Compound disasters and compounding processes: Implications for disaster risk management

This paper aims to consider the multitude of ways in which one disaster may precipitate another, either by directly causing it (if there would otherwise not be the second event) or by severely impairing the resilience and response of the communities in question to the second event. Effective and successful reduction and management of compound disaster risks critically depend on our improved understanding of these causal connections and mechanisms.

The conclusions for policy are the following:

  1. Any disaster entails a potentially compounding process, whereby one event precipitates another.
  2. What are currently referred to in some literature as “compound disasters” are but a subset of cases where the compounding process is played out to such an extent that it caused multiple events to occur.
  3. Factors determining if and how the compounding process associated with an initial event is played out include physical and human factors.
  4. In designing effective disaster risk reduction (DRR) and disaster risk management (DRM) strategies, it is important to recognise the increased threats of compound disasters.
  5. It is important to be vigilant to the wide range of possibilities of natural disaster-technology interaction and to minimise the chances of single natural disasters turning into a wider technological disaster.
  6. An explicit and strengthened perspective on inter-disaster linkages also implies that timely and adequate responses to one disaster may be the key to preventing another.
  7. It is unlikely that such timely and adequate responses can all be pre-planned.
  8. A close reading of both the negative and positive parts of a disaster experience could increase the understanding of what it takes to design and conduct successful DRR and DRM policies and programs.

This document is an input paper of the 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Liu, M.; Huang, M. C.
20 p.

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