, and uncertain food supply.

Projects which have one or more aspects of disaster mitigation as their principal objective should normally be designed by - or at least be developed in consultation with - UNDRO.

Disaster risk appraisal of all projects in hazardous areas

Projects whose activities are located in known hazardous areas must be appraised from a disaster risk perspective, regardless of their sector or institutional framework. This is the same approach used to review projects from an environmental perspective, or from a women-in-development perspective. This applies to the reviews conducted at both field and headquarters levels. While it may be easy to see the necessity for incorporating risk reduction in a project involving the construction of infrastructure, it also applies to institution-building projects. For example, health personnel should be trained in how to deal with the aftermath of a disaster, and school teachers should be involved in organizing their communities’ response to warnings.

Appraisals must consider whether the project and its outputs might be adversely affected by, and therefore need to be protected against, a hazard; whether it will increase the vulnerability of the population in the area, or worsen the existing hazard or create a new one.

The appraisal must determine whether adequate safeguards - possibly including specific risk reduction measures - are built into the project, and if not, what further steps should be taken to assure that they are.

The “Disasters and Development” (DAD) Project Review Form (Appendix 2B of the manual) should be completed and attached to the Project Document for use in project reviews and evaluations. The results of the appraisal should be reflected in sections D and J of the PFF, and B6(f) and F of the Project Document.

If a project can make a significant contribution to risk reduction (directly or indirectly), this should be so noted in sections of both the PFF and the Project Document as a “problem to be addressed.” This should also be noted as a project objective, and the corresponding outputs, activities and inputs be specified.

UNDRO should be invited to review and comment, from a risk perspective, on projects whose activities would be located in areas prone to sudden disasters (natural or technological).


Disaster risk reduction planning checklist for UNDP country programme purpose.

From Appendix 2A, UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Manual.

In order to appraise disaster mitigation needs, policies, and capacity, an informed judgment must be made concerning likely hazards and their effects, the adequacy and cost-effectiveness of existing risk reduction and preparedness measures, and the ability of all concerned to act on these measures. This checklist shows what to consider in this appraisal.

National policies towards disaster risks and development planning

Are hazard-related risks considered in development planning? Is there a policy for risk reduction: At national level? For specific disaster-prone areas?

Are there institutional mechanisms to integrate risk concerns into development planning and ensure inter-sectoral co-ordination?

If/when new human settlements are planned, are natural hazards and risk of disaster considered, and appropriate measures built into the planning?

Awareness and analysis of risks and options

What is the level of awareness of the hazard-related risks among officials in central planning and sectoral bodies?

What impact have disasters (and all forms of hazard impacts) had on development efforts and on the situation of the most vulnerable groups in society?

Have data on known hazards (natural and human-made) been analysed? Have hazard maps been prepared? Are the data and maps updated as hazard conditions change, or as new populations or economic activities move into the hazardous areas?

Have the populations, infrastructure, agricultural and industrial economic assets, essential services, and development programmes and investments at risk been fully identified?

Have specific estimates been made of the likely social and economic effects of particular hazard impacts on the various elements at risk and on the society as a whole?

What measures have been taken, or are planned, to reduce the risks? How effective are they? Have additional specific measures been identified as feasible options? Why have they not been adopted or implemented yet?

Institutional arrangements for disaster management

What arrangements exist at national level? Is there an entity in the national government with specific responsibility for all phases of disaster management? Is it adequately staffed, trained, and funded? Is it properly placed within the government structure?

Are there specific entities at the regional, subregional, and community levels specifically responsible for disaster management? Are they adequately staffed, trained, and funded?

Warning and other preparedness measures

Are mechanisms in place that can issue warnings of disaster threats to populations at risk? Are warnings given with sufficient lead time? Do they make clear the risks involved and the action to take?

Are there established arrangements at local and national levels? Are all concerned aware of their responsibilities, the procedures to follow, and arrangements for coordination? Are these plans widely understood and regularly tested?

Are there adequate communications systems, including back-up systems, for use in disaster response?

Human resources for disaster management

Is there a training programme for disaster managers?

Is there a public information and education programme?

Disasters and Development (DAD) Project Review Form


From Appendix 2B, UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Manual. - DRAFT for experimental use.

* Form completed as an attachment to:

Prodoc/Annual Review/Evaluation/Other ___________________________________________


Project no. and title


Proposed UNDP budget

Expected duration


Geographical location

Disaster history (summary) of the location/area: [Type; frequency (every ____ months/years or unpredictable); effects: last occurred]:

The underlying and direct causes of the vulnerability of the society to the known hazards:

Effects which hazards could have on project structures and activities: how these have been taken into account in project design. [Which elements are vulnerable and what will be done to reduce the vulnerability):

The effect the project will have on current vulnerability and risks:

Additional activities which could be promoted/undertaken within, or in parallel with, the project which would contribute to reducing vulnerability and risks:




* Use this form during project formulation, at the time of approval, and for annual reviews and evaluation for projects whose objectives, outputs and activities are set in disaster-prone areas. Attach it to the corresponding documentation.

Appendix - GA Resolution 46/182, Strengthening of the Coordination of Humanitarian Emergency Assistance of the United Nations


17 December 1991


Forty-sixth session
Agenda item 143


Sweden: draft resolution

The General Assembly,

Recalling its resolution 2816 (XXVI) of 14 December 1971, and its subsequent resolutions and decisions on humanitarian assistance, including its resolution 45/100 of 14 December 1990,

Recalling also its resolution 44/236 of 22 December 1989, the annex to which contains the International Framework of Action for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction,

Deeply concerned about the suffering of the victims of disasters and emergency situations, the loss in human lives, the flow of refugees, the mass displacement of people and the material destruction,

Mindful of the need to strengthen further and make more effective the collective efforts of the international community, in particular the United Nations system, in providing humanitarian assistance,

Taking note with satisfaction of the report of the Secretary-General on the review of the capacity, experience and coordination arrangements in the United Nations system for humanitarian assistance, 1/

1. Adopts the text contained in the annex to the present resolution for the strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations system;

2. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its forty-seventh session on the implementation of the present resolution.


91-49579 4069Z (E)


1. Humanitarian assistance is of cardinal importance for the victims of natural disasters and other emergencies.

2. Humanitarian assistance must be provided in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality.

3. The sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of States must be fully respected in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. In this context, humanitarian assistance should be provided with the consent of the affected country and in principle on the basis of an appeal by the affected country.

4. Each State has the responsibility first and foremost to take care of the victims of natural disasters and other emergencies occurring on its territory. Hence, the affected State has the primary role in the initiation, organization, coordination, and implementation of humanitarian assistance within its territory.

5. The magnitude and duration of many emergencies may be beyond the response capacity of many affected countries. International cooperation to address emergency situations and to strengthen the response capacity of affected countries is thus of great importance. Such cooperation should be provided in accordance with international law and national laws. Intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations working impartially and with strictly humanitarian motives should continue to make a significant contribution in supplementing national efforts.

6. States whose populations are in need of humanitarian assistance are called upon to facilitate the work of these organizations in implementing humanitarian assistance, in particular the supply of food, medicines, shelter and health care, for which access to victims is essential.

7. States in proximity to emergencies are urged to participate closely with the affected countries in international efforts, with a view to facilitating, to the extant possible, the transit of humanitarian assistance.

8. Special attention should be given to disaster prevention and preparedness by the Governments concerned, as well as by the international community.

9. There is a clear relationship between emergency, rehabilitation and development. In order to ensure a smooth transition from relief to rehabilitation and development, emergency assistance should be provided in ways that will be supportive of recovery and long-term development. Thus, emergency measures should be seen as a step towards long-term development.

10. Economic growth and sustainable development are essential for prevention of and preparedness against natural disasters and other emergencies. Many emergencies reflect the underlying crisis in development facing developing countries. Humanitarian assistance should therefore be accompanied by a renewal of commitment to economic growth and sustainable development of developing countries. In this context, adequate resources must be made available to address their development problems.

11. Contributions for humanitarian assistance should be provided in a way which is not to the detriment of resources made available for international cooperation for development.

12. The United Nations has a central and unique role to play in providing leadership and coordinating the efforts of the international community to support the affected countries. The United Nations should ensure the prompt · and smooth delivery of relief assistance in full respect of the above-mentioned principles, bearing in mind also relevant General Assembly resolutions, including resolutions 2816 (XXVI) and 45/100. The United Nations system needs to be adapted and strengthened to meet present and future challenges in an effective and coherent manner. It should be provided with resources commensurate with future requirements. The inadequacy of such resources has been one of the major constraints in the effective response of the United Nations to emergencies.


13. The international community should adequately assist developing countries in strengthening their capacity in disaster prevention and mitigation, both at the national and regional levels, for example, in establishing and enhancing integrated programmes in this regard.

14. In order to reduce the impact of disasters there should, be increased awareness of the need for establishing disaster mitigation strategies, particularly in disaster-prone countries. There should be greater exchange and dissemination of existing and new technical information related to the assessment, prediction and mitigation of disasters. As called for in the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, efforts should be intensified to develop measures for prevention and mitigation of natural disasters and similar emergencies through programmes of technical assistance and modalities for favourable access to, and transfer of, relevant technology.

15. The disaster management training programme recently initiated by the Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator and the United Nations Development Programme should be strengthened and broadened.

16. Organizations of the United Nations system involved in the funding and the provision of assistance relevant to the prevention of emergencies should be provided with sufficient and readily available resources.

17. The international community is urged to provide the necessary support and resources to programmes and activities undertaken to further the goals and objectives of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.


18. International relief assistance should supplement national efforts to improve the capacities of developing countries to mitigate the effects of natural disasters expeditiously and effectively and to cope efficiently with all emergencies. The United Nations should enhance its efforts to assist developing countries to strengthen their capacity to respond to disasters, at the national and regional levels, as appropriate.

Early warning

19. On the basis of existing mandates and drawing upon monitoring arrangements available within the system, the United Nations should intensify efforts, building upon the existing capacities of relevant organizations and entities of the United Nations, for the systematic pooling, analysis and dissemination of early-warning information on natural disasters and other emergencies. In this context, the United Nations should consider making use as appropriate of the early-warning capacities of Governments and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

20. Early-warning information should be made available in an unrestricted and timely manner to all interested Governments and concerned authorities, in particular of affected or disaster-prone countries. The capacity of disaster-prone countries to receive, use and disseminate this information should be strengthened. In this connection, the international community is urged to assist these countries upon request with the establishment and enhancement of national early-warning systems.


(a) Contingency funding arrangements

21. Organizations and entities of the United Nations system should continue to respond to requests for emergency assistance within their respective mandates. Reserve and other contingency funding arrangements of these organizations and entities should be examined by their respective governing bodies to strengthen further their operational capacities for rapid and coordinated response to emergencies.

22. In addition, there is a need for a complementary central funding mechanism to ensure the provision of adequate resources for use in the initial phase of emergencies that require a system-wide response.

23. To that and, the Secretary-General should establish under his authority a central emergency revolving fund as a cash-flow mechanism to ensure the rapid and coordinated response of the organizations of the system.

24. This fund should be put into operation with an amount of 50 million United States dollars. The fund should be financed by voluntary contributions. Consultations among potential donors should be held to this end. To achieve this target, the Secretary-General should launch an appeal to potential donors and convene a meeting of those donors in the first quarter of 1992 to secure contributions to the fund on an assured, broad-based and additional basis.

25. Resources should be advanced to the operational organizations of the system on the understanding that they would reimburse the fund in the first instance from the voluntary contributions received in response to consolidated appeals.

26. The operation of the fund should be reviewed after two years.

(b) Additional measures for rapid response

27. The United Nations’ should, building upon the existing capacities of relevant organizations, establish a central register of all specialized personnel and teams of technical specialists, as well as relief supplies, equipment and services available within the United Nations system and from Governments and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, that can be called upon at short notice by the United Nations.

28. The United Nations should continue to make appropriate arrangements with interested Governments and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to enable it to have more expeditious access, when necessary, to their emergency relief capacities, including food reserves, emergency stockpiles and personnel, as well as logistic support. In the context of the annual report to the General Assembly mentioned in paragraph 35 (i) below, the Secretary-General is requested to report on progress in this regard.

29. Special emergency rules and procedures should be developed by the United Nations to enable all organizations to disburse quickly emergency funds, and to procure emergency supplies and equipment, as well as to recruit emergency staff.

30. Disaster-prone countries should develop special emergency procedures to expedite the rapid procurement and deployment of equipment and relief supplies.


31. For emergencies requiring a coordinated response, the Secretary-General should ensure that an initial consolidated appeal covering all concerned organizations of the system, prepared in consultation with the affected State, is issued within the shortest possible time and in any event not longer than one week. In the case of prolonged emergencies, this initial appeal should be updated and elaborated within four weeks, as more information becomes available.

32. Potential donors should adopt necessary measures to increase and expedite their contributions, including setting aside, on a stand-by basis, financial and other resources that can be disbursed quickly to the United Nations system in response to the consolidated appeals of the Secretary-General.


(a) Leadership of the Secretary-General

33. The leadership role of the Secretary-General is critical and must be strengthened to ensure better preparation for, as well as rapid and coherent response to, natural disasters and other emergencies. This should be achieved through coordinated support for prevention and preparedness measures and the optimal utilization of, inter alia, an inter-agency standing committee, consolidated appeals, a central emergency revolving fund and a register of stand-by capacities.

34. To this end, and on the understanding that the requisite resources envisaged in paragraph 24 above would be provided, a high-level official, emergency relief coordinator, would be designated by the Secretary-General to work closely with and with direct access to him, in cooperation with the relevant organizations and entities of the system dealing with humanitarian assistance and in full respect of their mandates, without prejudice to any decisions to be taken by the General Assembly on the overall restructuring of the Secretariat of the United Nations. This high-level official should combine the functions at present carried out in the coordination of United Nations response by representatives of the Secretary-General for major and complex emergencies, as well as by the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator.

35. Under the aegis of the General Assembly and working under the direction of the Secretary-General, the high-level official would have the following responsibilities:

(a) Processing requests from affected Member States for emergency assistance requiring a coordinated response;

(b) Maintaining an overview of all emergencies through, inter alia, the systematic pooling and analysis of early-warning information as envisaged in paragraph 19 above, with a view to coordinating and facilitating the humanitarian resistance of the United Nations system to those emergencies that require a coordinated response;

(c) Organizing, in consultation with the Government of the affected country, a joint inter-agency needs-assessment mission and preparing a consolidated appeal to be issued by the Secretary-General, to be followed by periodic situation reports including information on all sources of external assistance;

(d) Actively facilitating, including through negotiation if needed, the access by the operational organizations to emergency areas for the rapid provision of emergency assistance by obtaining the consent of all parties concerned, through modalities such as the establishment of temporary relief corridors where needed, days and zones of tranquillity and other forms;

(e) Managing, in consultation with the operational organizations concerned, the central emergency revolving fund and assisting in the mobilization of resources;

(f) Serving as a central focal point with Governments and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations concerning United Nations emergency relief operations and, when appropriate and necessary, mobilizing their emergency relief capacities, including through consultations in his capacity as Chairman of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee;

(g) Providing consolidated information, including early warning on emergencies, to all interested Governments and concerned authorities, particularly affected and disaster-prone countries, drawing on the capacities of the organizations of the system and other available sources;

(h) Actively promoting, in close collaboration with concerned organizations, the smooth transition from relief to rehabilitation and reconstruction as relief operations under his aegis are phased out;

(i) Preparing an annual report for the Secretary-General on the coordination of humanitarian emergency assistance, including information on the central emergency revolving fund, to be submitted to the General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council.

36. The high-level official should be supported by a secretariat based on a strengthened Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator and the consolidation of existing offices that deal with complex emergencies. This secretariat could be supplemented by staff seconded from concerned organizations of the system. The high-level official should work closely with organizations and entities of the United Nations system, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross, the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Organization for Migration and relevant non-governmental organizations. At the country level, the high-level official would maintain close contact with and provide leadership to the resident coordinators on matters relating to humanitarian assistance.

37. The Secretary-General should ensure that arrangements between the high-level official and all relevant organizations are set in place, establishing responsibilities for prompt and coordinated action in the event of emergency.

(b) Inter-Agency Standing Committee

38. An Inter-Agency Standing Committee serviced by a strengthened Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator should be established under the chairmanship of the high-level official with the participation of all operational organizations and with a standing invitation to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the League of the Red Cross Societies, and the International Organization for Migration. Relevant non-governmental organizations can be invited to participate on an ad hoc basis. The Committee should meet as soon as possible in response to emergencies.

(c) Country-level coordination

39. Within the overall framework described above and in support of the efforts of the affected countries, the resident coordinator should normally coordinate the humanitarian assistance of the United Nations system at the country level. He/She should facilitate the preparedness of the United Nations system and assist in a speedy transition from relief to development. He/She should promote the use of all locally or regionally available relief capacities. The resident coordinator should chair an emergency operations group of field representatives and experts from the system.


40. Emergency assistance must be provided in ways that will be supportive of recovery and long-term development. Development assistance organizations of the United Nations system should be involved at an early stage and should collaborate closely with those responsible for emergency relief and recovery, within their existing mandates.

41. International cooperation and support for rehabilitation and reconstruction should continue with sustained intensity after the initial relief stage. The rehabilitation phase should be used as an opportunity to restructure and improve facilities and services destroyed by emergencies in order to enable them to withstand the impact of future emergencies.

42. International cooperation should be accelerated for the development of developing countries, thereby contributing to reducing the occurrence and impact of future disasters and emergencies.