Saving life and reducing economic disruption
The worst effects of any disaster are the deaths and injuries
caused. The scale of disasters and the number of people they kill are the
primary justifications for mitigation. Understanding the way that people are
killed and injured in disasters is a prerequisite for reducing casualties. Among
the sudden onset disasters, floods and earthquakes cause the most casualties
worldwide, with storms and high winds being less deadly but far more widespread.
In earthquakes over 75% of fatalities are caused by building
collapse. In floods deaths occur by drowning, mainly outdoors and in fast
flowing currents or in turbulent water. Saving lives in earthquakes means
focussing on prevention of building collapse. Reducing fatalities from floods
means limiting the exposure of people to rapid inundation - either by keeping
people out of the track of potential water flows or by preventing the flows from
The consequences of physical damage are often more
important than the damage itself.
The consequences of physical damage are often more important
than the damage itself. A damaged factory can no longer continue to manufacture.
The company may not survive the loss. The people it employs may lose their jobs.
The jobless have no income to spend in their local shops and the whole local
economy suffers. Damage to infrastructure and to the means of production
depresses the economy.
Mitigation also entails the protection of the economy from
disasters. Economic activity in the more industrialized societies is complex and
interdependent, with service industries dependent on manufacturing, which in
turn relies on supplies of raw materials, labor, power and communications. This
complex interdependency is extremely vulnerable to disruption by hazards
affecting any one link in the chain. Newly industrializing societies are most
vulnerable of all.
Agricultural sectors of the economy are most vulnerable to
drought but also to floods and high winds, disease and pest attack and
pollution. Industry is more vulnerable to earthquake damage and the disruption
of transportation and utilities networks. Commerce and finance are most
vulnerable to disruption of production, population migration and to breakdowns
in communications systems. Mitigation measures that focus on protecting the most
vulnerable elements and activities - the weakest links - in the different
sectors of the economy will help protect the achievements of economic