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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


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.