1.2 Disaster risk reduction key concepts
A disaster is a situation that causes substantial losses and damage to communities and individuals, possibly including losses of life and livelihood assets and damage to the ecosystem, which leaves the affected communities unable to function normally without outside assistance.
Any disaster is compounded by two factors:
- One or more hazards. Hazards can be natural (earthquakes, floods, drought, cyclones, wildfires, extreme temperatures, etc.) and human-made (conflicts, industrial accidents, severe pollution, etc.).
- The vulnerability of people to these hazards. Vulnerability to a hazard is the extent to which people lack protection or buffering capacity against possible hazards.
In other words, a disaster reflects the nature, intensity and magnitude of one or more hazards and the vulnerability of the affected people to these hazards.
Disaster risk is the likelihood that people will experience disasters. This risk is a function of: the nature, probability and intensity of hazards; the vulnerability of the people to these hazards; and, inversely, of their capacities to withstand or cope with these hazards:
DR (disaster risk) = V (vulnerability) * H (hazard)
From this equation it can be concluded that disaster risk reduction encompasses three areas of activities:
- Prevention or mitigation of hazards
- Reduction of vulnerabilities to hazards
- Strengthening capacities to withstand or cope with hazards.
These areas of activity should be a focus during emergency and development programming alike.