Successful exercise in Disaster Management

esfdisaster1810201818 October 2018

PHILIPSBURG:— Following the workshops held in May and June 2018 for the Emergency Support Functions ‘Evacuation, Shelters, Relief & Mass Care’ (ESF 7), Dutch Disaster Management experts Suzanne Robijn and Viola van Baardwijk of VNG International held a table-top exercise on Tuesday October 16th, 2018. The chosen scenario for the exercise was an earthquake followed by a tsunami. They were supported by professor Zoran Vojinovic of IHE Delft, an international research and education institute on water management.

The goal of the table-top exercise was to get the Disaster Plan for ESF7, developed by the Dutch experts of VNG International, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs of St Maarten, finalized. During the table-top exercise the plan, including the new Emergency Management Structure and the task charts, was tested.

Zoran Vojinovich showed with simulation models what impact the scenarios had on the island. A Tsunami Alert gave the participants the opportunity to prepare for Evacuation, Sheltering and Distribution of food and water. In the second phase of the exercise the Tsunami hit the island and devastated 50% of the infrastructure and multiple casualties. The participants dealt with many challenges and tried to help out as many people as possible.

All the participants showed involvement, commitment, strength and knowledge of their tasks.

Choosing a different kind of risk by working out a scenario of a tsunami made everyone realize that the current draft of the Disaster Plan should contain the possibilities of handling different kinds of scenarios, instead of mainly focussing on hurricanes.

The next step will be to finalize and formalize the Disaster Plan. In November, 2018 there will be an extended exercise with multiple ESF’s. The Disaster Plan for ESF 7 should by then be ready to work with.


Read the original post here:

Strengthening Sint Maarten: Lessons Learned after Hurricane Irma

12 October 2018

Pic Description

Destruction of Hurricane Irma in Sint Maarten. Most concrete buildings sustained minimal damage while most wooden houses were destroyed. ©PEARL, 2018.

Recovering from the devastation of a Category 5 hurricane can be a challenge for any nation, but the cultural make up of Sint Maarten—the Dutch portion of the island known as Saint Martin—poses special challenges. After Hurricane Irma struck the island in September 2017, our team went on a fact finding mission and learned that there were improvements to be made in how warnings were issued, how evacuations were conducted, and how communities rebuilt after storms.

Hurricane Irma, the strongest hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin outside of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane on the island of Saint Martin on September 6, 2017. Irma’s strong wind was the primary cause of widespread devastation on the island, killing and injuring people and damaging properties and infrastructure. This, in turn, affected the tourism-led economy, as visits to the island declined and many lost their jobs.

Since the storm, the government of Sint Maarten has engaged in a recovery and reconstruction program based on the United Nation’s premise of building back better, which addresses restoration of infrastructure and revitalization of livelihood and economies to make communities less vulnerable to future disasters and increase their resilience. To support the recovery and reconstruction, a team of researchers from the European Union-funded PEARL (Preparing for Extreme And Rare events in coastaL regions) project went on a fact-finding mission to Sint Maarten. The team carried out workshops, interviews and household surveys five months after Irma’s landfall to assess hurricane warnings, evacuations, and people’s awareness and perception of hurricane impacts and responses after the hurricane. The PEARL team also applied novel methodologies and tools such as a vulnerability index method, a risk root cause analysis method, agent-based modelling tools and traffic model to assess hazard and risk to support the reconstruction and recovery, and make Sint Maarten more resilient.

This article focuses on the findings and recommendations of three elements of the mission: hurricane warnings, evacuation behavior, and rebuilding.

Warnings and Communication

About 70 percent of Sint Maarten residents are foreign-born. We found that the diverse, multi-lingual nature of the island—which is a source of vibrant multi-culturalism—can also be a source of vulnerability in hurricanes. English is the main language and hurricane warnings and evacuation plans are disseminated in this language. But some Spanish- and French-speaking immigrant communities, which constitute more than 20 percent of the total population, did not properly understand warning and evacuation information about Irma. Additionally, many find the official public advisories issued by the Sint Maarten Meteorological Agency difficult to understand.

To reach all residents at risk, the government should improve warning messages by conveying reliable message in time and using multiple languages. It is crucial to communicate advisories in a plain, easy-to-understand way. Comparing forecasted hurricanes with previous big events will give residents a better perspective and encourage preparedness. In addition, hurricane awareness programs need to be continually in place so people are prepared to take appropriate action.

Evacuation, Shelters, and Sheltering in Place

In Sint Maarten, in most cases, the majority of residents do not evacuate during hurricanes. A household survey we conducted of 255 respondents found only about 30 percent evacuated for Hurricane Irma. Of those, most sought shelter in a friend’s or relative’s home and only three percent evacuated to public shelters. The low percentage of evacuation, especially to public shelters, is because people do not trust the safety of public shelters.

Pic Description

Sister Marie-Laurence School was one of the official shelters for the 2017 hurricane season in Sint Maarten. Fifteen evacuees sheltered in the school were evacuated during Hurricane Irma when the roof collapsed. ©PEARL, 2018.

As shown in the photo to the right, shelters with zinc roofs were destroyed by hurricanes, creating fear about the safety of public shelters. Hence, people prefer to shelter with friends or relatives instead. This leaves some immigrants, who might have limited social networks and low levels of social capital, at a disadvantage if they can’t find friends or relatives to provide better shelter during hurricanes. The other reason for the low evacuation rates to shelters was likely because it was announced that public shelters would be open only after Irma passed. A last-minute order was issued to open some public shelters, but it did not reach the broader population of the island.

The household survey findings also show that, after the experience of Irma, there was an increase in willingness to evacuate commensurate with the severity of the hurricane. The number of people who expressed a definite willingness to evacuate if a hurricane as strong as Irma is forecasted was greater than those that definitely would not evacuate. Though many might still seek shelter with friends or relatives, the government needs to improve the safety of public shelters, especially considering those in need. Since most people consider concrete houses to be the safest in Sint Maarten, the walls and roofs of public shelters should be reinforced with concrete.


Based on the household survey, about 80 percent of residential buildings have concrete walls and about 70 percent have zinc roofs. Most residents agreed that it was the zinc roofs, debris from poorly built housing, and the other loose objects blown about during the hurricane that caused damage to the stronger houses. Poorly built housing on the island are associated with outdated and inadequate building codes, lack of inspections, and enforcement of existing regulations.

We’ve seen people rebuilding destroyed houses already, but there is no inspection requirement if they are building resilient structures designed to withstand future hurricanes of Irma’s magnitude. To reduce future damage, the government needs to improve building regulations, inspect new construction, and strictly enforce standards. Furthermore, just because a building has withstood one hurricane doesn’t guarantee it will withstand the next. Hence, residents should learn to maintain their houses after every hurricane. Though Irma’s destruction is associated with the strong winds, rebuilding should also consider flood hazards that can occur in future hurricanes or isolated storms.

Considering the magnitude of destruction of Irma in Sint Maarten, the recovery and reconstruction will take years. Currently, the main focus of the government is repairing damaged public shelters and roofs of poor housings, and rebuilding critical infrastructures such as the airport and hospital. In this process, we are working closely with the Sint Maarten Government and we will soon present a report describing the outcomes of the fact-finding mission.


Read the original post here:

About the Authors

author_bio-avatarYared Abayneh Abebe

Yared Abayneh Abebe is a PhD researcher in Urban Water Systems at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education. His research focuses on conceptualizing and modeling drivers of urban flood hazard, exposure, vulnerability, and risk taking into account flood disasters as results of the complex interactions of natural and human systems and the urban environment. He is also interested in institutional analysis and the use of agent-based models in modeling long-term disaster risk management.




Neiler Medina Peña

Neiler Medina Peña is a PhD researcher in Urban Water Systems at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education. His research focuses on risk assessment of extreme hydro-meteorological events by incorporating the role of human behavior and crowd modelling in the vulnerability and exposure components of risk. He is currently working on an agent-based model approach for large city evacuation strategies.




author_bio-avatarZoran Vojinovic

Zoran Vojinovic is associate professor at IHE Delft with expertise in Urban Water Systems, Risk Assessment, Climate Change Adaptation and Hydroinformatics. He is the author/co-author of book series in Urban Hydroinformatics. Vojinovic holds honorary professor position at the University of Exeter, and is a visiting professor at the Technical University of Munich, adjunct professor at the National Cheng Kung University, visiting professor at the University of Belgrade and guest faculty at the Asian Institute of Technology.

Re-cap of UNFCCC Water Action Day at COP23 in Bonn – Rational and outcomes:

Why Water Action Day? Resilient water management is the key to implementing SDGs and NDCs in cities:

Summary based on the SDG 11 series published by the Global Water Forum (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

  • Resilience is a powerful framework for meeting both UNFCCC and 2030 Agenda goals, and water can serve as the binding agent for coherence between these domains. Effective, long-term water resource management and decision-making needs should integrate all stakeholders — urban, rural, economic, social, and environmental. Currently, such integration is rare, however, so how can we change this to allow urban resilience capacities to become integrated with specific policy agendas? (Read more)
  • Water is a sector for institutions such as utilities, but water is also an enabling resource and instrument necessary for all many sectors (including the water sector) — and a resource that should be rationalized across all relevant sectors. (Read more)
  • Given that cities are where the sustainable development goal (SDG) targets and the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement will be implemented, we suggested that resilient water management could be a unifying focus for aligning policy and action for urban resilience (Read more).
  1. Linking climate adaptation, water management and disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies
  2. Mainstreaming resilience into water investments
  3. Governing urban-landscape water at the appropriate scale
  4. Coordinating resilience and sustainability landscapes
  • A new opportunity has arisen to foster urban resilience by linking the SDGs and the UNFCCC through resilient water resources management. Water can be a powerful binding agent — a glue — that can ultimately ensure that our global aspirations meaningfully alter the future of cities. By sustaining water, we can sustain our urban landscapes (Read more).

Preliminary outcomes – Water Action Day: High-Level Engagement on Water and Climate 2017:

*Stay tuned over the coming weeks for the finalized reports from COP23

Two key outcomes:

  1. Provide up to three short-term (2018) and up to three mid-term (2020) priority actions that could have significant impact and deliver concrete results that are aligned with the long-term aims of the Paris Agreement and that could feed into the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue.

Short-term 2018:

a. In the context of the Marrakech Partnership, enhance collaboration between the Water and Climate communities

b. Global Alliances for Water and Climate – GafWaC – actions of alliances:

Mid-term 2020:

a. Work with Parties and their implementing partners to support action on water in order to review their NDC’s and delivery targets identified in NDCs and NAPs.

b. Continue to support specific attention and action for Africa

c. Increase water-sound climate Financing


  1. Identify new initiatives or commitments on climate action announced at COP 23
    1. Nature-based solutions Declaration
    2. Business Alliance For Water And Climate operational objective
    3. The Global Clean Water Desalination Alliance
    4. Youth Water and Climate initiative
    5. Water Resilience Framework for Cities
    6. Establish an integrated Source to Sea governance
    7. Climate and Water International Summit

Does resilience thinking help or hinder urban development?

By Richard Friend and Arabella Fraser

As climate and weather-related risks increase in urban areas, resilience discourses and ideas have gained traction in urban development policy. Arabella Fraser, Research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute and Richard Friend, Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of York, explore the complexities of urban development and resilience.

Water collection at a public tap in Kathmandu, Nepal, 2015. Credit: Richard FriendWATER COLLECTION AT A PUBLIC TAP IN KATHMANDU, NEPAL, 2015. CREDIT: RICHARD FRIEND

Is resilience thinking a help or a hindrance? And how can ideas about resilience best be utilised in the context of    cities?

We believe that resilience thinking has much to contribute to the development and humanitarian worlds as they move into urban arenas. But at the same time there are also risks with how resilience is applied. To address these opportunities and challenges we need clarity over what resilience concepts mean and how they can and should be used.

The urban context in which most of the world now lives depends on complex inter-linked networks of infrastructure, technology and natural resources.

The grounding of resilience in complex systems provides an opportunity to address important facets of contemporary urban life. The urban context in which most of the world now lives depends on complex inter-linked networks of infrastructure, technology and natural resources that deliver critical services particularly around water, food, energy, transport and waste. Without these systems – which stretch beyond formal urban jurisdictions – urban life would not be possible. The ways in which people access these systems are key determinants in wellbeing, but also are critical in shaping patterns of poverty and inequality and with it vulnerability to climate shocks and stressors. For many people access to these systems is extremely limited, and they often face extended periods of disruption. People are obliged to navigate difficult institutional and political relationships, which are themselves often characterised by lack of accountability and transparency, and in many cases, outright exploitation and corruption.

Shocks have impacts… often cascading beyond the original location of a specific event.

The nature of urban shocks and stresses is influenced by this dependence on urban systems. Experience from disasters around the world has illustrated how shocks have impacts that are inter-linked and inter-connected, often cascading beyond the original location of a specific event. For example, the huge floods in Thailand in 2011 began in the north of the country moving through the Chao Praya basin to the Central Plains and greater Bangkok region. The origins were as much in a history of abuses of land use planning that allowed for conversion of floodplains into industrial and housing estates, as they were to do with rainfall alone. The impacts of the floods cascaded beyond Thailand with global production chains seriously affected. The impacts also cascaded across livelihoods – with many of the migrant workers from neighbouring countries unable to work during the flood, and therefore unable to send remittances to their rural homes. As is often the case in such disasters, a failure in one system will lead to failures in others, multiplying the effects of the original disaster.

In turn, structural changes in global conditions – such as the economic downturn and the introduction of austerity policies – feed back into the conditions that give rise to disasters. In Greece, Italy and the Dutch Caribbean research shows how large-scale economic shifts can exacerbate the institutional weaknesses of local level flood risk management. But the causal trajectory is not linear, and the manifestation of large-scale shifts in local contexts varies with the nature of institutional structures across scales as well as local-level political and social conditions.

The focus on systems should not privilege the city as a system over the rights of urban people.

There are risks with resilience too. The focus on systems should not privilege the city as a system over the rights of urban people. Particularly in informal settlements, legal and political recognition is vital to access and participation. Arguments around strengthening city resilience can easily lead to actions that favour a particular interpretation of what the city is and who it belongs to. A city that is framed as being resilient is not necessarily just and equitable.

In sum, systems and politics matter to urban resilience, and urban resilience matters for urban development. Making resilience work as a concept and as a tool for safe, equitable and inclusive urban development means grappling with the complexity of both – but it should not defeat us. It means working with existing institutional set-ups to find entry-points for change, and for leveraging partnership across stakeholders and scales. But it also means working to reshape futures and how the business and politics of urbanisation is done. In doing so, we need to understand the power relations and perspectives at play, but also strengthen the mechanisms through which the politically marginalised can reshape the cities of the world for their own futures.

As climate and weather-related risks increase in urban areas, resilience discourses and ideas have gained traction in urban development policy. Arabella Fraser, Research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute and Richard Friend, Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of York, explore the complexities of urban development and resilience.

*Read the original story here.


Vulnerability Assessment in Genoa

During the conference “Mapping Blue and Growth” organised by the Italian Mapping Association (AIC) in Genoa from the 10 to 12 May, 2017, the Vulnerability Assessment for the Genoa pilot was presented. This presentation remarks the importance of the integration of spacial data to increase the knowledge of the territory, specially in complex contexts such as the relationship between coastal management and natural risks.

This assessment is based on the project LIFE+IMAGINE; a project based on web services for environmental analysis, integrating results from INSPIRE, SEIS and GMES/Copernicus. Read more here.

To know more, read the abstract and view the presentation of this assessment.


Note: both the abstract and presentation are in Italian

20170511_144809 20170511_143850 LIFE+Imagine_PEARL_3

In next decades, frequency of coastal flooding will double globally

The frequency and severity of coastal flooding throughout the world will increase rapidly and eventually double in frequency over the coming decades even with only moderate amounts of sea level rise, according to a new study released today in “Nature Scientific Reports.”

This increase in flooding will be greatest and most damaging in tropical regions, impairing the economies of coastal cities and the habitability of low-lying Pacific island nations. Many of the world’s largest populated low-lying deltas (such as the Ganges, Indus, Yangtze, Mekong and Irrawaddy Rivers), also fall in or near this affected tropical region.

The new report from scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Hawaii shows that with just 10 to 20 cm (4 to 8 inches) of sea level rise expected no later than 2050, coastal flooding will more than double. This dramatic increase in coastal flooding results from rising sea levels combined with storm-driven flooding, including the effects of waves and storm surge.

In most coastal regions, the amount of sea level rise occurring over years to decades is small, yet even gradual sea level rise can rapidly increase the frequency and severity of coastal flooding. Until now, global-scale estimates of increased coastal flooding due to sea level rise have not considered elevated water levels due to waves, and thus have underestimated the potential impact.

The researchers combined sea level projections with wave, tide and storm surge models to estimate increases in coastal flooding around the globe. They found that regions with smaller variations in ocean water levels due to tides, waves and storm surge, common in the tropics, will experience the largest increases in flooding frequency.

“Although it is commonly understood that sea level rise will increase the frequency of coastal flooding, most of that previous scientific work has focused on analyzing tide gauges which capture extreme tides and storm surge, but not wave-driven water levels. Tide gauge data exist only for a limited number of locations around the world. Using models rather than individual tide gauges provides a comprehensive picture of the widespread vulnerability rather than at sparse points where observed data exist,” said lead author of the study, Sean Vitousek, who was a post-doctoral fellow at the USGS when he began this study. Vitousek is now a professor in the Department of Civil & Materials Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“The key findings are that areas with limited water-level variability, due to small tidal ranges (for example, the Tropics), and more limited ranges in storm water levels (such as the North American West Coast), will experience the largest increases in flooding frequency. In the Tropics, today’s 50-year water level event will occur every 5 years with just 10 cm of sea level rise,” said USGS geologist and coauthor, Patrick Barnard.

Most previous research has started with expected scenarios of sea level rise and attempted to find the flooding frequency increase. In this new study, the scientists took the opposite approach, finding the amount of sea level rise needed to double the frequency of flooding, while accounting for the uncertainty and year-to-year variability of storm patterns. One of the surprising findings was that it does not take much sea level rise to double the frequency of flooding (particularly in the Tropics). Using this analysis, Vitousek and his coauthors demonstrate that 10 cm or less of sea level rise expected within the next few decades, can more than double the frequency of coastal flooding for many locations across the globe. The areas with smaller increases in flood frequency include areas with very large tidal ranges and those along typical tropical storm paths.

“Most of the world’s tropical atoll islands are on average only 1-2 meters above present sea level, and even in the high tropical islands such as Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, Indonesia, and others, the majority of the population and critical infrastructure is located on a narrow coastal fringe at low elevations (1-2 m above present sea level) and thus susceptible to this increased flood frequency,” said USGS geologist and coauthor, Curt Storlazzi.

“These important findings will inform our climate adaptation efforts at all levels of government in Hawaii and other U.S. affiliated Pacific islands,” said coauthor Chip Fletcher, Associate Dean and Professor at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii.

This article was originally published on PreventionWeb. Read the original story here.

Scientists look to skies to improve tsunami detection

A team of scientists from Sapienza University in Rome, Italy, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has developed a new approach to assist in the ongoing development of timely tsunami detection systems, based upon measurements of how tsunamis disturb a part of Earth’s atmosphere.

The new approach, called Variometric Approach for Real-time Ionosphere Observation, or VARION, uses observations from GPS and other global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) to detect, in real time, disturbances in Earth’s ionosphere associated with a tsunami. The ionosphere is the layer of Earth’s atmosphere located from about 50 to 621 miles (80 to 1,000 kilometers) above Earth’s surface. It is ionized by solar and cosmic radiation and is best known for the aurora borealis (northern lights) and aurora australis (southern lights).

When a tsunami forms and moves across the ocean, the crests and troughs of its waves compress and extend the air above them, creating motions in the atmosphere known as internal gravity waves. The undulations of internal gravity waves are amplified as they travel upward into an atmosphere that becomes thinner with altitude. When the waves reach an altitude of between 186 to 217 miles (300 to 350 kilometers), they cause detectable changes to the density of electrons in the ionosphere. These changes can be measured when GNSS signals, such as those of GPS, travel through these tsunami-induced disturbances.

VARION was designed under the leadership of Sapienza’s Mattia Crespi. The main author of the algorithm is Giorgio Savastano, a doctoral student in geodesy and geomatics at Sapienza and an affiliate employee at JPL, which conducted further development and validation of the algorithm. The work was outlined recently in a Sapienza- and NASA-funded study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal.

In 2015, Savastano was awarded a fellowship by Consiglio Nazionale degli Ingegneri (CNI) and Italian Scientists and Scholars in North America Foundation (ISSNAP) for a two-month internship at JPL, where he joined the Ionospheric and Atmospheric Remote Sensing Group under the supervision of Attila Komjathy and Anthony Mannucci.

“VARION is a novel contribution to future integrated operational tsunami early warning systems,” said Savastano. “We are currently incorporating the algorithm into JPL’s Global Differential GPS System, which will provide real-time access to data from about 230 GNSS stations around the world that collect data from multiple satellite constellations, including GPS, Galileo, GLONASS and BeiDou.” Since significant tsunamis are infrequent, exercising VARION using a variety of real-time data will help validate the algorithm and advance research on this tsunami detection approach.

Savastano says VARION can be included in design studies for timely tsunami detection systems that use data from a variety of sources, including seismometers, buoys, GNSS receivers and ocean-bottom pressure sensors.

Once an earthquake is detected in a specific location, a system could begin processing real-time measurements of the distribution of electrons in the ionosphere from multiple ground stations located near the quake’s epicenter, searching for changes that may be correlated with the expected formation of a tsunami. The measurements would be collected and processed by a central processing facility to provide risk assessments and maps for individual earthquake events. The use of multiple independent data types is expected to contribute to the system’s robustness.

“We expect to show it is feasible to use ionospheric measurements to detect tsunamis before they impact populated areas,” said Komjathy. “This approach will add additional information to existing systems, complementing other approaches. Other hazards may also be targeted using real-time ionospheric observations, including volcanic eruptions or meteorites.”

Observing the ionosphere, and how terrestrial weather below it interfaces with space above, continues to be an important focus for NASA. Two new missions — the Ionospheric Connection Explorer and the Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk — are planned to launch by early 2018 to observe the ionosphere, which should ultimately improve a wide array of models used to protect humans on the ground and satellites in space.

This article was originally posted on PreventionWeb. Read the original story here.

Are governments finally facing up to the true cost of disasters?

By Megan Rowling 

In March 2015, just as the world was negotiating a new plan to stay safer from disasters, the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu was battered by a monster cyclone, grabbing headlines and putting the issue firmly on the global agenda.

Vanuatu’s president and top disaster officials, who were at the negotiations in Sendai, Japan, were anxious for news and appealed for help from the international community. They lamented the country had lost years of development progress to the disaster and would have to start over again.

Now, two years on, as governments, experts and civil society head to the Mexican resort of Cancun for the first global forum on disaster risk reduction (DRR) since the Sendai Framework was adopted, the economic arguments for putting in place measures to protect people and property from threats – both natural and manmade – appear to be largely won.

“The losses are increasing so rapidly that governments cannot ignore this problem any longer,” Ricardo Mena, who heads the Americas office of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), told a webinar organised by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and resilience website Zilient this week.

The World Bank says the human and economic costs of natural disasters have been underestimated by up to 60 percent. Extreme weather and earthquakes set back global spending by $520 billion per year when the full impact on the poor is taken into account, it calculates.

Such new ways of evaluating disasters reveal the true cost for poorer economies – especially developing island nations such as Dominica or Vanuatu, where losses and damage from just one extreme event can equal 100 percent of GDP, overwhelming their capacity to cope, Mena noted.

While the total dollar amount of losses from floods, a tsunami or a tornado may be far higher in the United States or Japan, the cost tends to be quite small relative to the size of wealthy economies, he said.

“For a small island developing state, it’s fundamental for its subsistence to pay more attention to disaster risk, and they usually don’t have enough resources to do so – and that’s when international cooperation needs to kick in,” the humanitarian expert told the live discussion.


While the Cancun conference is not expected to yield major new pledges of aid to help countries prepare for and prevent disasters, a high-level discussion bringing in several world leaders will focus on how to cut economic losses by building infrastructure that is more resilient to extreme weather and earthquakes.

Mexico’s president asked to focus on this topic because the country views better infrastructure as one of the most important ways of moving from managing disasters to managing the risks of disasters – and thereby warding them off, as the Sendai Framework aims to do, Mena noted.

“Development takes place, but if it is not informed by disaster risk, then that development may be actually increasing your stock of risk towards the future,” he said.

For example, if you build a school in a flood-prone area or without respecting seismic building codes, then it is very likely to be destroyed when a hazard hits, he emphasised.

And with urbanisation speeding up around the world, a lot of infrastructure is going to be built, particularly in urban areas, that needs to be robust, sustainable, and take disaster risk into account, he added.


Dan Lewis, chief of urban risk reduction with UN-HABITAT, said that rather than focusing purely on the costs of disasters, which tends to “frighten people away”, the best approach is to flag up the positive benefits of urbanisation and how those can be used in ways that lessen threats.

“More and more, local government leaders are understanding that the process of risk reduction or resilience building is something that you cannot bolt on,” he told the discussion. “You have to integrate it into the manner in which the city is planned, in which it develops and in which it is governed over long periods of time.”

For example, in highly flood-prone New Orleans, city hall is working to expand “green infrastructure”, such as rain gardens and grassy strips along roads, that can absorb excess water while serving as leisure areas for residents and also cutting pollution.

Internationally, efforts to bring together different strands of the global agenda on disasters, development and climate change are slowly starting to happen, the two experts said.

But Lewis stressed the need for stronger connections between national and local governments – a question that will be addressed at a day-long symposium in Cancun before the main U.N. conference kicks off.


The indicators required to measure progress towards the Sendai Framework’s seven targets – which include substantial decreases in deaths and economic losses from disasters by 2030 – are now being tested by more than 80 countries, and should draw on information and activities by local governments as well as national-level data, Mena noted.

The Sendai plan also includes recommendations for how its priorities on understanding and managing disaster risk, investing in resilience and preparing for and recovering from disasters can be followed at the local level, he added.

Next week’s Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction will have a wide range of participants, including community groups and the private sector. Only 40 percent of those attending come from governments, he said.

The Sendai Framework was negotiated at the top level between governments, but it is centred on what people actually need to stay safe, because efforts to reduce disaster risk must begin at home, Mena emphasised.

“This notion of disaster risk reduction has to start from the individual up… because if it doesn’t, it’s quite difficult to convince people they should do it,” he told the webinar.

“If you have people more conscious of it, they may (then) take very simple measures to reduce their vulnerability or exposure,” he said.

This article was originally posted on PreventionWeb. Read the original story here.