Systems Approach to Management of Disasters: Methods and Applications

Niru Nirupama (Associate Professor of Disaster and Emergency Management, York University, Toronto, Canada)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 30 August 2011



Nirupama, N. (2011), "Systems Approach to Management of Disasters: Methods and Applications", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 450-451.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The main objectives of the book are to introduce the systems approach as the theoretical background for modern disaster management, and to focus on three main sets of tools: simulation, optimization, and multi‐objective analysis. I find this book valuable as a text for teaching systems analysis and a guide for the application of a systems approach to disaster management. This book proposes integration of emergency management cycle and decision‐making methods and tools that was long overdue to be accepted as main stream disaster management. The world continues to suffer devastating consequences of natural disasters every year. We have begun to realize the importance of understanding our systems and potential risks that thrive in them. Disaster management professionals on the frontline perceive disaster management as primarily a response‐based approach. A paradigm shift in this perception is becoming a reality in recent years, wherein mitigation and prevention are key components of managing disaster risks. At first glance, the book appears to be for systems engineers and researchers, but it is also useful for all professionals and students with an interest in policy and decision making in multi‐stakeholders and multi‐objectives environment. Number of books on the subject of systems engineering and even more books on disaster management are available to us. However, an integrated approach combining the two is uniquely adopted in this book. The book comes with a CD‐ROM with working examples of methods and their applications, thus greatly enhancing the usability of it.

The book is divided in four parts and eight chapters. Part I introduces the notion of integrated disaster management along with related terms and definitions. Particularly compelling is the detailed account of author's own experience of the 1997 Red River Flood of the Century in Manitoba. Chapters 1 and 2 in this part are devoted to building relationship between disaster management and decision‐making concerns such as land use planning, and engineering component such as building codes. This approach is quite effective as it not only allows a broader audience for the book, but also encourages a new thought process.

Part II deals with introduction to the systems theory and its application to disaster management. The material presented in this section is of practical relevance to disaster management in terms of constructing the problem and working towards achieving its solution using appropriate tool available. The topics cover simulation, optimization, multi‐objective analysis, disaster risk management, concept of uncertainty, and fuzzy set approach. Accounting for uncertainty in disaster studies is complicated but necessary, and fuzzy approach is useful for that. Chapter 3 uses simple schematic presentations to make it easier for professionals with non‐engineering background to understand systems approach and its use to find solutions to disaster problems. Particular attention has been paid to explaining of positive and negative feedback to the system. The volunteers reward example assists in clear understanding of this concept.

Part III is on implementation of systems analysis to management of disasters. In this section, Chapters 5, 6, and 7 cover simulation and optimization methods and applications, and multi‐objective analysis. Flu epidemic models illustrate the use of systems concepts for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. Another example is of flood evacuation simulation model that includes human behaviour during disasters with particular reference to the 1997 Red River flood. Chapter 6 is about linear programming and its use in disaster management. The OPTEVAC model described in this chapter provides medical emergency planners with the required number and optimal placement of evacuation assets to ensure sufficient casualty transport while minimizing oversupply of ground and air ambulances. The example of solution to flood management problem using compromise programming is key component in Chapter 7. Furthermore, the importance of the selection of an appropriate technique is also emphasized and discussed.

Part IV of the book is about author's vision for the future of disaster management. A comprehensive list of disasters occurred around the world between 2009 and spring of 2010 convinces us to take actions towards preparedness in the future. Anticipated issues concerning future disaster management are discussed with a focus on climate change. Additional list of references is significant for those who would like to acquire a deeper understanding in this area.

This book offers a new approach to disaster management that is based on combination of systems concepts and tools, decision‐making complexities, and multi‐objective scenarios. For this reason, I like this book and will recommend it to the readers of this journal.

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