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…
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.
The importance of onset speed has been stressed by disaster researchers and inter-governmental bodies for some time, but its meaning and knowledge frontier has not been…
The importance of onset speed has been stressed by disaster researchers and inter-governmental bodies for some time, but its meaning and knowledge frontier has not been explored in depth. The purpose of this paper is to contextualise disasters involving slow-onset hazards within the broader literature on disasters, assess the current state of knowledge and identify themes in the literature.
This paper employs a semi-structured review design with the purpose of identifying both scholarship engaging directly with the term and less obvious but related literatures.
The majority of publications that mention slow-onset hazards and their adverse impacts do so only by means of delimitation. The paper finds that there is a great need for empirical and theoretical work on onset and manifestation speed and to test the degree to which existing theories and frameworks of disaster management are also relevant for the study of slow-onset hazard impacts.
The review identifies several gaps in existing research disasters involving slow-onset hazards and proposes research on community, political, policy and practical challenges, including answering the question of how to secure proactive response to emerging slow-onset hazard impacts.
In theory, hazards with a gradual and creeping onset are easier to manage and proactively respond to than that of sudden and unexpected ones. Not only do slow-onset hazards provide more lead time, but also a larger potential for proactive response, which in turn provides ample time to take early action to cushion their impacts. Yet, warnings often go unheard and response is put on hold until impacts become unnecessarily costly to reverse. More research on onset speed and gradual manifestation patterns should therefore be carried out.
Gradually occurring hazards have remained largely absent from the core literature on disasters, including most definitions of the term. This paper represents an initial effort to assess the state-of-the-art on the concept and the phenomenon of disasters involving slow-onset hazards.