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Constructing a holistic approach to disaster risk reduction: the significance of focusing on vulnerability reduction
Roshani Palliyaguru Lecturer, Heriot-Watt University, United Kingdom, Dilanthi Amaratunga Professor and Head of Centre for Disaster Resilience, University of Salford, United Kingdom, and David Baldry Deputy Head of School and Senior Lecturer, University of Salford, United Kingdom

As a result of the increase in natural disaster losses, policy-makers, practitioners, and members of the research community around the world are seeking effective and efficient means of overcoming or minimising them. Although various theoretical constructs are beneficial to understanding the disaster phenomenon and the means of minimising losses, the disaster risk management process becomes less effective if theory and practice are set apart from one another. Consequently, this paper seeks to establish a relationship between two theoretical constructs, ‘disaster risk reduction (DRR)’ and ‘vulnerability reduction’, and to develop a holistic approach to DRR with particular reference to improving its applicability in practical settings. It is based on a literature review and on an overall understanding gained through two case studies of post-disaster infrastructure reconstruction projects in Sri Lanka and three expert interviews in Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom.
Keywords: disaster risk reduction (DRR), holistic approach to disaster risk reduction, vulnerability, vulnerability reduction

Background The functions of everyday life can stall owing to disasters—irrespective of where they happen—which have an assortment of consequences in a variety of areas. Disaster losses cannot be measured simply in monetary terms as the loss of life is immeasurable and the impact on communities is either direct or indirect in nature. Disaster losses occur at all levels, ranging from individual household losses to national- and international-level losses due to exceptional catastrophic events (UNDP, 2004).   As a result of the increase in natural disaster losses, policy-makers, practitioners, and members of the research community around the world are seeking effective and efficient means of overcoming or minimising them. This has led to the introduction of numerous theoretical constructs related to the disaster risk management domain. Although many of these theoretical constructs, such as ‘disaster risk’, ‘disaster risk reduction (DRR)’, ‘hazard mitigation’, ‘resilience’, ‘resistant’, ‘susceptibility’, and ‘vulnerability reduction’, have been advantageous for disaster management scholarship, they have failed to address sufficiently the triggering agents, functional areas, actors, variables, and disciplines pertaining to disaster events (McEntire et al., 2002).
Disasters, 2014, 38(1): 45−61. © 2014 The Author(s). Disasters © Overseas Development Institute, 2014 Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA

Both the literature review and the empirical study helped to create. Dilanthi Amaratunga. In this context. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected and analysed to investigate the impact of the integration of DRR into infrastructure reconstruction on vulnerability reduction in communities and projects. It added depth to the study by using multiple sources of evidence. the questionnaires were analysed using descriptive statistics techniques. 2001). Research methodology This paper is based on a literature review and on an overall understanding gained through two case studies of post-disaster infrastructure reconstruction projects in Sri Lanka and three expert interviews in Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom. 2005a). Two case studies were conducted within a water supply and sanitation reconstruction project and a road reconstruction project following the tsunami of 2004. . and resilience (McEntire. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) also describes disaster risk as the product of a combination of hazards (in other words. this paper concentrates on establishing a relationship between these two theoretical constructs to develop a holistic approach to DRR with particular reference to improving its applicability in practical settings. susceptibility. Current understanding of risk of natural disasters McEntire (2001) explains disasters as the disruptive and/or deadly and destructive outcomes of triggering agent(s) when they interact with. vulnerability is considered to be the dependent component that is determined by the degree of risk. and are exacerbated by. a novel argument about the relationship between the two concepts and understanding of the applicability of their theoretical meanings in practical settings. While the semi-structured interviews were analysed using NVivo (version 8) software. The literature review and the empirical research explored the influence of the integration of DRR into infrastructure reconstruction on socioeconomic development. or a combination of these two spheres.46  Roshani Palliyaguru. The expert interviews were convened to overcome the difficulty of generalising the findings of a case-study approach within a wider population—expert interview findings are not context-specific. The questionnaire survey was carried out primarily to triangulate the data gathered from the semi-structured interviews. They are used interchangeably to mean ways of overcoming and minimising disaster losses. The case studies consisted of a series of semi-structured interviews and a questionnaire survey. and David Baldry The aim of the paper ‘Disaster risk reduction’ and ‘vulnerability reduction’ are commonly discussed topics in the contemporary disaster management sphere. While triggering agents stand as the independent component of a disaster that may originate in the realms of the natural environment or human activity. various forms of vulnerability. therefore. triggering agents) and people’s vulnerability to them (DFID. resistance.

and vulnerability (ADRC. 2005). Examples of natural hazards are cyclones. Vasilescu. for example. floods. Droughts. an earthquake that occurs on a desert island does not trigger a disaster because there is no existing population or property to be affected (ADRC. exposure is defined as being outside of vulnerability. Vasilescu. human negligence. ‘disaster risk’ is defined as ‘the probability of harmful consequences. caused by both natural and man-made phenomena. 2004a. Hence. meteorological. . and landslides all fall into this classification. Man-made hazards. Hazards can have different origins: they may be natural or man-made (UNISDR. people injured. 16). by a dam failure. and Khan (2008) draw attention to socio-natural hazards. property damage. an explosion. or war or civil strife (Khan. such as events with a geological. For example. Khan. 2004a): Risk = hazard (frequency and severity) × vulnerability (exposure/capacity)   According to the above equation. Vasilescu. and Khan. and torrential rains are some of the natural phenomena that are referred to as ‘hazards’ and that are not considered to be disasters in themselves. as depicted in Table 1. economic activity disrupted or environment damaged) resulting from interactions between natural or human-induced hazards and vulnerable conditions’ (UNISDR. However. 2005). and volcanic eruptions (Khan. vulnerability)   According to this definition. 2004b). p. Hazards The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) describes hazard as a ‘potentially damaging physical event. phenomenon or human activity that may cause the loss of life or injury. which is interpreted as follows: Disaster risk = function (hazard. social and economic disruption or environmental degradation’ (UNISDR. Vasilescu. This point is discussed in the following sections of the paper. p. and Khan. Natural hazards result from natural phenomena. Earthquakes. 2004b). Following a critical review of the existing literature in this domain. storms. 2006. cited in Khan. tsunamis. the Asian Disaster Reduction Centre (ADRC) views disaster risk as a function of the hazard. exposure. 16 ). some ‘vulnerability’ to the natural phenomenon must be present for an event to constitute a natural disaster.Constructing a holistic approach to disaster risk reduction 47   A disaster is a function of the risk process (UNISDR. it became apparent that both exposure and capacity can be considered as aspects of vulnerability. 2008). meanwhile.   Conventionally. In addition to a hazard. are those caused. vulnerability is seen as a function of exposure and capacity. 2004a. exposure. risk is expressed by the equation (UNISDR. fires. Vasilescu. and Khan (2008). property. or even biological source. however. Khan. pollution or the leakage of toxic waste. or expected loss (of lives. earthquakes. In contrast to the classification of the UNISDR (2004b). and Khan (2008) adopted the summarised classification of hazards produced in 2006 by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) (CBSE. 2008 ). livelihoods.

1993. mine flooding. resistance. environmental pollution. and Smale. hazard. tsunami. flood. • Aeroplane crash. economic. which increases the probability of a disaster and the potential for losses (Reynolds. industrial. vulnerability to hazards is expressed as the degree of exposure of the population/property and its capacity to prepare for and respond to the hazard (UNISDR. and Smale (2000. p. Gilmore Crocker. boat/road/train accident. Marsh. . land slide. and resilience (see Figure 1). cited in Weichselgartner. 2001). 16 ) defines it as ‘the conditions determined by physical. Buckle. Marsh. forest fire. industrial. According to that organisation. The UNISDR (2004a. cited in McEntire. and Khan (2008). festival related. Source: CBSE (2006). Vulnerabilities Vulnerability is a term used in the field of risk. hurricane. • Deforestation. 2001. cited in Khan. volcanic eruption. • Cloudburst. Nevertheless. p. pest attack. 2001). building collapse. 11). p. Here. Vasilescu. electric accident. Meanwhile. cited in McEntire. and David Baldry Table 1. the entire environment is divided into two parts: the physical environment (composed of natural systems as well as built environmental and technological structures) and the social environment (composed of individuals and groups of individuals as well as cultural. McEntire (2001) defines the four components as follows: • The physical environment faces a risk owing to its proximity or its exposure to hazards.   McEntire (2001). Buckle. heat. Dilanthi Amaratunga. • Animal/human epidemic. 2010 ). susceptibility. 2004a).48  Roshani Palliyaguru. nuclear disaster.and cold-wave. Classification of hazards Type of hazard Geological hazards Water and climatic hazards Environmental hazards Biological hazards Chemical. and disaster management as well as in the areas of global change and environment and development studies (Weichselgartner. rural/urban fire. and Peters. • Chemical. sea erosion. mine fire. drought. tornado. social. 2000. snow avalanche. economic and environmental factors or processes which increase the susceptibility of a community to the impacts of hazards’. McEntire. 2001. and political systems). 9 ) adopt the 1998 definition of Emergency Management Australia: ‘the degree of susceptibility and resilience of the community and environment to hazards’. and nuclear accidents Accident-related hazards Examples • Earthquake. 1996. the definition of vulnerability remains vague and thus there is no common conceptualisation of the term among scholars (Cutter. though. landslide. oil spill/fire. hailstorm. cope with. resist and recover from the impact of a natural hazard (an extreme natural event or process)’. food poisoning. For Wisner et al. (2003. views vulnerability as a product of four components: risk. vulnerability means ‘the characteristics of a person or group and their situation that influence their capacity to anticipate. bomb/serial bomb disaster/blast. tropical cyclone.

Therefore. or transport infrastructure. natural. as components of a more compact notion of vulnerability. economic. 1999 . and Smale. cited in McEntire.Constructing a holistic approach to disaster risk reduction 49 Figure 1. such as ‘fragility’. • Social vulnerability—the susceptibility of social groups or society at large to potential losses owing to disastrous events. • The physical environment’s ability to resist the damage imposed by hazards is called resistance (Norton and Chantry. 1993. Buckle. cited in McEntire.   Similarly. can be replaced with a more meaningful term. such as ADRC (2005). according to the definition of McEntire (2001). Weichselgartner (2001) views vulnerability from the perspective of: • Individual vulnerability—personal or individual potential for. political. Marsh. Components of vulnerability EnvirOnMent Physical (including built. • The social environment is susceptible to disasters owing to cultural. 2000 ). for example. other research works define it as one .   Although certain pieces of literature. political. • Technical vulnerability—of a house. 2001).   Weichselgartner (2001) also identifies a social environment’s susceptibility and resilience. losses that have both spatial and non-spatial dimensions. and a physical environment’s fragility and resistance to disasters. an electricity grid. it can be termed differently to avoid any confusion— ‘risk’ has an overall meaning and ‘vulnerability’ is certainly a part of ‘risk’. • The capacity of the social environment to cope with or its ability to react or to recover effectively from a hazard that becomes disastrous is called resilience (Mileti. and social forces and activities that determine the proneness of individuals and groups to the adverse affects of a disaster (Buckle. consider the term ‘exposure’ to be a separate component of risk. technological) Social (including cultural. technological) Liabilities Risk Susceptibility EnvirOnMentAL ATTRIBUTES Capabilities Resistance Vulnerability Resilience Source: based on McEntire (2001). 2001). using different terminology. 1995. economic. or sensitivity to. ‘risk’.   Although McEntire (2001) takes ‘risk’ to mean the physical environment’s proximity or exposure to hazards.

socio-demographic qualities.50  Roshani Palliyaguru. vulnerability does not only stand for exposure to a hazard and a lack of capacity. and David Baldry aspect of the entire concept of ‘vulnerability’. during. Different societies have differing levels of vulnerability. and households. have been able to research more accurately the issues contributing to vulnerability. this is one reason why hazards of a similar type and intensity can have quite varied effects on different populations (Eshghi and Larson. social. which in turn have been categorised under the headings of physical. ‘risk’ is defined as the expected loss of life and property owing to hazards. where mounting exposure results in an increased number of natural disasters and greater levels of loss. 2004). environmental.   However. justifying further the vulnerability concept emphasised by McEntire (2001) in Figure 1. the availability of social support systems. According to the ADRC (2005). or recover quickly from a disaster (Khan. the different issues identified by Velasquez and Tanhueco (2005) are important in enhancing the list produced by McEntire (2001). awareness of hazards. Vasilescu. Drawing on a similar line of argument. before. 2011).   Velasquez and Tanhueco (2005). political. as depicted in Table 2. economic. and technological under-development processes. and the level of preparedness and the ability to evacuate and perform emergency operations. and strengths that exist in communities. 2008 ). such as people and property. the effects of hazards on livelihoods and income. and the implementation of land-use controls. In general. mitigate. 2008 ). and after a disaster (McEntire. similar types of issues are categorised under different headings in the work of McEntire (2001). the social aspects of structural vulnerability to hazards. Furthermore. McEntire (2001) claims that there are innumerable variables that interact to produce a future of increased vulnerability. As a result. While Velasquez and Tanhueco (2005) identified some of the issues as social vulnerabilities. Thus. many other authors. the UNISDR (2004a) claims that exposure and capacity are the root causes of vulnerability. withstand. Jigyasu. and other assets are put at risk by a discreet and identifiable event. working on social issues connected to disaster vulnerability. economic. Wisner et al. 2001. social. Eshghi and Larson (2008) note that vulnerability is influenced by factors such as location. livelihood. and Khan. Dilanthi Amaratunga. If a community or a property is more exposed to hazards. and which enable them to cope with. health and ability to obtain medical treatment. and technological vulnerability. ‘exposure’ refers to that which is affected by disasters. the consequences of hazards for persons and property. physical. cultural. and thereby in establishing a more convincing catalogue of factors. including: hazard experience. such as Wisner et al. properties. but also it represents a series of resultant states of cultural. Capacity can be defined as the means. social vulnerability alone would not make physical and social environments vulnerable to a . (2003) claim that vulnerability involves a combination of factors that determine the degree to which someone’s life. then it is said to be more vulnerable to them. state of housing. property. However. A community is said to be at ‘risk’ when it is ‘exposed’ to ‘hazards’ and is likely to be adversely affected by them (Khan. political. prevent. (2003) and Pelling (2007. prepare for. identified a number of major issues contributing to the vulnerability of the focus-group participants in their research. and Khan. Vasilescu. resources. 2008).

communities. • Over-reliance on warning systems or ineffective warning systems. Economic vulnerability • Growing divergence in the distribution of wealth. The third level. infrastructure. children. • Loss of traditional coping measures. and Peters. Source: McEntire (2001). Buckle. • Degradation of the environment. • Carelessness in industrial production. refers . disaster since there are many other variables that contribute to vulnerability. Political vulnerability • Minimal support for disaster programmes among elected officials. environmental degradation. structural factors. agencies. • Over-centralisation of decision-making. • Failure to purchase insurance. • Dependency and absence of personal responsibility. and inability to improvise (McEntire. Technological vulnerability • Lack of structural mitigation devices. • Inadequate routine and emergency healthcare. and the vulnerable are deemed to be personal factors. since they have different perceptions of who is vulnerable and who lacks resilience. community factors. 2010 ). Marsh.Constructing a holistic approach to disaster risk reduction 51 Table 2. the view presented by them is useful in understanding the different levels of vulnerability that could exist. • Marginalisation of specific groups and individuals. cultural attitudes and practices. • Isolated or weak disaster-related institutions. It categorises these different levels of vulnerability as personal factors. and Smale (2001) recognise certain levels where resilience and vulnerability could exist. planning. and structural factors. while demographic groups such as women. Social vulnerability • Limited education (including insufficient knowledge of disasters). communication failures. ineffective warning systems. • Lack of foresight vis-à-vis computer equipment/programmes. a lack of planning. • Inability to enforce or to encourage mitigation steps. insufficient training.   Moreover. • Improper construction of buildings. Gilmore Crocker. Cultural vulnerability • Public apathy towards disasters. such as poor land-use planning. and management. Factors producing vulnerability Type of vulnerability Physical vulnerability Variables that interact to generate vulnerability • Proximity of people and property to triggering agents. Although the concept of resilience is defined outside of vulnerability in their research. • Massive and unplanned migration to urban areas. • Sparse resources for disaster prevention. • Inadequate foresight relating to the infrastructure. • Defiance of safety precautions and regulations. and systems are seen as community factors. inadequate construction. law and policy. Accordingly. • The pursuit of profit with little regard for consequences.

DRR and its typologies The impetus for DRR is to be found largely in the severe loss of life and property owing to both major and minor natural and man-made disasters. and water supplies. that disaster risk is developed because of hazards and the vulnerabilities of the social and the physical environments to those hazards. and David Baldry to contextual issues such as change and development in an area or a community. The literature contains various classifications of DRR strategies. to avoid (prevention) or to limit (mitigation and preparedness) the adverse impacts of hazards. within the broad context of sustainable development’. However. 2005a).   It is evident. to overcome disaster risks.52  Roshani Palliyaguru. The next section presents the critically reviewed literature concerned with the concept of DRR and current opinions on this concept. and built-environment structures. but also to ‘soft methods’ such as policy and planning and knowledge management strategies (Mileti. 2006). and practitioners propose certain measures. It is evident now. UNISDR (2009 ) states that DRR represents the ‘systematic development and application of policies. sanitation projects. Adding to this definition. The engineering community. ‘disaster risk reduction strategies’. . As Weichselgartner (2001) emphasises. to avoid (prevention) or to limit (mitigation and preparedness) the adverse impacts of hazards. communities. DRR seeks to tackle the fundamental elements of disaster risk: vulnerability and hazards (DFID. 2010 ). therefore. although the complex nature of natural disasters has led to the belief that ‘hard engineering measures’ are more superior than ‘soft methods’. that it is not only individuals and communities that are vulnerable to disasters but also built-environment structures such as road networks. social and demographic trends. she highlights the importance of appropriately linking grassroots strategies and suitable top-down strategies and local government interventions (Mercer.   In this way. though. scientists. all of the vulnerabilities tabulated in Table 2 are commonly applicable to individuals. which the research community has categorised in different ways. 1999). members of the research community. and policymakers now recognise the substantial effects of DRR initiatives. DRR encompasses measures to curb disaster losses by addressing hazards and the vulnerability of people to them (DFID. strategies and practices to minimise vulnerabilities and disaster risks throughout society. and economic conditions. Thus. Dilanthi Amaratunga. The UNISDR (2004b) defines DRR as ‘the conceptual framework of elements considered with the possibilities to minimise vulnerabilities and disaster risks throughout society. it is evident from the above that the concept of DRR not only refers to structural or technically advanced strategies. different authors have defined the concept of vulnerability in various ways. it is very important to consider soft methods within the DRR process and to make use of social rather than physical approaches. within the broad context of sustainable development’. Mercer (2010 ) broadly identifies them as DRR policies and strategies that need to evolve from a top-down as well as a bottom-up standpoint. Academics.   There is a wide range of DRR strategies. In addition.

such as through diversification of economic activities. planners. international. and • engineering measures that create structures whose function is primarily disaster protection. Here. Mitigation measures can be divided into infrastructural and non-infrastructural . and other managers (including hazard and risk reduction within their normal area of competence).   Concern Worldwide (2005). has produced a relatively similar version of the basic classification of DRR strategies of Nateghi-A (2000). surpassing this basic classification. humanitarian organisation. • Economic planning measures: measures that enable communities to become economically stable in order for them to withstand losses and measures that make it possible for communities to afford higher levels of safety. and the generation of political will. the term ‘DRR’ includes the following three aspects of a disaster reduction strategy: • mitigation. a non-governmental. and • educational measures: professional training of engineers. economists.Constructing a holistic approach to disaster risk reduction 53   Nateghi-A (2000 ) provides a basic classification of disaster mitigation strategies: • preparedness measures—to provide warnings. • Public response measures: measures that result in a disaster ‘safety culture’ within which the general public is totally aware of potential hazards and associated vulnerabilities. • Physical planning measures: measures that result in the proper selection of sites for settlements and structures to avoid hazardous areas. Nateghi-A (2000) proposes a comprehensive classification of a range of techniques that the city of Tehran. Iran. has instigated to mitigate earthquake disasters: • Engineering and construction measures: • engineering measures that result in stronger individual structures that are more resistant to hazards. • Policy guidance measures: • organisational and procedural measures. and • advocacy. social scientists. allowing them to protect themselves as completely as possible and to support fully efforts made on their behalf to protect them. and to develop the capacity for an emergency response.   Nevertheless. • preparedness. which results in the institutionalisation of disaster mitigation. to establish contingency plans. including earthquake shelters. 2005). and • prevention/mitigation measures—to reduce vulnerability and thereby risks on a long-term and permanent basis.   These three categories are not mutually exclusive (Concern Worldwide.

and David Baldry measures that reduce the frequency. resilient water supply systems (such as boreholes. multipurpose. 2005a). and community level means is clear. and continues afterwards. the intensity. Physical/technical strategies. national. Effective DRR happens well before disasters strike. national. Policy and planning strategies. natural protection strategies. the applicability of the DRR concept is not limited to a particular time frame. and knowledge management strategies. emergency preparedness strategies. . project/programme. meanwhile. What the international. 2005).54  Roshani Palliyaguru. sea­ borne) and sea walls. All of the DRR strategy categories are of paramount importance to the physical and social environments. • Physical preventative measures: flood defences (such as a dam. including preparedness and contingency planning. the institutional level. integrated management of flooding and the water supply. and public warning systems. natural protection against floods (such as reforestation of watersheds). emergency preparedness strategies. raised hand-pumps). • Community capacity-building measures: training communities in disaster preparedness. and the design and building of contingency mechanisms for coping with disasters (such as escape roads). the scale.   DFID (2005b) has produced a clearly understood classification of DRR strategies: • Policy and planning measures: a national plan for protection against disasters. These could exist at the international. including various frameworks and guidelines. and at each of the following levels. land-use planning. However. and community/individual level. and the impact of hazards.   On reviewing the established DRR strategies and their classifications. The dashed lines indicate the influence of policy and planning strategies on different levels. and improving networks/links with local governments. and natural protection strategies could exist at the project/programme level. physical/ technical strategies. and usually are knowledge-based and incorporate early-warning systems that monitor and predict the occurrence of hazards. Preparedness plans often include capacity-building. • Physical coping and/or adaptive measures: resilient roads and infrastructure (such as raised roads). as well as contingency plans for an effective response. for instance. Dilanthi Amaratunga. it is evident that there are strategies that fall under policy and planning strategies. institutional. could exist at the international. stands for local and urban authorities and construction companies. Advocacy seeks to change favourably policies and practice through networking and the application of influence (Concern Worldwide. national. whereas the project/programme level stands for construction or reconstruction projects and disaster mitigation programmes. or institutional level—they have a direct effect on each other from top to bottom—as well as at the project/programme level and the community and individual level. for example. an integrated warning and response system.   Figure 2 depicts this proposed classification of DRR strategies. building resilience to future hazards (DFID. and installation of drainage pumps. while knowledge management strategies could exist at both the project/programme and the community and individual level.

functional areas. Discussion: constructing a holistic DRR approach To establish a holistic approach to DRR. This understanding will enable decisions to be made on which DRR strategies could address triggering agents. Classification of disaster risk reduction strategies INTERNATIONAL LEVEL Policy and planning guidelines. actors. how DRR strategies may support vulnerability reduction. frameworks Policy and planning guidelines.Constructing a holistic approach to disaster risk reduction 55 Figure 2. frameworks Physical/ technical strategies NATIONAL LEVEL INSTITUTIONAL LEVEL PROJECT/ PROGRAMME LEVEL COMMUNITY AND INDIVIDUAL LEVEL Emergency preparedness strategies National protection strategies Knowledge management strategies Source: authors. . Palliyaguru and Amaratunga (2011) claim that certain hazards. frameworks Policy and planning guidelines. the prevention or mitigation of vulnerabilities. the prevention or mitigation of hazards. cited in McEntire. it is important to explore its significance for vulnerability reduction—that is. there are preventable and unpreventable hazards (Cannon. 2005). and/or 2. variables. 1993. and disciplines pertaining to disaster events.   The prevention and mitigation of disaster risk can be achieved through: 1.   However.

environmental management. Palliyaguru and Amaratunga (2011) state that the best way to prevent or mitigate disaster losses is to prevent (eliminate) or mitigate (reduce) vulnerabilities. and social factors (Mercer. vulnerability is lessened through the adoption of DRR strategies. although not eliminate completely. are preventable via the prevention of associated vulnerabilities whereas hazards such as earthquakes are unpreventable. identified four ideal schools of thought on vulnerability reduction: • physical science school. assets. that. vulnerability to disasters. it is evident that DRR should be aimed at vulnerability reduction. Thomalla et al. (2006) identify DRR as one of four methods used by the research and policy communities involved in the reduction of vulnerability to natural hazards— the other three are climate change adaptation. However.   McEntire. Dilanthi Amaratunga. It is claimed. Concentrating on disaster reduction and climate adoption as principle methods of vulnerability reduction. political. . Weichselgartner (2001. 87) offers the same argument. McEntire et al. because disaster risks originate in and are exaggerated by economic. while presenting an improved model of vulnerability reduction. 2010 ). and address the salient issues of sustainability and quality of life’. the inherent cultural and social capacities of poorer communities. In other words. environmental. (2002) emphasise the importance of incorporating a broad scope of variables in the future paradigm and considering vulnerability reduction through development and disaster management activities alike. Rautela (2006) notes that all risk reductionrelated efforts are associated with decreasing the vulnerability of the community. p.   McEntire (2004) acknowledges that one certainly can limit. The ADRC (2005) states that vulnerability reduction can be achieved through mitigation and preparedness strategies. Mercer (2010 ). and poverty reduction.56  Roshani Palliyaguru. Gilmore Crocker. in terms of life. both have failed to decrease vulnerability. as this is the most critical variable in relation to the impact of a disaster. • engineering school. underlines that DRR can make a significant contribution to protecting vulnerable communities. commonly referred to as ‘vulnerability reduction’. One can contend that DRR strategies aimed at helping poorer communities should work towards reducing economic vulnerability. and David Baldry such as floods. adding that ‘the concept of vulnerability can provide a vehicle to explore a contextual approach to the reduction of losses due to natural hazards. Yodmani (2001). asserts that DRR evolved from both a topdown and bottom-up perspective. and livelihoods. therefore. (2006) claim that. Thomalla et al. Stenchion (1997) reiterates that development and disaster management are both aimed at vulnerability reduction. researching proactive disaster management with a particular focus on the reduction of disaster risks. and Peters (2010 ). and perhaps foster. although these hazards may or may not be preventable. Moreover. In this context. Thus. and simultaneously capitalise on. while discussing DRR and climate change adaptation. their effects and losses can be prevented or mitigated. and that climate change adaptation generally emerged from a top-down driven policy that initially was not adequately connected to the communities directly affected by climate change. to date.

and to be creative to help enhance disaster activities. ethnicity. DRR strategies to overcome vulnerability School of thought Physical science school Strategies to overcome vulnerability • Creation of warning systems. Mileti (1999. Gilmore Crocker. • Build structures and infrastructure adequately. poverty. including age. and Peters (2010 ) propose strategies to overcome each of these types of vulnerability. cited in McEntire. cited in McEntire. • Structural school—it concentrates more on traditional notions of vulnerability than the other three. The main idea is that the individual becomes vulnerable first and foremost owing to his/her social structure and not necessarily because of other life choices. • Organisational school—it concentrates on resilience or the effectiveness of response and recovery operations. • Effective response and recovery operations. and race. and underscores the importance of preparedness. • General categorisation of a place’s ‘hazardousness’. • Careful settlement patterns. race) that usually increase a community’s susceptibility. • Improve socioeconomic and demographic factors (such as age. which are similar to the DRR strategies examined earlier. • Ways to increase resistance through construction practices and fabrication methods. to improvise. • Land-use planning. 2010). Gilmore Crocker. ethnicity.   All four possess their own strengths and weaknesses.   In addition. This is a relatively new school of thought. Chakraborty et al. Table 3 summarises these strategies. leadership. cited in McEntire. 2010 ). and the ability to adapt. gender.Constructing a holistic approach to disaster risk reduction 57 • structural school. to improvise. (2000. Engineering school Structural school Organisational school . this school relies heavily on analysis of the physical environment. • Cautious development. McEntire. and • organisational school. • Effective leadership and management and the ability to adapt. • Effective preparedness. 2010 ). 2010 ). • Environmental protection. management. but two are categorised as technocratic and the remaining two as sociological (McEntire. (1995. Table 3. and Reddy (2000. and it stresses susceptibility based on socioeconomic factors and demographic characteristics. gender. and Peters. cited in McEntire. As discussed by Mileti et al. 2010 ): • Physical science school—it concentrates on living in safe areas and focuses mostly on exposure to hazards and risk reduction. and to be creative. • Complete relocation of vulnerable communities in extreme cases. • Engineering school—it concentrates on the built environment and on ways to increase resistance through construction practices and methods of fabrication.

Framework showing the influence of DRR on vulnerability reduction Roshani Palliyaguru. Dilanthi Amaratunga.58  Figure 3. . and David Baldry Source: authors.

national-. a theoretical framework was developed (see Figure 3) based on the above literature review and an overall understanding gained through the doctoral research of Roshani Palliyaguru. this paper presents an effective classification of DRR strategies: policy and planning. • Physical. These five categories of DRR strategies exist at the international. political. over-reliance on warning systems or ineffective warning systems. which produce social vulnerability. technological. What is lacking in the current policies. and inadequate emergency preparedness among communities. is identification of the key factors generating the vulnerability of communities and projects. . economic. and enhancing communication and information management and sharing inside and outside of projects.   Based on Figure 3. physical/technical. Table 4 summarises the influence of DRR strategies on vulnerability reduction. Using an integrated approach. They involve predominantly improving the education standards of construction professionals and communities. increasing women’s engagement in project decisionmaking. institutional. emergency preparedness strategies also can lead to a reduction in social vulnerabilities because they can largely overcome factors such as a lack of education. international-. natural protection. and knowledge management strategies. technological. • Physical. • Physical. economic. resulting in turn in the effective positioning of infrastructure.   In this context. • Cultural. It clearly categorises the DRR strategies that can be effective in overcoming the factors generating various vulnerabilities (see Table 2). and institutional-level policies can have the greatest influence on reducing all types of vulnerabilities. This research proves that physical/technical strategies and emergency preparedness strategies are more effective in decreasing physical and technological vulnerability because they are more technical and technological in orientation. physical. emergency preparedness.   As suggested by existing research.Constructing a holistic approach to disaster risk reduction 59 Table 4. knowledge management strategies are useful in overcoming all forms of vulnerability. However. physical. though. national. Conclusion The term ‘disaster risk reduction’ encompasses a wide range of issues pertaining to disaster risk management. social. Influence of DRR strategies on vulnerability reduction DRR strategies Policy and planning strategies Physical/technical strategies Emergency preparedness strategies Natural protection strategies Knowledge management strategies Types of vulnerability that can be overcome • Cultural. social. While natural protection strategies are effective primarily in lessening physical vulnerabilities. political. technological. addressing all of the factors that generate such vulnerability (see Table 2). technological. social.

DFID Policy Paper. G. Marsh. Smale (2000 ) ‘New approaches to assessing vulnerability and resilience’. R. Smale (2001) Assessing Resilience and Vulnerability: Principles. Larson (2008 ) ‘Disasters: lessons from the past 105 years’. Lecturer. Telephone: +44 ( 0 )131 451 3154 . 8 –14. K. Barton. and S.C. Correspondence Dr Roshani Palliyaguru. Eshghi. Strategies and Actions – Guidelines. on which this paper is based. political. Buckle. DFID (Department for International Development) (2005a) Disaster Risk Reduction: A Development Concern. and that natural protection strategies are beneficial for physical vulnerability reduction. 15 (2 ). and community/individual level. DFID (2005b) Natural Disaster and Disaster Risk Reduction Measures: A Desk Review of Costs and Benefits. London. ADRC. as the literature review highlighted that an effective way of mitigating disaster losses is to reduce vulnerability—commonly called ‘vulnerability reduction’. technological. Concern Worldwide. physical. Heriot-Watt University. and social vulnerability reduction. EH14 4 AS. they demonstrated that physical/technical strategies are beneficial for physical and technological vulnerability Moreover. which resulted in an analysis of the effects of DRR strategies on vulnerability reduction.palliyaguru@hw. London. DFID. and David Baldry project/programme. ACT. DFID (2006) Reducing the Risk of Disasters – Helping to Achieve Sustainable Poverty Reduction in a Vulnerable World. G. e-mail: r. It sought to establish a link between the theoretical constructs of ‘disaster risk reduction’ and ‘vulnerability reduction’. Furthermore.60  Roshani Palliyaguru.. the literature review and the empirical investigation in Roshani Palliyaguru’s doctoral research. revealed that policy and planning strategies and knowledge management strategies are useful in overcoming all six types of vulnerability (cultural.   The primary aim of this paper was to develop a holistic DRR approach. Concern Worldwide (2005) Approaches to Disaster Risk Reduction. Marsh. this study covers the whole spectrum of issues. International conference and student competition on post-disaster . to produce an effective catalogue of DRR strategies. and S. Dilanthi Amaratunga. pp. Jigyasu. School of the Built Environment. DFID. P. ranging from the international to the community/ individual level. pp. Buckle. P. economic. (2004) Sustainable Post Disaster Reconstruction through Integrated Risk Management: The Case of Rural Communities in South Asia. and technological). Edinburgh. DFID. London. social.. 62 –82. United Kingdom. London. While most other classifications offered by researchers and practitioners are limited to a few categories. Draft Final Report. Australian Journal of Emergency Management. Kobe. Disaster Prevention and Management. that emergency preparedness strategies are beneficial for References ADRC (Asian Disaster Reduction Centre) (2005) Total Disaster Risk Management – Good Practices 2005. The proposed theoretical framework elucidated the influence of DRR strategies on variables that interact to produce vulnerability. Emergency Management Australia. 17 (1). and R.

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