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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.)
close this folderChapter 13. Mitigation 1
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentTargeting mitigation where it has most effect
View the documentActions to reduce risk
View the documentThe menu of mitigation actions
View the documentClassification of mitigation measures
View the documentTiming for mitigation

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.