Teaching Disaster Risk Management

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					     Application of ‘Characteristics of a Disaster-Resilient Community’
                     Case Study – UK, November 2007-January 2008
                    Use of Characteristics in teaching (MSc and MA students)

          Draft, February 2008. Author: John Twigg, Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre

This case study shows how the Characteristics have been used as a device for teaching students about disaster
risk reduction (DRR) and disaster risk management. It discusses student group exercises in teaching sessions
on several MSc and MA courses at University College London and Oxford Brookes University between
November 2007 and January 2008. The courses were on a variety of subjects, but contained modules or
components of modules that addressed disasters and vulnerability. Classes ranged in size between 15 and 30
students, many of whom had little or no previous knowledge of disaster reduction before starting the module
or session.

The Characteristics exercise, which had two components, formed part of a longer teaching session. These
longer sessions varied in length and format, depending on the nature of the course and the content of
preceding sessions, but in each case, the students had already heard an introductory lecture or lectures about
disasters, vulnerability and disaster management and taken part in some discussion of these.

The immediate preparation for the exercise consisted of a short lecture on definitions and principles of DRR,
the difficulty of ‘capturing’ such a wide-ranging approach in conceptual or analytical frameworks, and the
Hyogo Framework of Action 2005-2015. The Characteristics were then presented, with an explanation of the
basic approach and the main elements of the tables (thematic areas, components of resilience, characteristics,
enabling environment). This part of the session usually took about 20 minutes.

The first component of the group work was a ‘brainstorming’, intended to make the students think as widely
and imaginatively as possible about the range and diversity of DRR and resilience. The exercise took 30-45
minutes, depending on the liveliness of the group and quality of the discussion. First, the five thematic areas
(governance, risk assessment, knowledge and education, risk management and vulnerability reduction, disaster
preparedness and response) were displayed as headings on an overhead or a whiteboard. The lecturer then
went round the room asking each student in turn to identify, or where they were not sure, to suggest,
individual components of DRR and resilience and characteristics of a disaster-resilient community, and to
assign them to one or more of the thematic areas. (The distinction between DRR and resilience was left
vague to in order to keep the subject as simple as possible and encourage students to contribute). The lecturer
wrote the responses up on the whiteboard under the relevant headings, using the students’ own words but
seeking clarification or further explanation where necessary (see Table 1). Once every student had responded,
the lecturer invited further contributions from anyone in the room. When the responses ‘dried up’, the
lecturer led a short discussion about the challenges of identifying DRR/resilience components and placing
                           Application of ‘Characteristics of a Disaster-Resilient Community’
                         Case Study: Use of Characteristics in Teaching (MSc and MA students)

them within the framework. Finally, the components of resilience identified in the Characteristics document
itself were displayed on an overhead.

The second component of the group work – usually after a break – involved use of the Characteristics in
disaster planning. The class was divided into groups of 4-8 students and set the question: ‘What DRR
interventions should be undertaken to reduce the vulnerability of people with disabilities to natural disasters?’
(The subject of disability was chosen because it is neglected in disaster planning. This made it unlikely that
any student would have analysed it before, and it was also an opportunity to raise their awareness of the
issue.) Each group was allowed 15-20 minutes to identify a maximum of 5 priorities for action and was told
to write each action point on a separate piece of paper or post-it note. When they had finished, the groups
read their action points out to the class and placed each card or post-it on a board or table, under one of the
five thematic areas of the Characteristics framework (see Table 2). The lecturer then led a 15-20 minute
discussion about the nature and range of activities the groups had identified, gaps in their coverage, and the
overall balance of interventions across the whole resilience framework.

Results and lessons learned
The classes engaged enthusiastically with the two group exercises, both of which stimulated considerable
debate. The brainstorming showed that, collectively, the students were able to identify a wide range of
DRR/resilience components although they found the thematic areas harder to comprehend and sometimes
struggled to fit individual components and characteristics to specific thematic areas. Table 1, which shows
their outputs, provides several examples of what experts would consider misplaced components within the
framework. This may be because most of the students were new to this subject and the introduction to DRR
preceding the exercise was relatively rapid, giving them little time to reflect. In the disability exercise, groups
tended to focus on emergency preparedness, response and technical interventions rather than underlying
problems of vulnerability, exclusion, participation and accountability, although this issue could then be
brought out in the discussions.

The value of the Characteristics in more thorough and systematic teaching about DRR and disaster risk
management has still to be explored. The session and the two group exercises were only an introduction to
DRR and aimed to raise students’ awareness and stimulate their interest rather than to impart a great amount
of learning. There was only a limited amount of time available in each case, which restricted the
opportunities for learning and discussion. An alternative structure to the session would be to take out the
disability exercise and continue the exploration of DRR and resilience as a whole. This could also take the
form of group work, in which individual groups identify and discuss more specific individual characteristics
of resilience within some of the more general components generated by the initial brainstorming.

                   Draft, February 2008. Author: John Twigg, Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre
                            Application of ‘Characteristics of a Disaster-Resilient Community’
                          Case Study: Use of Characteristics in Teaching (MSc and MA students)

    Table 1: Results of ‘brainstorming’ exercise on resilience/DRR characteristics (from 2 classes)

                                                      Class A                                    Class B

Governance                             Regulations                                     (national) planning
                                       Levels                                          Urban planning
                                       Participation                                   Zoning and implementation
                                       Accountability: structure to criticise &        Emergency planning
                                       responsibilities                                New laws regulating behaviour
                                       International system/external actors            Building standards
                                       Legal frameworks                                Rules for development
                                       Capacity                                        Sensitisation – attitude change
                                       Alternative strategies (research)               Global campaigns
                                       Conflict reduction/peacebuilding                Decisions/policies
                                                                                       Community action and defining
                                                                                       Provision of disaster insurance
Risk assessment                        Data                                            Hazard monitoring
                                       Standard approaches                             Specialist institutions
                                       Hazard/environmental assessment
                                       Women’s vulnerability
                                       Vulnerability: who, where, how, why,
Knowledge and education                Awareness-raising                               Research
                                       Construction education                          Training (for everyone)
                                       Education                                       Emergency planning
                                       Capacity                                        Sensitisation
                                       Testing                                         Attitude change
                                       Learning from other communities                 Behaviour change
                                       Swimming and other life skills                  Decisions, policies
                                                                                       Global campaigns
                                                                                       Experience sharing
Risk management and                    Buildings                                       EIA
vulnerability reduction                Livelihoods                                     Food stocks
                                       Planning                                        Behaviour change
                                       Structures                                      Community action and defining
                                       Building standards                              priorities
                                       Migration/population movement                   Disaster insurance
                                       Social safety nets                              Access to resources
                                       Poverty                                         Livelihood protection
                                                                                       Health services and
                                                                                       Construction: secure, adequate
                                                                                       for needs

                    Draft, February 2008. Author: John Twigg, Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre
                          Application of ‘Characteristics of a Disaster-Resilient Community’
                        Case Study: Use of Characteristics in Teaching (MSc and MA students)

                                                                                         Safe locations
Disaster preparedness and             Training in DP/emergency response                  Early warning systems
response                              M&E                                                Emergency planning
                                      Resources                                          Rescue system
                                      (health) services                                  Restoration of infrastructure
                                      EWS and testing                                    Relief: food, shelter, etc.
                                      Evacuation routes

             Table 2: results of group exercise on DRR planning for people with disabilities

                                               Class A                                     Class B

Governance                      Government policy and regulations;               Community based
                                 implementation at local level –                  organisations: co-operation,
                                 designation of disaster preparedness             support, relief, inclusion.
                                 team                                             Laws and policies and their
                                Regulations: building regulations in             adequate implementation
                                 relation to disabled access; policy and          (design standards, rights)
                                 socio-cultural change in relation to the
                                 views about marginalisation of
                                Building regulations: various forms of
                                 alert, escape facilities
                                Legislation for design of built
Risk assessment                 Needs assessment: data collection,              Mapping out of location of
                                 identification; risk assessment +                disabled people in the city, to
                                 creation of contingency plans based in           allow emergency services to
                                 local needs: transportation                      locate where the most
                                Risk assessment and information                  vulnerable are.
                                 gathering: identify who and where is            Getting disabled involved to
                                 disabled and level of disability                 identify what they feel most
                                Registration of disability: identification       vulnerable about. Reduce risk
                                 of vulnerability and registration                of that happening to lowest
                                 (voluntary!)                                     possible level (e.g. scared of
                                Continual integrated assessment (risk            fire – higher fire standards
                                 assessment) with existing structures of          for buildings).
Knowledge and education         Training and awareness for carers and            Prevention training (the
                                 emergency response and for disabled              evacuation procedures) [for]
                                 people                                           the disabled, medical
                                Awareness raising of disabled needs:             personnel, firemen,
                                 disabled and discrimination act                  volunteers
                                 (governance); education of resources             Training and awareness
                                 available to disabled people/who to              programs for disabled
                                 contact; education of others/children            people, caretakers and
                                 of different needs                               community
                                Education and awareness raising                  Special training team to help
                                                                                  disabled people (e.g. fireman,
                                                                                  family members, colleagues,

                  Draft, February 2008. Author: John Twigg, Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre
                            Application of ‘Characteristics of a Disaster-Resilient Community’
                          Case Study: Use of Characteristics in Teaching (MSc and MA students)

Risk management and               Assistive devices to reduce                  Supporting programs to:
vulnerability reduction            vulnerability – wheelchairs, hearing          cover their needs; protect
                                   aids, glasses, etc.                           their rights and ensure the
                                  Accompaniment and assistance                  enforcement of policies and
                                   strategy                                      laws; financial support; to
                                                                                 incorporate them into
Disaster preparedness and         Early warning systems                         Increase access to equipment
response                          Training: community education,                and care for disabled.
                                   healthcare, women’s training, general         In-house extinguisher, mask.
                                   awareness, monitoring and testing of          Accessibility of the design:
                                   contingency plans                             buildings and urban space.
                                  Post-disaster response: enabling social       Escape contingency plan;
                                   safety nets focused on the disabled;          training disabled people.
                                   providing immediate alternatives –
                                                                                 Emergency evacuation plan:
                                   relief; learning from mistakes to
                                                                                 design and rehearsed for all
                                   reformulate plans for future
                                                                                 public buildings
                                  Early warning systems: informed early
                                   response and notifications for disabled       ensure building is designed to
                                   people; detailed evacuation plans for         be evacuable for disabled i.e.
                                   those who need pre-emptive                    access, siren, flashing light;
                                   movement; planning/preparedness               inform through drills
                                  Early warning systems: different              meeting point; special shelter
                                   approaches appropriate to disability          facility set up prior to
                                  Train emergency workers                       disaster; could act as failsafe
                                                                                 special emergency alerts

                    Draft, February 2008. Author: John Twigg, Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre

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