Report of the 43rd Natural Hazards Workshop, Colorado

By Rebekah Yore, on 30 July 2018

Blog post by Justine Uyimleshi and Emmanuel Agbo

 

The natural hazard workshop is an annual event organised by the Natural Hazard Centre in collaboration with the University of Colorado Boulder around the field of disaster management and emergency response to trigger interactions and contributions from different experts in the field of disaster management and humanitarian responses. This year’s workshop, which was held in Omni Interlocken Hotel Boulder, Broomfield Colorado, from 8 – 11 July 2018 attracted over five hundred participants including disaster managers, emergency response personnel, practitioners and academia from around the world with different expertise in interactive sessions around pertinent issues that globally result in loss of lives, property damage, loss of economic values and human displacement. As a part of the IRDR strategy for promoting continuous research around disaster risk reduction (DRR) and expansion of networks in strengthening collaborations with other disaster management and emergency response entities across the world, the Institute through its research assistance funding provided support for two of its PhD researchers, Justine Uyimleshi and Emmanuel Agbo, to take part in this international event. Our participation in the workshop availed us the opportunity of interaction amid experts with different knowledge about disasters and present our research to the international communities.

Presenting our research

The workshop was full of several concurrent sessions that created opportunities for vast interaction around social media and disasters, data and partnership need for improved disaster response, cascading disasters, institutional settings, community impact and recovery from disasters, Health and wellbeing of disaster respondents, among others which enriched our understanding of the different thematic areas of disaster management. Most interestingly, the workshop further availed us the opportunity during the researcher’s meeting to moderate sessions of paper presentations as efforts in promoting the IRDR commitment in global events.  Also, of great attention from the workshop was our meeting with Jim Murphy, project director, Civil/Water Resource Engineering, DC Metro Area. Jim in admiration of our presence in the workshop and presentation during the workshop sessions demonstrated a benevolent act towards us and offered us a tour to the wild fire and flood devastating sites in Broomfield.

On this tour, we were able to see the available response facilities, and measures that are in place to quell the likely impact from future occurrence of these hazards. Finally, we extended the exploration of Colorado to the Gold hill town, where the coal exploit took place and the city mountains, which are part of the historical features of Colorado. Resulting from our experience of this workshop, we wish to express our profound appreciation to the IRDR for their continuous support. The workshop was greatly an event worth attending.

A Short Tale of Fieldwork

By Claudia Sgambato, on 26 July 2018

Fieldwork represents a fundamental part of my PhD research, and, as a geologist, it is also my favourite part of the job. In June 2018, I flew to Italy for the first of many fieldtrips, with Joanna Faure Walker, my primary supervisor. Together we worked for five days to conduct detailed mapping of and data collection from the Auletta fault, located in Campania, Southern Italy.

The Italian Apennines are undergoing a southwest-northeast extension, associated with earthquakes of moderate and large magnitudes, occurring on active normal faults. The exact location of these faults and rates of movement across them represents an important factor for the seismic hazard.

The fault studied is located in the Vallo di Diano, one of the extensional intramontane basins that characterise this sector of the Southern Apennines; the basin, filled by river and lake fan and slope deposits, is bordered on the East side by a major fault system, terminating to the North with the 3 km long fault strand that was the object of this study.

The Auletta fault scarp seen about half way up the slope as a grey line that offsets the topography, where my fieldwork was focussed. This fault scarp crosses the Cretaceous carbonates of Mt. San Giacomo for about 3km (photograph credit: Claudia Sgambato).

Many large magnitude earthquakes have struck the Southern Apennines in the past 1000 years, with an average of one event every 50 years. For instance, in 1694, a M=6.9 event with epicentre in Irpinia caused about 6000 casualties; in the same area, in 1980, a M=6.9 earthquake caused about 3000 deaths. Some events had damage consistent with them possibly occurring on the Auletta fault, like the two events in 1561 (M=6.7) that caused 600 casualties. Moreover, there is a debate on the location and nature of the structure responsible for one of the strongest earthquakes in the area, which occurred in 1857 in the Northern Vallo di Diano and Val d’Agri, causing between 10,000 – 20,000 casualties.

The main aim of my fieldwork on this trip was to collect detailed data along the fault scarp of the fault geometry (strike and dip), together with offset and slip direction data, to understand how these vary along what we consider the termination, or tip, of the fault. In fact, my research project investigates how the geometry of both individual faults and fault arrays in the Central and Southern Apennines influences the seismic hazard. All these data collected in the field, such as the fault orientation, length, strike and dip, slip to length ratios, will be used to study what controls the variability in slip-rates along the faults and how the fault geometry and faults interaction can affect earthquake recurrence intervals.

Joanna is taking measurements of the strike and dip of the fault (photograph credit: Claudia Sgambato).

Our typical day in the field started with an early breakfast, to avoid the heat and to reach the fault scarp at an elevation of 750m, as soon as possible. Then we walked along the scarp, taking measurements of strike and dip and slip vector, and where possible, measuring the throw using a meter ruler, which requires lying on the ground and sliding through the slope for about 100m.

You would think that the best part of fieldwork is the immersion in nature, with the fresh breeze and the warm sun of an early summer in Italy. Indeed, growing up in southern Italy means I have many such memories. But, there is the other side of the coin: imagine starting a day by facing some steep, slippery, muddy, slopes, covered in thistles, the kind that grows taller than you! Then later in the day, while working in the sun, suddenly heavy clouds cover the sky and rain, loud long-lasting thunders, and all the things you don’t expect from an Italian summer, happen, every day over those five days. And while you are trying to save your precious maps and notebook from the pouring rain, your legs and arms experience all kinds of thorns and stings. Well, this is fieldwork! The joy of working in the best “office” in the world, and all the (mis)adventures that come with it.

Negotiating through the thistles on my way up to the fault scarp – the Vallo Di Diano in the background – my “office” view (Photograph credit: Joanna Faure Walker).

Even if this field trip wasn’t exactly as expected, I learned a lot thanks to Joanna. We had a fun time, enjoying the stunning views, and more importantly, we brought back some interesting data that will keep me busy while I am already organising my next trip.

Happy to have escaped the thunderstorm, after anticipating its coming and climbing to the top (Photograph credit: Joanna Faure Walker).

Pressure Cooker in Mexico City

By Lucy K Buck, on 5 July 2018

On the 14th May 2018 I found myself in a room in the beautiful Palacio de Mineria in Meixco City. Me and 34 other young researchers from various different disciplines were there to be part of the first 24-hour Pressure Cooker, organised by the Water Youth Network as part of the Understanding Risk Conference. We were to be split into groups to work on case studies looking at either hazards either in Izapalapa, Meixco City or Dzilam de Bravo, Yucatan. The aim was to develop a risk communication strategy for hazards, such as flooding, subsidence and fracturing, that these areas suffer from.

And this is where it became clear why we were in Mexico. Mexico suffers from geological (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, subsidence, fracturing and landslides), hydrological (flooding and drought), meteorological (hurricanes) and anthropological (over fishing, pollution, over exploitation of resources, over population) hazards. In fact, the area that my group was given, Izapalapa, suffers from both extreme flooding and water shortages, and often people’s houses are flooded but they have no drinking water. Of course many of these are interconnected, compounding the problem (shortage of drinking water -> over extraction of ground water -> subsidence -> flooding).

Iztapalapa, con el poder de la gente – with the power of the people

 

Iztapalapa

With a population of roughly 1.8 million Iztapalapa is the most populous and fastest growing district of Mexico City. It is also the poorest with most of the population living in substandard conditions, often without running water and electricity. However, the area has a very strong sense of community and a high literacy rate, only 4% of the population over the age of six is illiterate. This is a community that is very well aware of the problems the district faces but has very little knowledge about how they can have a meaningful impact in reducing these risks.

Go Team 1!

 

The Challenge

We had 24 hours to come up with a viable communication plan to help reduce the vulnerability and increase the resilience of this community. With support from experts in communication, urban planning and relevant hazards, as well as representatives from the local Government. As well as the different specialities represented by our team (my team included a geophysicist, an urban planning, a psychologist and more!) we had the best chance to come up with a meaningful solution.

We decided the best strategy was to engage kids, getting them involved and helping solve the problem themselves.

We discovered that Mexico City had run a test pilot scheme where people would use a rain catcher to provide grey water for the house, reducing pressure on aquifers and the leaking water infrastructure and in the long term reduce subsidence and flooding risk. We decided to extend this to children. Teaching them how to make their own water catchers, which also lets them to contribute to the household and cut bills. Along with this we introduced our ‘Water Ambassador’ group where we would teach children about the importance of water conservation, this came with a badge once you built your own water catcher and helped conserve water in your home, and the ‘Guardians of the Drain’ which also came with a badge and organised teams of older children/teens to clean waste from the drainage systems to help stop flash flooding from these systems overflowing (this would obviously come with safety lessons).

Building a demo rain catcher at 1AM

 

After 24 hours straight of hard work, feeling very tired but gratified, we presented out communication plan to the rest of the participants as well as various experts and local representatives.

The vulnerability of Iztapalapa was highlighted the next day when, on a fieldtrip to the district, a 5.1 earthquake hit the city. Demonstrating how resilience methods can work, the early warning system had meant many homes had been evacuated and no damage or injuries occurred.

However, the most lasting and important outcome of this challenge were the connections and friendships that we all built during the exercise. These relationships are the best foundation on which to develop disaster risk reduction.

Some of the UR family

 

A massive thanks to the Water Youth Network and NERC, without whom this experience would not have been possible. Can’t wait for next time!

IRDR Masters student publishes Early Warning and Temporary Housing Research. This is part of the on-going collaboration between UCL-IRDR and IRIDeS-Tohoku University

By Joanna P Faure Walker, on 4 June 2018

Angus Naylor, an IRDR Masters student alumni and Masters Prize Winner, has published the research conducted for his Independent Research Project. The research was carried out as part of his MSc Risk, Disaster and Resilience with me, his project supervisor, and our collaborator at Tohoku University IRIDeS (International Research Institute of Disaster Science), Dr Anawat Suppasri.

Following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, UCL-IRDR and Tohoku University IRIDeS wanted to join forces to learn more about both the fundamental science and impacts of disasters both in Japan and around the world. Naylor’s recently published paper adds to other collaborative outputs from the two institutes: Mildon et al., 2016, investigating Coulomb Stress Transfer within the area of earthquake hazard research; Suppasri et al., 2016 investigating fatality ratios following the 2011 Great East Japan Tsunami; and IRDR Special Report 2014-01 on the destruction from Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. The two institutions have met on a number of occasions, and have an upcoming symposium in October 2018.

In 2014, three and half years after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami destroyed much of Tohoku’s coastline, I led and Dr Anawat Suppasri organised a joint UCL-IRDR and Tohoku University IRIDeS team, visiting residents of six temporary housing complexes in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures. While there, we used written questionnaires and informal group interviews to investigate the suitability of early warning systems and the temporary housing among the elderly population affected by this event.

When analysing the results, we found overall that age was not the principal factor in affecting whether a warning was received, but did play a significant role regarding what was known before the warning was received, whether action was taken and how temporary and permanent housing was viewed. The results suggest that although the majority of respondents received some form of warning (81%), no one method of warning reached more than 45% of them, demonstrating the need for multiple forms of early warning system alerts. Furthermore, only half the respondents had prior knowledge of evacuation plans with few attending evacuation drills and there was a general lack of knowledge regarding shelter plans following a disaster. Regarding shelter, it seems that the “lessons learned” from the 1995 Kobe Earthquake were perhaps not so learnt, but rather many of the concerns raised among the elderly in temporary housing echoed the complaints from 16 years earlier: solitary living, too small, not enough heating or sound insulation and a lack of privacy.

An example of Temporary Housing following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami visited during the fieldwork for this study (Photograph: Dr Joanna Faure Walker)

The research supports previous assertions that disasters can increase the relative vulnerabilities of those already amongst the most vulnerable in society. This highlights that in order to increase resilience against future disasters, we need to consider the elderly and other vulnerable groups within the entire Early Warning System process from education to evacuation and for temporary housing in the transitional phase of recovery.

The paper, ‘Suitability of the early warning systems and temporary housing for the elderly population in the immediacy and transitional recovery phase of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami’ published in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, can be accessed for free until 26th July here, after this date please click here for standard access.

The authors are grateful for the fieldwork funds which came from The Great British Sasakawa Foundation funding to UCL-IRDR and MEXT’s funding to IRIDeS. The joint UCL-IRDR1 and IRIDeS2 fieldwork team comprised Joanna Faure Walker1, Anawat Suppasri2, David Alexander1, Sebastian Penmellen Boret2, Peter Sammonds1, Rosanna Smith1, and Carine Yi2.

Angus Naylor is currently doing a PhD at Leeds University
Dr Joanna Faure Walker is a Senior Lecturer at UCL IRDR
Dr Anawat Suppasri is an Associate Professor at IRIDeS-Tohoku University

Summary of Field Work on Sea Ice performed in Svalbard, March 2018

By Rebekah Yore, on 26 April 2018

Article written by Mark Shortt

For two weeks in March 2018, I travelled to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard to conduct field experiments on sea ice as part of my PhD research. Svalbard is located at 74°-81°N, around halfway between mainland Norway and the geographic north pole. Travelling to Svalbard requires taking a 2-hour flight from the Norwegian city of Tromsø to Longyearbyen, the largest settlement on the archipelago with a population of just over 2000 people.

Location of Svalbard relative to mainland Europe, and a map showing the location of the field site

Once arrived in Longyearbyen, I went to the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), a local university specialising in Arctic studies. Here I met the team of researchers who I would be joining on the field expedition, led by Aleksey Marchenko, Professor of Ice Mechanics at UNIS. The field site was located within Van Mijenfjorden, an 83km long fjord approximately 50km south of Longyearbyen. Getting to the field site involved a roughly 3-hour long snowmobile journey from Longyearbyen to Svea, a small mining settlement located on the northern coast of the fjord. Here it was possible to stay in the mining lodges and eat in the communal canteen. The field site was located on the sea ice within the fjord, around a 10 minute snowmobile journey from Svea.

The edge of the sea ice cover in Van Mijenfjorden, located at Cape Amsterdam. Hidden in the clouds in the background is the Skobreen glacier

Sea ice occurs when the temperature of the air is lower than the temperature of the sea water for prolonged periods of time, reaching its maximum extent towards the end of the cold season. For the Northern Hemisphere, this corresponds to around late February and early March, which is why the field work was arranged at this time. The initial ice thickness at the field location within the fjord was around 60cm, but increased over the two week period. The air temperature over the field work period ranged between -10°C and -25°C.

The field site located on the sea ice within Van Mijenfjord

My research focuses on investigating the physical properties and strength of consolidated sea ice. The process of consolidation occurs in rafted and ridged sea ice – two commonly occurring features in the Arctic sea ice cover. Over time, freeze-bonds form between the constituent ice pieces, resulting in an overall strengthening of the features. When driven by winds and/or ocean currents, consolidated rafted and ridged sea ice may pose considerable risks to offshore structures and vessels operating in the region. It is therefore important that the physical and mechanical properties of the ice are well characterised over the consolidation period.

Large scale consolidation experiments were conducted with the aim of determining the time required for stacked blocks of sea ice to bond. Two experiments were set-up with differing ice orientations to investigate the effect of brine drainage on the physical properties and strength over the consolidation period. In both experiments, the temperature and salinity profiles through the ice were measured. In addition, the crystal structure of the freeze-bond layers formed between the ice blocks were deduced by taking thin sections of cored samples.

Experimental arrangement for field tests on sea ice consolidation

Other tests were conducted by the field group, with the aim of investigating the mechanical properties of sea ice. These included cantilever and Sodhi beam tests, drop block tests, small scale tensile and bending tests as well as full scale uniaxial compression tests. The influence of a vibroplate on the mechanical experiments was also investigated.

Due to incoming bad weather we were forced to leave the field site and return to Longyearbyen one day early. Unfortunately, this meant that I was limited in the number of strength tests that were performed in my experiment, the majority of which were scheduled for the final day. However, I believe that the results obtained will prove a useful comparison to similar smaller-scale tests to be conducted in the laboratories at UCL.

I would like to thank my supervisor, Professor Peter Sammonds for providing feedback and recommendations for my experimental plan prior to the field expedition. Special thanks to Aleksey Marchenko for the invitation for field work, and for the assistance in developing the experimental methodology. I also appreciate the support and hospitality of the other members of the field team throughout the expedition. Finally, thank you to the members of SAMCoT for providing the funds necessary for the undertaking of the experiments.

UCL IRDR Research Trip to Fukushima, Japan 2018

By Rebekah Yore, on 8 February 2018

Blog post written by Hui Zhang, Cate Howes and Peter Dodd

A group of students from the IRDR once again joined the Fukushima research trip, conducting fieldwork in the triple disaster affected area in Japan for a week in January this year. We collected information on how the Fukushima Prefecture and local communities are trying to recover from the disaster and rebuild a new life in the nuclear contaminated area. Here is a summary of our week:

Monday 15th January

On arrival in Fukushima, we were met by a lead engineering team and given a briefing on the events that had taken place in 2011, and the remaining effects on local prefectures such as the neighboring prefecture of Futaba and the residents that used to live there. Then we visited Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant – a sight that we feel privileged to have experienced and were impressed by the resilience and appetite to recover from the disaster, and to learn so as to effectively move forward in the regeneration process. This was followed by an in-depth discussion and question and answer session between the team and two respective representatives of TEPCO, to help stimulate our appetites for our individual areas for research.

Tuesday 16th January

Visiting the High School

Our first stop was at the Robotic Limb Factory – an innovation company, originally focusing on the creation of mobile phone components, now pushing the boundaries on physical movement assistance after disasters. Here we learnt that since the disaster, employee numbers had been slow to return, however they were working hard to push Fukushima as a place for testing new and vital technologies, and above all a desire to work in the region. Then we went to one of the hardest-hit areas named Futaba-gun. Our first stop was a graveyard, home to the remnants of the previous residents of the unfortunate village, completely wiped out by the Tsunami. Here we were also taken to the waterfront by the local port, recently repaired and home to a very small 20-strong fishing fleet, to reflect on the damage caused.

Our final visit of the day was to a previous high school, now re-utilised by the prefecture as a museum for visitors. Here we were greeted by a local storyteller, who reminisced with us as we sat in the junior student chairs, of how the local area had been effected and how she had been scared for the safety of her grandson after the disasters.

Wednesday 17th January

National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology

On Wednesday we were privileged to spend time visiting some incredible members of the local area, who work tirelessly to rebuild and strengthen their communities. We started the day hearing from Aoki-san, a local storyteller who talked to us about the evacuation of her town after the nuclear accident. We travelled to the J-Village and spoke with Chef Nishi, who set up a restaurant to help the workers travelling to assist in the stablisation and cleanup of Fukushima Daiichi. We ended the day as guests at the Futaba Mirai Gakuen High School. We were treated to a presentation from the students on their views of the situation in Fukushima. We then heard poignant speeches from two students, regarding their personal experiences since March 2011. The whole group were deeply moved by this testimony, and inspired by the positivity and kindness of the students.

Thursday 18th January

Press coverage: Fukushima Minpo paper

We spent a fascinating morning at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Koriyama City. We were given a full tour of the facility, and were very impressed with the innovative research into renewable energy that the centre is undertaking. Later, we took part in a thought-provoking workshop with government officials and students from Fukushima University and High School, discussing the future of the prefecture. That evening, we were invited to a reception welcoming us to the city. We very much enjoyed speaking further with students and officials from the earlier workshop, and to hear their thoughts and plans for the future of Fukushima.

Friday 19th January

Press coverage: Fukushima Minpo paper

On the last day, we visited the electric power station that conducts binary generation using the heat from the Tsuchiyu hot spring located in the upstream of Arakawa river. It is an example of local efforts to create new energy alternatives to nuclear power. We then went to the Environmental Regeneration Plaza in Fukushima City, where we were told about the progress of environmental recovery in Fukushima, about radiation and about environmental regeneration such as interim storage sites.

After the site visit, we met with the Governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Mr Masao Uchibori. The Governor expressed his thanks for our visit and listened to our impressions of the recovery in Fukushima. We then had a lecture on disaster prevention in the Crisis management Centre of Fukushima Prefecture.

We concluded our 5-day trip to Fukushima on 20th February and returned to London. It was an amazing experience and insight into post-disaster recovery and Japanese culture, and we will continue to pay attention to the reconstruction of Fukushima into the future.

 

UCL IRDR – Motorola Solutions Foundation Scholars on the MSc in Risk Disaster and Resilience

By Rosanna Smith, on 22 January 2018

The Motorola Solutions Foundation provided two scholarships that contributed towards tuition fees for two of our current (2017/18) full time students on the UCL IRDR MSc in Risk Disaster and Resilience. This scholarship was specifically targeted at public safety professionals and family members of fallen first responders, because the Motorola Solutions Foundation wished to enrich the careers of this community with the high-level and cross disciplinary academic study of risk, disasters and resilience provided by this programme.

See below the experiences of our scholars so far:

 

Irene Naa Quartey, Overseas Scholarship Holder

Irene was a Disaster Control Officer for National Disaster Management Organization, Tema – Ghana, before she came to UCL for MSc studies.

I feel truly honoured and privileged to be a recipient of the 2017/2018 Motorola Foundation Scholarship award. It is an absolutely life changing award for me and I cannot express how grateful I am to be awarded among many qualified applicants. This certainly contributes a great deal in covering my tuition expenses in this great University. The award serves as a springboard to my professional development and the next chapter of my career.

My desire to pursue this program derives from my passion to provide constant support to the vulnerable in society and taking a centre stage in leadership. Prior to joining the IRDR, I was a Risk and Disaster Officer professionally with National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO), a branch of the Government of Ghana.

Over the years, I have used my experience and role as a Risk and Disaster Officer in different capacities to put smiles on the faces of people who have experienced disasters and victims of homelessness, loss of life and properties. I needed a push in my career to advance into executive leadership to affect policy making and national strategic decision on disaster management. I feel this master’s degree program at UCL will equip me with the knowledge and skills needed to fill that gap to help me advance my career while benefiting society as a whole.

My studies at UCL have been very enjoyable; the great teaching skills displayed by the professors are truly world-class. Wonderful learning facilities and the network of friends from different cultural backgrounds globally makes it very exciting. I also enjoy studying in London and experiencing the very many resources the city has got to offer.

I wish to transfer scientific knowledge of risk and disaster management gained through UCL to improve my previous organization. I’m also certainly open to gaining work experience in the UK and working with international organizations to broaden my exposure and leadership skills.

 

Cate Howes, UK/ EU Scholarship Holder

Cate was a Senior Humanitarian Programmes Assistant at Muslim Aid before she came to UCL for her MSc studies.

I was inspired to study with the IRDR after attending the careers and opportunities fair* last year. Hearing from graduates for whom the IRDR has helped to carve a diverse range of careers in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) was extremely motivating, as well as the outstanding reputation of UCL as a world leading university.

I have assisted in two disaster response projects in the Philippines, and later on a demolition team in Nepal. Uponreturn to London I worked for over a year with the humanitarian charity Muslim Aid in the International Programmes Department.

I am particularly interested in DRR and emergency planning for schools – with a focus on lower income countries, and how safety can be improved for school children.

I am immensely enjoying my studies at the IRDR. The lecturers have been inspiring and very supportive. My classmates come from a range of experiences and backgrounds, and we have already created a strong support network.

Having obtained the MSc in Risk, Disaster and Resilience, I aim to continue my career in the humanitarian sector.  I will look to become a key player in policy change and advocate for safer schools.

 

* Note that the 2018 UCL IRDR Careers and Opportunities Fair will take place on 28th February. See the event webpage and register here.

Migration and Health Workshop in Italy

By Rebekah Yore, on 3 December 2017

Article by Peter Sammonds

This November, I joined a residential workshop for the Lancet Commission on Migration and Health at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy.

Workshop attendees

The Lancet Commission is investigating migration as the frequently overlooked core determinant of health and well-being, as it is neglected as a global health priority. It is led by Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, Director, UCL Institute for Global Health. The commissioners are from all over the world and from health, law, economics, migration, disaster sectors. The commission’s 30,000 word report will be published in the Lancet in 2017.

As well as participating in the commission workshop, the Humanitarian Institute and IRDR also joined the Institute for Global Health in organising a scenario workshop on the forced migration of the Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh. The scenario workshop addressed a health crises (measles) and natural hazard (cyclone with flooding and landslides). The scenario workshop will feed into the Lancet Commission and a report will be produced.

Research Update: Localising Emergency Management in Nigeria

By Rebekah Yore, on 7 November 2017

Article by Emmanuel Agbo

The recent devastating effects of natural hazards globally, such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, erosion, tsunamis, and landslides, in spite of the many predictive, defensive and reduction measures, call for great concern. Though this situation is often largely attributable to climate change, population growth and urbanisation, its catastrophic effect to humans and the environment, shows to a greater extend the limitations of science and technology and the many disasters risk reduction measures in disaster management. It also highlights a potential need for more proactive measures towards disaster risk reduction.

6d28a69f5c648644e434b02cf9824450Nonetheless, government commitment and willingness to undertake disaster risk reduction measures proves to be a veritable tool for effectiveness in disaster management. While the viability of this tool is undoubtably clear, its implementation often becomes distorted in most developing nations. This is so, as the shared responsibility between the state, the federal and the local government, in a top-down disaster operational approach as practice by most developed economies and adopted by many developing nations, suffers lots of implementation flaws. This occurs frequently within federated nations, where each government level is viewed as a sovereign state. This approach of emergency management places the civil protection measures at the mercy of politicians, who often prefer the provision of relief material to disaster victims in a bid to secure cheap political points rather than engaging in activities that will better prepare the vulnerable towards disaster incidents.

Nigeria-1

In recognition of these challenges, and in the quest to better prepare for disasters, my research supposes that locally institutionalising an emergency management culture within developing nations, serves to quell inconsistencies in its emergency operational framework. As all disasters, regardless of scale, happen first in communities, the local people are always the first to address its occurrences. To achieve greater preparedness, the level of information and awareness of hazards, as well as the potential mitigation strategies at the local level, needs be enhanced. To this end my research, through the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction research fund assistance, recently involved undertaking a field assessment of community perceptions of flood hazards, preparedness, and response within a number of flood vulnerable communities in Nigeria. Its preliminary findings point to poor preparedness and weak knowledge of flood emergency response, weak mitigation measures and poor defense mechanism. Also of notable finding is the gap in communication between the civil protection agencies and the rural vulnerable communities during and after disaster incidents. While most of these factors exist, and continually require review in most developing nations, there is a need for demonstrating complete structures to improve on these challenges. This is the focus of my research. 

David Alexander gives keynote talk in Canada

By David E Alexander, on 1 November 2017

 

On 26th November 2017 David Alexander gave the keynote speech at the Canadian Risks and Hazards Network annual conference. His topic was “One Hundred Years of ‘Disasterology’: Looking Back and Moving Forward”. His presentation can be found here:

The conference was held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which, almost exactly 100 years ago was the site of a massive explosion that killed 2000 inhabitants and injured 9000, as well as devastating the city. Thanks to the work of a studious Anglican priest, the Rev. Dr Samuel Henry Prince, this event marked the start of concerted academic studies of disaster, which therefore celebrate – if that is the right word – a century of unbroken activity. Alexander reports that it was interesting to observe the compare the explosion, a thriving and peaceful modern city, with the devastation that prevailed in 1917.