Remote Sensing for Natural Disaster Management
Department of Space Studies, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND 58202, USA
December 17, 2008
Natural disasters pose serious threats to lives and property. The United NationsInternational Strategy on Disaster Reduction (ISDR) defines a disaster as a “serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society causing widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses which exceed the ability of the affected community or society to cope usingits own resources” (UN 2008). The relationship between a place's likelihood to have a disastrousevent (hazard) and the community's ability to cope with it (vulnerability) is its disaster risk. Risk is directly related to hazard and vulnerability according to
. Sincehazards themselves cannot be controlled, disaster managers focus on reducing vulnerability.Vulnerability can include socio-economic, physical or environmental factors such as poverty,land use, and water quality. Risk can be reduced through hazard monitoring, vulnerability/risk analysis, education/training of people, application of policies encouraging proper urban growth,and early warning systems for the hazard itself (UN 2008).Developing countries are hit harder by disasters due to their increased vulnerabilitycompared to developed countries. Lack of infrastructure, especially the internet, impedes datadissemination and use in developing countries. Developing countries also often have problemsenforcing policies or laws meant to reduce vulnerability to the population. Since they sometimesdon't have the money or political strength to mitigate disasters themselves, poorer countries tendto rely heavily upon external international aid agencies to help them after disasters happen(George 2000). Over 60% of all major natural disasters occur in developing countries, which are particularly vulnerable to these hazards due to their primarily agrarian economies and high population densities in coastal areas (Jayaraman et al. 1997). Although developed countriessustain more economic damage from natural disasters, 94% of all people killed by disasters earnlow income, as is the case in most developing nations (NatCatSERVICE 2006).