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Risky Links: Global Disaster Reports

In all my courses here in Pavia we’ve been getting into the alphabet soup of international disaster management. One thing that’s got me a little confused are all the international reports on disasters. So I’ve compiled a list of all the regular reports brought out in the international space on disasters and data and trends in their impact and response. One thing about most of these reports (particularly for a data geek like me) is that they’re underpinned by massive amounts of data on disasters, their impact and response – including time series.

Global Assessment of Risk – This report is published by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) every two years.

World Disasters Report – Published annually by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cresent Societies (IFRC).

World Risk Report – Published annually by the Institute for Environment and Human Security at the United Nations University (UNU-EHS)

Global Risks – Published annually by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Annual Disaster Statistical Review – Published by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), this data in this annual report is used in many other international reporting.

Sigma Natural Catastrophes and Man-Made Disasters – Swiss Re publishes this report annually as a special issue of it’s Sigma magazine.

Global Humanitarian Assistance Report – Published annually by Development Initiatives.

Humanitarian Accountability Report – Published annually by the Humanitarian Accountability Project

A Review of Natural Disasters – Published annually by the Brookings Institute

Risky Bites: Fukushima, is fear the real risk?

VOA Herman - April 13 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant-03Two new international and independent reports have been released on the health impacts of the Fukushima nuclear accident. They’ve found that there have been few health impacts on the workers in the plant and emergency responders. More importantly they’ve found that there are unlikely to be any attributable long term health impacts on the general population. As the Sydney Morning Herald article says: “This “perfect storm” hit a nuclear plant built to a 50-year-old design and no one died.”

Nevertheless, there’s been significant fallout (pun intended) in terms of the nuclear power industry in Japan and abroad. Japan has struggled to generate electricity over the last two years and public opinion on nuclear power has reached new lows. The psychological impacts cannot also be discounted for millions in the area and further afield. The report even found that many deaths were associated with the stress of the evacuation. In areas that weren’t highly exposed to radiation people may have been better off staying.

So here’s my question: is the fear of a nuclear accident a bigger risk than the risk of an accident itself?

A Global Emergency Number

The World Conference On International Telecommunications that is just finishing up in Dubai, has attracted most attention for proposals for greater internet regulation. But the conference and the International Telecommunications Union looks after many things besides the internet.

One of these is the emergency calling number (in Australia 000), in particular for mobile devices (in Australia 112 will work on all GSM mobiles).

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L’Aquila Earthquake Verdict

L'Aquila 2010-by-RaBoe-078On the 6th of April 2009, a devastating earthquake struck the medieval Italian city of L’Aquila. In the town and others nearby 309 people were killed, more than 1,500 people injured, 20,000 buildings destroyed and 65,000 people left homeless.

In the wake of the earthquake 6 Italian scientists and one government official, members of the National Commission for Forecasting and Predicting Great Risks, were charged with manslaughter on the basis that they provided misleading and confusing information. Information that, prosecutors alleged, directly led to people deciding to remain in their homes after a minor earthquake which happened just hours before the fatal shock hit.

Just under three weeks ago the magistrate found all seven guilty prompting massive criticism from scientists worldwide.

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Fact: Disasters are political

On the eve of the US Presidential election it’s been barely a week since North America was impacted by one of the costliest disasters in US history. Although the mass media has largely moved on from the effects of the storm, its impact on the US Presidential election is likely to be debated for some time to come.

Before Hurricane Sandy even hit though there were the usual calls for the disaster not to be politicised. However endorsements for Obama’s handling of the response from Republican and Independent leaders, along with the crackpot right blaming gays and the Muslim Brotherhood and the green left blaming climate change quickly quashed those calls.

Fact is, disasters are political.

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IDRC Davos 2012

Tomorrow I’m off to the International Disaster Risk Conference 2012 in Davos, Switzerland.

I’ll be volunteering there and checking out as much of the latest research and best practice in disaster risk management as I can. It’s particularly encouraging to see sessions on cascading mega disasters, urban risks, the future of risk management and broader governance approaches in a post-Hyogo Framework for Action environment.

I hope to post a couple of updates during the conference and a longer recap on my return to Kathmandu. In the meantime check out the conference website or follow them on twitter.

Zombies, Zombies Everywhere

In an increasingly saturated media environment how do emergency managers get their messages across? Research into the best methods of community engagement, heightened use of social media and increasingly polished public service announcements are all playing a role.

They’re also turning to that mainstay of B-Grade horror flicks: Zombies.

A cult favourite since George Romero released Night of the Living Dead, they have enjoyed a resurgence with such films as Zombieland, 28 Days Later, Fido and Shaun of the Dead. Zombies have certainly been getting plenty of attention on the intertubes:

Brains!

Google search trends for zombies, vampires and terrorists

Zombies on average and particularly over the last four years have outranked both vampires (despite the best efforts of Stephanie Meyer) and terrorists in terms of global google searches.

Based on that data you could argue that zombies are perceived to be a larger threat than terrorists but what use can zombies be in disaster management?

Zombies are a great way of getting people’s attention, particularly those in Gen Y. They can also inject a little humour into what otherwise can be a fairly dry and depressing topic.

Back when I delivered emergency preparedness workshops I occasionally used the zombie analogy as a way of injecting a little humour into my sessions¬† (it also helped divert attention when I wasn’t sure what an item in the emergency kit was for; “the crowbar? that’s clearly for protection in the case of a zombie attack”). It was fun at the time, but I had no clue that others were picking up on the idea.

In the last few years zombies have burst onto disaster preparedness sites like, well, a horde of zombies hungry for brains. Here’s a few examples of emergency managers using zombies in their preparedness efforts:

Despite zombies being a pop culture phenomenon across the English-speaking world I haven’t been able to spot any similar initiatives outside of North America. If readers are aware please let me know in the comments.

And don’t forget to keep your emergency kit stocked and your family plan updated. As with all disasters, it’s not a matter of if but when the undead will come hunting for our brains.