Issues related to emergencies hazards and risks

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Various researchers have worked on issues related to emergencies, hazards and risks etc. These issues are interdisciplinary and interdependent. In literature review chapter the objective is to know about their study and results they derived from their research. Efforts of institutions like United Nation and programmes launched in this field are also documented in this chapter.

History of research on Emergency preparedness

Samuel prince's doctoral dissertation in 1920 , in which he invested the response to the 1917 Halifax shipping explosion , has had an enormous impact on emergency research (Scanlon, 1988;Scanlon et al. 2001).

In 1942 the first theoretical research was done by Pitrim Sorokin in "Man and society in calamity". Sorokin found a promising direction for resolving crisis' in a calamity situation by developing integral knowledge and values culture into personal and collective action in social organistion (Ford et al. 1996)

Classical notions were contributed by :

Fritz in 1961 (restorative community: a collaborative effort with a mission to build the capacity and sustainability of organisations, initiatives and networks);

Thompson et al. in 1962 (artificial community: accidentally come together for short time); Thompson et al. in 1962 (mass assault: a violent onset or attack on a community by physical means);

Barton in 1969 (unselfish community: deliberate pursuit of the interests or welfare of others or the public interest);

Taylor et al. in 1970 (the utopian community: an ideal community or society);

Parr in 1970 (emergencey: the act of emerging a disaster response structure);

Bardo in 1978 (emergency behaviour: communities operate in an environment, forming more complex behaviours collectivly).


According to Encyclopedia Britannica, "Disaster is the group of two words "dis" means Bad and "aster" means Star. This means disaster caused when stars comes in bad position. Disaster means a natural and manmade emergency that negatively affects society or environment".

Jeffery 1981 "Emergencies are now very common feature of human life & extreme events can happen any time."

The definition given by Quarantille in his book (what is disaster by Quarantille 1984) is varied and detailed and can be inferred as "emergencies are social in character".

Another researcher Gilbert defines it as a "state of uncertainty". Fritz (1961) interpreted it as "a state in which social life get disturbed"

Sociologist define emergencies in social, economic, cultural aspects whereas geophysical scientist & engineers give different perspectives of emergencies.

According to Leo Buscaglia "Normal adjustments of earth are hazardous to human. Internal and external process of the earth causes natural hazard that destroy human, wildlife and property. Natural hazards include earthquakes, volcanoes, flood, drought, solar flare and asteroids impacts. On These two big forces, we have very little control over external forces. What really matters is the internal force. How do we respond to them?'

Studies conducted in this field

The United Nations launched a study program to aware people to get prepared against emergencies. The study stated that:

To increase the capacity to mitigate the emergencies of every country, with special attention being given to assisting developing countries in assessing disaster damage potential, and in establishing early warning systems and disaster-resistant structures.

To apply scientific technology for preparing strategies considering the cultural and economic diversity of the country.

To encourage scientific and engineering endeavor aimed at addressing gaps in knowledge so that loss of life and assets get reduce.

To spread latest and existing technical information related to measures for assessing, predicting and mitigating natural disasters.

Transfer of technology, demonstration of projects, education and training, and to evaluate the effectiveness of those programmes is another important aspect of emergency preparedness.

In 1994 the member countries of the United Nations launched a program for Strategy and action plan for a Safer World, which provided the guidelines for disaster prevention, preparedness and mitigation. The Yokohama strategy emphasizes the following issues:

Human and institutional capacity-building for quick response during disaster

Compilation and sharing of information via networking at regional, national and international level

Risk assessment as well as the monitoring and communication of forecasts should be done at appropriate time

Sub-regional, regional and international cooperation is essential

Efficient mobilization of resources is necessary

United Nation's initiatives and in the context of the American continent, the Organization of American States (OAS, 1991) has made a report stating:

In the integrated development process of country, projects for emergency preparedness is one of the priorities of governments.

Policies for risk reduction in evaluating investment projects

Expenditure for prevention activities relating to rehabilitation, relocation and reconstruction are increased.

United Nations Disaster Relief Co-coordinator (1991) stressed that, " To some extent, the task of government of hazard prone countries relates to gathering, processing and presenting data to allow a series of questions to be answered so that decision-makers can formulate successful strategies".

United Nations definitions (1991) to explain, "How risk is assessed?" are provided and a summary is made regarding the disciplines concerned:







Conceptual Flowchart of Risk Assessment

Natural hazard (H) determination includes the estimation of the possibility of occurrence of a potential natural hazard. The disciplines concerned are earth and atmospheric science.

Vulnerability (V) determination involves the estimation of the degree of loss suffered by a set of element at risk , caused because of occurrence of a emergency of a given magnitude and expressed on a scale from 0 (no damage) to 1 (total damage). The disciplines concerned are human geography, construction engineering, etc.

The Elements at risk (E) include the people, infrastructure, public services, other assets, utilities, economic activities etc. at risk in a given area.

Specific risk (Rs) determination involves the estimation of the expected loss from emergency vulnerability (Rs=H·V). The disciplines concerned are human geography, construction engineering, etc.

Risk (Rt) determination involves the estimation of the expected damage or loss of property and human lives and the loss of economic activity due to emergency (Rt=E·Rs). The disciplines concerned are urban planning, urban and human geography, and economy. The flowchart shows the methodology for vulnerability and risk determination leading to economic loss estimation. When such risk has been determined, planners need to decide whether it is within tolerable limits.

Petak and Atkinsson (1982) view acceptable risk in terms of "the size of the gap between the desired state of affairs and perceived reality. In his view the size of this gap determines whether some action must take place. Whenever this gap is small, little or no intervention is necessary. When risk is at "acceptable levels", does not require any government intervention, or it may be "unacceptable", requiring small to massive investments to mitigate the threat to life and property.

Cardona (1997) considers "acceptable risk to be the possible losses that could be accepted by a community in return for a degree of profit or benefit".

The United Nations Disaster Relief Co-coordinator (1984) considers it unacceptable when "a community undergoes severe damage and incurs such losses to its members and physical appurtenances that the social structure is disrupted and the fulfillment of all or some of the essential functions of the society is prevented".

The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (in Smith 1996) at the University of Louvain, Belgium, uses the following criteria for establishing which events are "disastrous":

"100 people dead

1% of the total national population in affected people

1% of the total annual GNP in damage "

The ratio criteria for damage and affected people indicate more accurately the impacts of a disaster on countries with small populations and weak economies and constitute a better way of measuring risk.

On the issue of risk prevention and reduction the Disaster Relief Co-coordinator of United Nation (1991) indicated that, "there are many implementation measures for risk mitigation that must be carefully analyzed. They can be broadly classified into structural and non-structural measures. Non-structural measures involve urban development restrictions as well as educational campaigns, while structural measures involve the modification of the environment."

For risk prevention of flood emergency Gilbert White (White 1936; White 1945), who was the first in the USA to recognize that "structural measures were not the only way to tackle floods. Structural measures include the construction of dykes to provide protection against river or sea floods."

Smith (1996) researched about how to perceive risk and found that "one of the biggest challenges is to resolve the resulting conflict between technical risk analysis and the more subjective risk perception. The degree of perceived risk varies greatly between individuals of the same age and sex, depending upon education, location, occupation and lifestyle. It also varies from country to country as a consequence of educational campaigns".

Sewell et al. in Tobin and Montz 1997 done cost-benefit analysis of emergency preparedness and articulated that "The ever-increasing costs of flood alleviation, cost-benefit analysis was incorporated in the Flood Control Act, which specified that the benefits, to whomsoever they accrue, must justify the costs".

Scope for improvement

Bertz (1994) recommended on need of network for emergency preparedness emphasizes on "the importance of establishing close cooperation between the insurance industry and emergency management agencies".

Kunreuther (1998) suggests that networking is necessary for preparedness and "only through joint efforts with other stakeholders can insurers overcome their problems".

By Kofi Annan, "Natural hazards will always challenge us but, people centered early warning system can be a potent weapon in ensuring that natural hazards do not turn into unmanageable disasters".

Hutington (2001) recommended that "early warning system is a necessity of present era as it plays a pivotal role in avoiding and reducing effects of catastrophes that can change into disaster to large extent".

About the complexity of emergency preparedness Waugh (2000) research report concluded that "emergency management programmes are difficult to design, implement and coordinate for the following reasons:

Emergency management is a low-priority political issue, only getting on the public agenda during or immediately after a emergency. Officials and the public are also quick to forget the lessons learned from disasters and thus are fated to repeat mistakes.

Emergency Preparedness programmes generally do not have strong political constituencies to support effective action and to encourage larger budget allocations. Residents seldom lobby for stronger building codes and more restrictive land-use regulations or vote for funding mitigation measures.

Regulatory efforts to reduce the impact of disasters and to manage known hazards better often meet strong opposition. Without data to substantiate the need for regulatory programmes, with the benefits expressed in dollar terms, there is little to offset the economic costs of regulation.

Emergency Preparedness programmes generally do not have politically influential administrative constituencies. Key personnel are often political appointees and may not remain in office long enough to implement effective counter-disaster programmes. Relatively few elected officials and career public administrators understand and appreciate the importance of disaster management programmes. Disaster managers are often out of the administrative mainstream, in small and ill-funded offices. They may be viewed as lacking recognized technical expertise and administrative skill, and/or the level of education of other officials.

The effectiveness of emergency management policies and programmes is difficult to measure unless there has been an emergency.

The technical complexity of emergency preparedness programmes some times are difficult to explain to the common people and to authorities who decide budgets for such programmes.

The horizontal and vertical fragmentation of the government creates coordination problem and accountability of concerned departments.

Sometimes relationship building is a challenge amongst national, provincial and local agencies because fiscal, administrative and policy-making capacities are different.

The political system is more supportive to programmes that are decentralised and locally self-reliant, particularly in financial matters.

Financial resources for new programmes and initiatives are scarce at any level; unless they are documented to save money .It stimulates public support for action.

Types of hazards are too many so assessment of risk and designing policies, prevention measures and programmes for each is very complicated.

Corsellis et al. 2005, emergency preparedness community should focus on identifying, establishing and developing; and maintaining local and national capacities because they must know their own strengths before (preparedness and contingency planning to identify likely opportunities and constraints in responding to the expected situation), while disaster happens (emergency, care and maintenance to sustain the situation and recovery before next stage) and after (durable solutions and exit strategies for independent survivors) .

O'Keefe et al. 2006, the process of pre-disaster planning is included within the management framework and is fundamental in ensuring an appropriate and well-organised feedback However, the inability of authorities to deal appropriately with a disaster scenario was reasoned as an institutional failure thereby leading to political consequences. Barriers in mitigation and preparedness must be addressed in order to enhance risk reduction strategies.

Policy is presumed to be defined, formulated and implemented locally. Unfortunately, as noted by Wolensky (1990) the limited discourse on local emergency management indicates that this is a particularly problematic area for local policymakers. This is due to the uncertainty of the potential mitigation in benefits and costs. In the absence of the specific predictions regarding future hazards or evidence of future threat, local government is reluctant to invest in preventive measures. Godschalk (1985) emphasised that immediate and potentially significant costs must be addressed in any associated benefits.

Drabek, (1986) Lack of Direction in Organised Support Following a disaster, a special inquiry co

mmission by the government elected is required to report on the situation and make suggestions for improvement. After analysing data and hearing testimony from people involved before, during and after the event, members produce a report, usually with specific recommendations (that may or may not be implemented) regarding how similar disaster can be prevented, avoided or minimised.

Henstra, (2005) In the best interests of the public, problem solving should be undertaken by the government and authorities should be set up as alternatives to existing mitigation plan (physical, social and economic) that should then be able to transform social learning into effective policy responses The route to success requires time and support from disaster victims who are uncertain about their own strength and roles in emergency preparedness.

(Mushkatel et al. 1985) Inter-governmental collaboration is difficult to organise and sustain (Wolensky, 1990) even though this type of collaboration is still considered as an essential key to develop and implement policies for disaster mitigation.

(Prater, 2000) Local government are perhaps best positioned to implement mitigation due to their close proximity to hazards as they control many of the most effective tools to reduce vulnerability to hazards, such as land use regulation and building code enforcement

(Wright et al. 1981) Given that the probability of a disaster in any particular community is low, local officials are not likely to see mitigation as a pressing priority. Moreover, due to most of the financial costs of recovery after a disaster being shouldered by insurers and national governments, local government appear to have weak economic incentives to invest in loss reduction measures.

In the case of a emergency, political agendas emerge as a weapon that broadens the interest by the electronic and print media to draw attention to the situation in an effort to seek immediate actions from other communities(Cigler, 1987). Consequently, post-disaster policies are expanding in terms of government eligibility and budgeting in the future emergency preparedness programmes. Thus, political interest is the most popular agenda when disaster happens rather than an emphasis on preparedness and mitigation efforts in order to win the support from the public (May et al. 1986). For this reason, as suggested by Perry et al. (1984), it is better to make policies for disaster mitigation during normal periods, where there is less political pressure to act quickly and where policy can be formulated without specific reference to the most recent catastrophic events.

Emergency preparedness planning requires support from both the public and local government. The responsibilities of the public do not rely only on the local government. The dynamic role of the public plays the key role in a successful disaster prevention and protection program. Communities, for instance, should find out how to obtain a first-aid kit or out how to get information if a disaster should occur; plan how to evacuate the home in a fire and learn how to deal with crisis reactions (Denis, 1995). They should be aware of food supply sources and take out personal insurance policies (Drabek, 1986; Drabek, 1987).

Emergency preparedness communities prefer to participate in activities or programmes which are not time consuming, cheap and without the need for specific skills. Members of the general public tend to participate in voluntary services to avoid real commitment with authorities if necessary, due to the uncertainty of disaster occurrence and finding no real reason for the need to prepare (Cigler, 1988). Other reasons for lack of action may be that people do not know what they should do, what to prepare if disaster is uncertain. Less public awareness might lead to a backlash where the civilians blame the government for not making them aware of their actions during a disaster situation (Larsson, 1997). The government should come up with a more concrete public awareness programme instead of a simple paper orientation (ICMA, 2003).

Harrald (2006) argued that in terms of preparedness and prevention, it depends much on the level of awareness and the strength of internal institutions to create and maintain a better understanding based on realistic response plans. It is essential to discover capability to initiate reaction and mobilisation in order to obtain access to a better organisational network and resources. Thus, any country must clearly define phases of organisational integration especially with the effort to define which organisation holds greater responsibility to implement emergency preparedness plans. The extent of prior warning is the first move in dealing with an emergency.

(Inam, 1999) Immediate action in any emergency response is crucial in setting up post control; as is mutual understanding and coordination between emergency providers; and formulation of communication networks. Finally, the indicators to measure a successful output in disaster response are identified as rapid action, massive funding, improved working conditions, community outreach and integration of relevant institutions. End products are expected to reach the disaster victims in a correct manner that in turn depends on organisational productivity.

Williams et al. (2000) argued that the government should always notice levels of improvement in the engagement programme as a result of this learning process.

Ozceylan et al. (2008) concluded the notion by identifying six formulas of success in emergency management that would act as a universal national emergency management mechanism. A model of an ideal emergency management mechanism is influenced by technological factors, cultural factors, socio-economical factors, organisational factors, political factors and risk factors. Still, these factors of success depend on each country's specific conditions and capabilities.

(Larsson et al. 1997) People most probably misjudge disaster due to the fact that they have never been in a disaster situation in the past thus they give very low priority to disaster planning. The general public seems to underestimate disasters until they experience it themselves.

(Davis, 2007) Even developed counties do not allocate big budgets in emergency management, time and other resources in planning for emergency due to rare occurrence of disasters).

However, most of them are prepared in terms of regional networks, budget allocations, awareness on insurance coverage and many more.

(IFRCRCS, 1993) Unfortunately, developing countries are more prone to be predominantly hit by the disasters compared to developed countries. Even development plans do not usually take form in most cases in developing countries.

(PHO, 1994) As a result, 95 per cent of fatalities occurred after disasters in less privileged countries. Thus, people live in developing country are, most likely, more vulnerable to hazards. A hazard is the result of an increasing impact towards vulnerability on humans and society. In this respect disasters are not isolated events, but a sign of the insufficiencies and weaknesses within society, tempted by human-determined paths of development. However, considerations by society have been made concerning pre and post-emergencyplanning. Alternatives in thinking and planning to incorporate needs that are involved in post-disaster reconstruction have also been highlighted. Recovery requires an intensive approach that will support the foundations of community sustainability and capacity building and that will eventually reduce risks and vulnerabilities to future disasters. Government alone, as elected authority with overall control of legislation, is unable to facilitate recovery efforts without knowing the needs of a community. This is where the real challenge begins especially in housing reconstruction. Shortages of qualified people to handle impact assessments, the time taken for normal processing of building consents that require a more flexible approach and the need of government roles as the authorities elected are always the issues in emergency preparednessplanning and recovery. Furthermore, routine regulatory and legislative processes would not facilitate regulatory bodies coping with the volume of work associated with the reconstruction efforts and administration routine at the same time after emergency.


Recently, new routines in the emergency management model, focuses more on government responses because of hands-on experience with the communities. Problems related to the government were highlighted in advance before addressing actions in emergency preparedness plansphases. The following chapters will examine the groundwork of present investigations to disaster management development in terms of international and national legitimacy, legislations, compliance and the way officials respond to it.