At Risk: Natural Hazards, People's Vulnerability, and Disasters

By Ben Wisner; Piers Blaikie et al. | Go to book overview

2

THE DISASTER PRESSURE AND RELEASE MODEL

The nature of vulnerability

Two models

In evaluating disaster risk, the social production of vulnerability needs to be considered with at least the same degree of importance that is devoted to understanding and addressing natural hazards. Expressed schematically, our view is that the risk faced by people must be seen as a cross-cutting combination of vulnerability and hazard. Disasters are a result of the interaction of both; there cannot be a disaster if there are hazards but vulnerability is (theoretically) nil, or if there is a vulnerable population but no hazard event. 1

'Hazard' refers to the natural events that may affect different places singly or in combination (coastlines, hillsides, earthquake faults, savannahs, rainforests, etc.) at different times (season of the year, time of day, over return periods of different duration). The hazard has varying degrees of intensity and severity. 2 Although our knowledge of physical causal mechanisms is incomplete, some long accumulations of records (for example of hurricanes, earthquakes, snow avalanches or droughts) allows us to specify the statistical likelihood of many hazards in time and space. But such knowledge, while necessary, is far from sufficient for calculating the actual level of risk.

What we are arguing is that the risk of disaster is a compound function of the natural hazard and the number of people, characterised by their varying degrees of vulnerability to that specific hazard, who occupy the space and time of exposure to the hazard event. There are three elements here: risk (disaster), vulnerability, and hazard, whose relations we find it convenient to schematise in a pseudo-equation:

R=H×V.

-49-

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At Risk: Natural Hazards, People's Vulnerability, and Disasters
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface to the 2004 Edition xiv
  • Preface to the 1994 Edition xvi
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms xviii
  • Part I - Framework and Theory 1
  • 1 - The Challenge of Disasters and Our Approach 3
  • 2 - The Disaster Pressure and Release Model 49
  • 3 - Access to Resources and Coping in Adversity 87
  • Part II - Vulnerability and Hazard Types 125
  • 4 - Famine and Natural Hazards 127
  • 5 - Biological Hazards 167
  • 6 - Floods 201
  • 7 - Coastal Storms 243
  • 8 - Earthquakes and Volcanoes 274
  • Part III - Towards a Safer Environment 319
  • 9 - Towards a Safer Environment 321
  • Bibliography 377
  • Index 447
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