|Vulnerability and Risk Assessment - 2nd Edition (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - Disaster Management Training Programme - United Nations Development Programme , 1994, 70 p.)|
|Part 2 - Assessing risk and vulnerability|
It is sometimes argued that using risk concepts in disaster mitigation is too hazard-specific. In a classic risk analysis, the hazard is first identified, then the probability of that hazard occurring is estimated, the vulnerability that relates to that hazard is then identified, and finally action is taken to reduce vulnerability. In this way of doing things, if a hazard happens that has not been foreseen, the disaster mitigation program may not protect against it. It is clearly impossible to predict every disaster hazard. Any society faces a wide range of potential hazards - one thing that characterizes disasters is that however carefully they are planned for, they are always surprising. Yet many of the elements of the vulnerability for different hazards are similar.
A strong economy is the best defense against disaster.
The soundest defense against disasters is a society that is generally less vulnerable. Although each hazard works in ways that may selectively damage elements with different characteristics - a flood threatens people in the valleys more than on the high ground, hurricanes blow down lightweight houses but not solid ones - in general the defenses of a community are roughly the same. A strong economy is the best defense against disaster. The objective of programs to reduce vulnerability should be to create a robust society, resistant to hazardous influences in general, rather than one rather narrowly protected against one type of event - an earthquake or a flood. The underlying reasons that make communities vulnerable are the same for any type of disaster, and if it is possible to tackle some of the root causes of vulnerability, the robustness of that society will be improved.
Vulnerability is largely a developmental issue, and vulnerability reduction needs to be carried out within a developmental context.
The linkage between disasters and economic development is strong. It is the subject of the Disasters and Development module in this training course. The most vulnerable societies are those weakest economically. Similarly the most vulnerable members of each society are those that are economically marginalised. The worst locations to live, the steep landslide-prone hillsides, the riverside flood plains, are the places that the poorest find to live. Houses built for minimal cash cost are most vulnerable to wind storms or earthquakes. The underlying mechanisms that cause vulnerability have to be well understood in order to reduce it. Vulnerability is largely a developmental issue, and vulnerability reduction needs to be carried out within a developmental context. Protection of their resources and improvements in the economic potential of a community or group may be as critical as reducing their vulnerability.