The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how the contingency approach to disaster preparedness inhibits proactive management of slow-onset disasters, such as El Niño, with the purpose of advancing disaster risk theory.
This study draws on fieldwork data from Nariño, Colombia, combined with secondary data and a review of the literature on El Niño and disaster preparedness.
Disaster managers in Nariño do have contingency plans for El Niño events at their disposal. Yet, these plans do not come into play before impacts reach a certain severity. This “contingency approach” to disaster preparedness appears to stem from the assumption that disaster must come before response, effectively inhibiting proactive responses to El Niño impacts.
Attributing observed cases of droughts and oral accounts of impacts to the El Niño phenomenon is methodologically challenging. To overcome this, the aim of this study is not the documentation of subjective attributions. Instead, the focus is on bringing to the fore key dilemmas that preparedness professionals may face when they prepare for disasters with a slow onset.
Developing prevention and preparedness conceptualisations that focus on preemptive measures should ensure a more proactive response to slow-onset disasters.
Whether slow-onset disasters lend themselves to the same types of risk reduction strategies applied to rapid-onset disasters is a theoretical and practical issue that has not been explored sufficiently in the disaster risk literature.
Staupe-Delgado, R. and Kruke, B.I. (2017), "El Niño-induced droughts in the Colombian Andes: towards a critique of contingency thinking", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 382-395. https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-12-2016-0248Download as .RIS
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