Natural Hazards and Disasters

A natural hazard is a threat of a naturally occurring event will have a negative effect on humans. This negative effect is what we call a natural disaster. In other words when the hazardous threat actually happens and harms humans, we call the event a natural disaster. Natural Hazards (and the resulting disasters) are the result of naturally occurring processes that have operated throughout Earth’s history. Effects of Hazards

Hazardous process of all types can have primary, secondary, and tertiary effects.

Primary Effects occur as a result of the process itself. For example water damage during a flood or collapse of buildings during an earthquake, landslide, or hurricane. Secondary Effects occur only because a primary effect has caused them. For example, fires ignited as a result of earthquakes, disruption of electrical power and water service as a result of an earthquake, flood, or hurricane, or flooding caused by a landslide into a lake or river. Tertiary Effects are long-term effects that are set off as a result of a primary event.

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These include things like loss of habitat caused by a flood, permanent changes in the position of river channel caused by flood, crop failure caused by a volcanic eruption etc. Vulnerability to Hazards and Disasters

Vulnerability refers the way a hazard or disaster will affect human life and property Vulnerability to a given hazard depends on: Proximity to a possible hazardous event
Population density in the area proximal to the event
Scientific understanding of the hazard
Public education and awareness of the hazard
Existence or non-existence of early-warning systems and lines of communication Availability and readiness of emergency infrastructure
Cultural factors that influence public response to warnings
Construction styles and building codes
There are three main types of “earthquake proof” building structures, all used in Japan over the past decade.

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The first has a heavy concrete weight on the top of a building that, activated by computer-controlled dampers, is shifted across the roof to counteract the force of the earthquake; however, a power cut could stop this sophisticated system working.

The second employs shock absorbers, normally a sandwich rubber composition that acts as a form of suspension; this is suitable for buildings up to 15 storeys. The third method, represented by Foster’s Century Tower in Tokyo, is the eccentrically braced frame. “This”, says Ed Booth of the engineers Ove Arup and Partners, “has steel braces providing stiffness for moderate earthquake motions, but a sacrificial ductile shear link between braces designed to yield in an intense earthquake, absorbing seismic energy and acting as a fuse which prevents the braces from buckling.” “But, earthquake engineering”, adds Mr Booth, “is still a relatively new field.

During this century more than 1.5 million people have lost their lives as a result of earthquakes and the vast majority of this toll because of buildings that have collapsed through unsuitable design.” “I telephoned my parents in Kobe”, says “Mog” Morishima, a Japanese architect working in London, “and they tell me that many of the new buildings on Port Island, a major land reclamation project in the Eighties, have survived. These include the Port Opia Hotel, the tallest building in the area. This is where you can find many new fashionable buildings designed by architects like Tadao Ando and Frank Gehry; it seems that new methods of construction and the new building regulations established in 1971 and revised in 1980 have saved many buildings and, so, many lives.” (The Atlantic, MAR 11, 2011)

In general, less developed countries are more vulnerable to natural hazards than are industrialized countries because of lack of understanding, education, infrastructure, building codes, etc. Poverty also plays a role – since poverty leads to poor building structure, increased population density, and lack of communication and infrastructure.

Assessing Hazards and Risk
Hazard Assessment and Risk Assessment are2 different concepts! Hazard Assessment consists of determining the following when and where hazardous processes have occurred in the past. the severity of the physical effects of past hazardous processes (magnitude). the frequency of occurrence of hazardous processes. the likely effects of a process of a given magnitude if it were to occur now and, making all this information available in a form useful to planners and public officials responsible for making decisions in event of a disaster.

Risk Assessment involves not only the assessment of hazards from a scientific point of view, but also the socio-economic impacts of a hazardous event. Risk is a statement of probability that an event will cause x amount of damage, or a statement of the economic impact in monetary terms that an event will cause. Risk assessment involves hazard assessment, as above,

location of buildings, highways, and other infrastructure in the areas subject to hazards potential exposure to the physical effects of a hazardous situation the vulnerability of the community when subjected to the physical effects of the event. Risk assessment aids decision makers and scientists to compare and evaluate potential hazards, set priorities on what kinds of mitigation are possible, and set priorities on where to focus resources and further study.

Prediction and Warning
Risk and vulnerability can sometimes be reduced if there is an adequate means of predicting a hazardous event.  Volcanic eruptions are usually preceded by a sudden increase in the number of earthquakes immediately below the volcano and changes in the chemical composition of the gases emitted from a volcanic vent. If these are closely monitored, volcanic eruptions can be often be predicted with reasonable accuracy. In the prediction of earthquakes, the word forecast is used in a much less precise way – referring to a long-term probability that is not specific in terms of the exact time that the event will occur.

For example: Prior to the October 17 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake (also know as the World Series Earthquake) the U.S. Geological Survey had forecast a 50% probability that a large earthquake would occur in this area within the next 30 years. Even after the event, the current forecast is for a 63% probability that a major earthquake will occur in this area in the next 30 years.

Social Vulnerability to Disaster and Hazards and the Community’s Preparedness

This paper seeks to explore social vulnerability to disasters and hazards and how community standards on zoning and buildings codes affect this preparedness to these disasters and hazards. It examines how the institutions tasked with disaster planning and mitigation respond to participatory approaches to community planning. It analyzes media reports on these events and proposes alternative ways through which the representatives from the media and journalists can report on these events. The paper also tries to explain what Amanda Ripley’s means when she says, “We still measure risk with the ancient slide rule that worked for most of our evolutionary history, even though we have calculators at our side.”

Communities usually respond first to disasters when they happen. Their response usually seeks to minimize loss, alleviate human suffering and assist in a speedy recovery. Assessing social vulnerability can be used as an effective measure of risk brought about by hazards and disasters in a community. Demographics, infrastructure and the economic status of a community affects its capacity to respond and recover from a disaster.
Zoning policies are put in place to help promote the public’s health, safety and welfare by ensuring appropriate water and sewerage systems, transport and providing regulations on land use and building specifications. However, restrictive zoning policies are usually hard on private developers leading to substandard buildings and hostility by the community. Non-compliance by a community directly threatens emergency planning and its preparedness for a disaster. There are several zoning policies and building codes that have been put in place as emergency planning procedures. However, voluntary and overall accepted zoning policies and building codes in a community greatly improve the community’s preparedness to disasters.

A community’s acceptance of regulations regarding building, relocation, renovation and all construction materials is a great step towards disaster preparedness. These standards differ according to zones and have to be followed in the respective zone as the hazards and damage differ. Adhering to these standards helps both the community and the public safety officers such as the police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel respond better to a disaster and quicken the recovery process thereby alleviating human suffering. A community that upholds standards such as building load, heat and refrigeration, power supply, flood proofing and design standards will usually come up with disaster-resistant structures. The ultimate way to reduce the risks and vulnerability caused by disasters is better land use, infrastructure and public education.

Institutions responsible for disaster planning and mitigation respond second when a disaster occurs. These agencies include the national government, local governments and the police force. For a community to minimize the damages and hasten the recovery process, it has to know it can depend on these institutions. Allowing these agencies to participate in the research, identification of a hazard and the extent of damage it could cause on a community, and the emergency planning will help them adopt the appropriate measures and instrument while responding to the disaster as well as establish extensive budgets for the recovery exercise.

These institutions also facilitate the training of the emergency planning measures in place. This training brings together those assigned emergency response roles like the police, firefighters, medical crews and the community. The community is therefore made aware of what is expected of them in the crisis. After the exercise, the facilitators need to evaluate whether the exercise was effective by using emergency drills or by allowing different response crews to interact to better understand the capabilities of each other and the actions they are expected to take. This helps eliminate overlaps in the roles of each emergency response team and bridge gaps in these roles. The training exercises and their successful evaluation help reassure the community that there is disaster preparedness for that community for the particular hazard addressed by the exercise.

The inclusion of external actors in the training and formulation of the emergency plan is also crucial in the mitigation process. These actors include the United Nations, NGOs, private sector who can offer technical support and local institutions such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes. Disaster risk reduction relies on the collective effort of all the internal and external actors, therefore, coordination and active participation by all the stakeholders is crucial to disaster management and emergency planning.

Worldview consists of the values, ideas and belief that determine a person’s attitude and consequently, actions. The media affects people’s perception of reality and their view of the world usually by convincing them that news is something they need to better understand the world. More often than not, the media gives humans a distorted view of the world while trying to satisfy their appetite. They merely reflect their observations and understanding of an event.

The media also plays a great role in disaster management by raising awareness on the disasters and the outcome. After heavy rains caused landslides that killed scores of people in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the media was on the frontline reporting on the evacuation plans and the rising death toll of the victims of the disaster. The media also released news reports on the displacement of families, those missing, and the call by the Local Authorities for donations in terms of food, clothing and makeshift shelters from the public. Reporting on the rescue efforts and any hindrances help the safety agencies prepare the appropriate instruments for use in the rescue.

The media helped other citizens in Brazil prepare for any eventualities of the heavy rains. When they warned the general Brazil public that more rain was expected in other parts of the country like Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais, the people in these areas were able to prepare to face and respond in case disaster happens. Reporting on flooded roads and streets also helped motorists and pedestrians avoid using them thereby avoiding any accidents.

Although the media and journalists help the public stay informed in the face of disaster, they mostly present on the negative and the extreme suffering brought about by these disasters which at times weaken people’s resolve and capacity to face the disaster. They neglect giving hope, direction and guidance to those affected. Media should regard the safety of its listeners by guiding them on where they can go and who they can seek for help and what guidance to follow.

According to Amanda Riley,” We still measure risk with the ancient slide rule that worked for most of our evolutionary history, even though we have calculators at our side.” Amanda seeks to explain how the human mind responds or fails to respond during critical times. She observes that the human mind responds better in a crisis if it has experience. She further identifies the first three stages the human mind goes through during a disaster are initial denial, deliberation and decisive moment.

Amanda stated that most people will use the knowledge we have accumulated over the generations to estimate risk. She faults this approach as inadequate, time-consuming and it requires a lot of thinking, unlike a calculation that can accommodate conditions such as the lack of control for people caught up in the situation, the unfamiliarity of the event, the runaway imagination of the victims, the pain inflicted, the destruction scale, and injustice of the disaster CITATION Rip18 l 1033 (Ripley, 2018). This means that with frequent practice, the human mind response time can be reduced.

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Natural Hazards and Disasters. (2016, May 06). Retrieved from

Natural Hazards and Disasters

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