|Natural Disasters and Vulnerability Analysis (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office, 1979, 53 p.)|
Dr. S. T. Algermissen was elected Chairman of the meeting. It was agreed that discussions would take place alternately in plenary session and in two working groups, one to concentrate on geophysical phenomena (earthquakes, volcanoes, earth movements, etc.) and the other to deal with atmospheric phenomena (tropical cyclones, tornadoes, thunderstorms, etc.). Professor N. Ambraseys was elected Chairman of the working group on geophysical phenomena, and Professor J. Dooge was elected Chairman of the working group on atmospheric phenomena. Mr. P. J. Meade was appointed Rapporteur.
The Chairman initiated a general discussion on the questions the meeting needed to examine, and invited UNDRO representatives to give additional guidance or explanations on detailed aspects of vulnerability analysis.
The Chairman then called upon the representatives of other organizations (see Annex II) to make statements. All statements agreed on the importance of the questions to be considered by the meeting and examples were given of the necessity to carry out vulnerability analysis during the pre-investment stage of development projects in disaster-prone countries.
In view of its special relevance to the work of the meeting, the Chairman asked Mr. Fournier dAlbe (UNESCO) to describe the UNESCO programme on earthquakes which had been in operation for some 18 years. Mr. Fournier dAlbe said that the programme had evolved from a purely scientific programme in seismology to a widely multi-disciplinary attack on the problem of earthquake risk management. He outlined the steps by which it had been possible to arrive firstly, at an assessment of earthquake hazard in terms of describing ground motion which could be used directly by engineers in the design of earthquake resistant structures; secondly, at an assessment of the vulnerability of human lives, property, productive capacity, etc., to seismic ground movements; and, finally, at an assessment of risks, defined as a probability of loss, as well as the use of this risk assessment in pre-disaster planning, notably in the elaboration of long-term preventive measures. UNESCOs programme on natural hazards also included work on volcanic eruptions and landslides, in which a similar approach had been adopted. Mr. Fournier dAlbe felt that, despite differences in vocabulary, UNESCO and UNDRO had in fact evolved similar methodologies and that it should not be difficult at this meeting to reach agreement on common concepts and terminology for work on natural hazards.
The representatives of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) explained that three of WMOs programmes, the World Weather Watch Programme, the Tropical Cyclone Programme and the Operational Hydrology Programme, would contribute directly to the scientific data and techniques required for vulnerability analysis. Within these programmes, WMO carried out a project financed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1974/1975 on the quantitative evaluation of disaster risks from tropical cyclones. The report on this project had been published as WMO Special Environmental Report No. 8. A sequel to this report was a WMO/UNEP project, begun in 1976, to test techniques of flood risk evaluation in 6 countries in Central America, and to plan and implement measures to minimize loss of life and material damage caused by hurricanes. This project was completed in 1978 and had yielded valuable results. In 1979 WMO launched a Hydrological Operational Multipurpose Sub-programme (HOMS) which included a component in flood-risk mapping.
The representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) described the role of UNDP in the field of technical co-operation and the work of the UNDP Offices in developing countries. These Offices acted on behalf of UNDRO in the event of a natural disaster. He added that in the various developing countries, the Resident Representative of UNDP was responsible for 5-year country programmes and was therefore closely concerned with considerations of disaster prevention and preparedness. It should be noted that by virtue of a formal agreement between the Disaster Relief Co-ordinator and the Administrator of UNDP, the UNDP Resident Representative was also the UNDRO representative in the field.
The representative of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (HABITAT) said that the activities of his organization had mainly consisted of technical co-operation with governments to prepare plans for medium range and long range post-disaster reconstruction, particularly housing construction. Projects had included:
- physical planning for reconstruction and development after earthquakes;
- housing and building reconstruction after earthquakes;
- housing reconstruction after hurricanes and floods.
A small number of publications* had also been produced in the area of earthquake-resistant housing design and construction techniques. Currently under consideration was the creation in HABITAT of a Task Force on Disasters to provide timely advice on planning and building in the immediate aftermath of disaster, and also on the formulation of project proposals for longer term planning and reconstruction.
* See Annex V.
In the general discussion it was explained that a common methodology in vulnerability and risk assessment was required for scientists, planners, engineers and developers alike. It was agreed that existing UNDRO publications (see Annex V) should serve as a background to the work of the meeting and should also, as necessary, be critically reviewed. One recommendation of the meeting might be that UNDRO should consider whether any of these publications should be revised and updated.
A discussion followed on composite vulnerability analysis*, questioning its relevance and applicability. There was a general feeling that information should be provided separately on the nature and degree of the risks from each phenomenon even if a composite map were constructed in addition.
* Composite vulnerability analysis: simultaneous assessment of different natural hazards in a given location expressed as one total (or composite) risk.
The meeting, before proceeding to separate discussions in working groups and taking into account the points highlighted in the opening statements of the Co-ordinator and of the Director of the Relief Co-ordination, Preparedness and Prevention Division, agreed that the main questions for detailed consideration were as follows:
1. Clarification of concepts concerning risk and vulnerability,
2. Advice on what types of information were required to assess risk and vulnerability,
3. Advice on methods and techniques to use such information for pre-disaster physical planning and building,
4. Advice on (inter alia):
a) composite risk analysis, and scales of analysis (for example seismic microzonation);
b) risk mapping, extrapolating risk information into planning and building recommendations and/or constraints;
5. Advice on:
a) UNDROs role in the promotion and development of vulnerability analysis techniques, particularly among the U.N. Agencies;
b) the training of teams in damage assessment, risk evaluation and mitigation in disaster-prone developing countries.
The meeting accepted that an important issue was the interface between science and planning. A major objective would therefore be the provision of straightforward, practicable techniques for evaluating risk and vulnerability for planning purposes.