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close this bookDisaster Preparedness - 2nd Edition (DHA/UNDRO - DMTP - UNDP, 1994, 66 p.)
close this folderPART 1 - Planning for disaster preparedness
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentVulnerability assessment
View the documentPlanning
View the documentInstitutional structure
View the documentInformation systems
View the documentResource base
View the documentWarning systems
View the documentResponse mechanisms
View the documentPublic education and training
View the documentRehearsals
View the documentCASE STUDY
View the documentSUMMARY

Vulnerability assessment

Disaster Preparedness Framework








Public Education
and Training


In most instances, you can identify particular geographical areas or communities that are predictably under threat from a hazard. These may include traditionally drought-prone areas, or communities living near volcanos or in flood-prone areas. They could be squatter settlements in which housing structures are known to be vulnerable to hurricanes, or communities unprotected from industrial waste. However, vulnerability need not be tied to particular geographic locations or communities. Displaced people, forced to flee from conflict or collapsing economic conditions, represent a community of sorts that can fall within the purview of vulnerability assessments. Vulnerability assessments are valuable tools for establishing an essential disaster management plan.

Vulnerability analysis is a continuing, dynamic process of people and organizations assessing the hazards and risks they face and determining what they wish to do about them, if anything. Vulnerability assessment also includes a means of structured data collection geared towards understanding the levels of potential threats, needs and immediately available resources. Assessment includes two general categories of information. The first is relatively static infrastructure information that provides bases for determining the extent of development, types of physical advantages and disadvantages faced by communities residing in an area, and a “map” of available structures (such as roads and hospitals) that might be useful in times of emergencies. The other category includes relatively dynamic socioeconomic data indicating causes and levels of vulnerability, demographic shirts and types of economic activity.

There is nothing mysterious about the concept of vulnerability assessments,1 Their initial objective is to establish a data base that focuses upon the likely effects of potential hazards, relief needs and available resources. Vulnerability assessments should be linked with development interventions. When communities are determined to be vulnerable, development assistance may obviate the need for emergency assistance.

1 See also the Disaster Management Training Programme module, Vulnerability and Risk Assessment.

There are three main reasons why assessing vulnerability is critical for disaster preparedness. First, accurate vulnerability assessments serve as a means to inform decision-makers about the utility of national and local level approaches to disaster preparedness.

Vulnerability assessments should serve as the basis for a more continuous “habit” of monitoring trends in physical, socioeconomic and infrastructure conditions of disaster-prone countries.

Second, decision-makers are usually aware of disaster propensities within their own countries. However, until the dimensions of the disaster threat and levels of preparedness or unpreparedness are fully appreciated, there may not be an effective starting point upon which to construct an overall plan.

Third, vulnerability assessments should serve as the basis for a more continuous “habit” of monitoring trends in physical, socioeconomic and infrastructure conditions of disaster-prone countries. In that sense, the initial effort of developing a data base through vulnerability assessments should become the basis for maintaining and updating an essential informational tool for development planning purposes.

On a technical level, vulnerability assessments serve as the starting point for determining the types of plans that should be developed as part of a national disaster preparedness strategy. For example, it is useful to know that people living on the deltaic coastline of Bangladesh are vulnerable to tropical storms. However, such information is of little use unless you also know the seasonal migration patterns of these people, whether or not those who till the land normally bring their families to the delta, and the number of two-story buildings in the area.

Q. Why should vulnerability assessments serve as the basis for a more continuous “habit” of monitoring trends in physical, socioeconomic and infrastructure conditions of disaster-prone countries?

A. __________________________________________________________



Because information-gathering for disaster preparedness is a dynamic, on-going process.