Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Disaster Prevention and Management, Volume 20, Issue 4.
The past few months have witnessed several examples of the loss and devastation that can be visited on populations living in hazardous environments. These events reiterate the importance of effective mitigation and preparedness and the need for response and recovery capability to accommodate those occasions when hazard activity exceeds expectations. This edition of Disaster Prevention and Management offers several new insights into how the objective of developing more effective disaster prevention and management can be realized.
In their paper on landslide morphology, Ravinder Singh and Ravindra Pande discuss the development of a methodology to predict slope instability and its consequences. Work such as this provides the hazard planning and risk management sectors with a proactive capability to manage risk and that can be used to increase the time available to communities to mitigate or prepare for landslide activity. Advance notice of avoidable hazard consequences can be provided in other ways.
Central to disaster mitigation is the development of building codes and standards intended to increase the structural integrity of buildings. This work can be rendered ineffective if these standards are not incorporated in the design and construction of buildings. Such an eventuality is discussed by Weijun Xu and co-authors in a paper addressing how public tendering processes can increase the likelihood of design standards being circumvented. The consequences of such circumvention extend beyond the greater risk of loss of valuable infrastructure to include the increased risk of injury and death for those using these buildings.
The loss of family and friends is a significant source of distress for survivors. For those who experience such losses, the ability to identify loved ones has an important role to play in allowing people to work through their grief and to start rebuilding their lives. Delays to identification can prolong distress by preventing people negotiating their grief. Jacob John and his co-authors advocate for mandatory denture marking as an aid to facilitating forensic identification. While this technique would not apply to all victims, expediting the identification process will free up time to devote to those less readily identifiable and so hasten the ability of forensic investigators to provide families with positive identifications.
More effective disaster management can be promoted by increasing people's readiness to be able to respond to the unexpected. While research on this topic normally focuses on the citizens who are being asked to prepare, Ruhizal Roosli and Geoff O’Brien explores this topic from the perspective of a need for collaboration and cooperation that spans people, academia and government to facilitate effective social learning for disaster management. A need for cooperation and integration is also identified in Gesine Hofinger et al.'s paper on preparedness in public transportation organizations.
Irrespective of the degree of preparedness, some hazard events occur at intensities or durations that exceed planning expectations or exhaust response resources before the hazard event is terminated. When this circumstance prevails, recovery planning comes to the fore. If they are to succeed in their objective of assisting people regain normality, recovery plans must be capable of meeting the specific needs of the diverse groups and sectors that comprise contemporary societies. Dominic Beggan discusses the planning that is required to meet the unique short and medium term needs likely to be encountered by members of academic institutions. In another paper, Per Becker covers a broader demographic and advocates for accommodating gender differences in disaster reduction and readiness planning.
While the preceding papers focused on events whose impacts are relatively acute in nature, the final paper in this edition reminds us of the need to consider chronic hazards. Ya Ding et al. discuss approaches to developing long-term estimates of the economic and social impacts of drought. This approach, argue the authors, is important to ensure more effective allocation of recovery resources and to facilitate the development of more resilient practices in affected communities which will have to confront complex and challenging environmental demands over prolonged periods of time.
Natural hazards will inevitably remain an integral part of people's natural history. While people can do little to prevent the occurrence of natural hazards, the work covered in this edition demonstrates the sterling work being undertaken around the world in pursuit of more effective disaster prevention and management.