Understanding Disaster Risk Reduction and Management

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Rescue team putting out a fire to manage disaster

Understanding Disaster Risk Reduction and Management

To have a conceptual understanding of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, it is imperative to first know the basic concepts that are Hazards, Exposure, and Vulnerability, and how they manifest into Disaster Risks. In this article, we will also discuss the basic terminologies of Disaster Risk Management (DRM), to understand how such terms are used in this field, as they are often cited when discussing the same.

The Basic Concepts in DRRM

  1. What is Hazard?

Hazard is a potentially destructive physical phenomenon, event, or human activity. Hazards may be active or may remain dormant, but may however cause injury or death, damage of property, economic and social disruption, or environmental degradation. They can be single, sequential, or both, based on their origin and impacts. Each hazard is identified by its location, probability, and frequency of occurrence.

Hazards that occur naturally include;

  • Geophysical Hazards – These comprise volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and dry landslides.
  • Hydrological Hazards – These comprise wet landslides, floods, and inundations.

A community settlement damaged by floods

  • Meteorological Hazards – These include storms, hurricanes, cyclones, excessive rain, and typhoons.
  • Climatological Hazards – Include droughts, extreme temperatures, fires, and heat/cold waves.
  • Hazards caused by biological agents – Such as insect infestations, epidemics, and animal stampedes.
  • Hazards induced by human beings – Such as chemical, nuclear, industrial, and technological hazards.

Fumes from an industry that cause industrial hazards resulting in environmental degradation

  1. What is Exposure?

 When a hazard strikes, not everyone can be equally affected by its dangers. Rather, communities that reside in hazard-prone areas are more exposed to such hazards and their effects. Marginalized communities that ignore the impact area of natural forces are more exposed to these hazards as well.

  1. What is Vulnerability?

Vulnerability refers to the lack of capacity to flee from hazard exposure. This vulnerability may be caused by poverty, lack of alternative options, or even environmental degradation. For instance, a poor fishing community residing by the riverside with no alternative options for livelihood is vulnerable to floods. A woman with no citizenship identity card is also vulnerable to getting barred from relief support in case of disasters.

  1. Capacity

These are the basic factors that help a community reduce its vulnerabilities, prevent risks, and recover from disasters. They are the positive strengths the community holds. To cope with disasters, every community has some sort of capacity that could be in form of their resource holdings, their entitlements, and their social networks.

  1. Risks

When combined, Hazards and Vulnerability result in Risks, threatening people’s lives and assets.

Risk = Hazards x Vulnerability


Risk = Hazard x Exposure x Vulnerability


The basic terminologies of Disaster Risk Management (DRM)

While developing any local Disaster Risk Management (DRM) policies, it is important to understand the terminologies used in describing the various tasks and stages in DRM. These terminologies include;

  • Disaster

A disaster is the culmination of risks that cause global negative consequences on the lives and assets of vulnerable and exposed people, resulting in injuries, deaths, property damage, environmental degradation, and disruption of livelihoods and economic activities. The losses and damage caused by disasters exceed the capacity of the affected community to cope using its own resources. Thus, disaster results in society’s inability to operate normally.

The definition of disaster risk indicates that disasters are the outcome of continuous conditions of risk. The potential disaster losses in lives, livelihoods, health status, assets, and services, could all occur simultaneously to a particular community over a specified future period. Disaster risk involves different kinds of potential losses which are often unquantifiable. However, disaster risks can be assessed with knowledge of the existing hazards and the patterns of population development.

  • What is Disaster Risk Management (DRM)?

Disaster Risk Management is the systematic process of using organizations, administrative directives, and operational capacities to execute policies, strategies, and improved coping capacities to ultimately reduce the adverse effects of hazards and the probability of disaster. This term extends from “risk management” as it addresses the specific issue of disaster risks. Disaster risk management seeks to avoid or reduce the adverse effects of hazards through measures for prevention, preparedness, and mitigation.

DRM includes structural and non-structural activities and measures to prevent or limit the adverse effects of hazards. These measures make up a Disaster Management Circle that has the following stages;

While the term “disaster reduction” is commonly used, the term “disaster risk reduction” better acknowledges the existing nature of disaster risks and the current potential to reduce these risks. It is the concept of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to assess and manage the causes of disasters, including through reduced exposure to hazards, lessened vulnerability of people and property, wise land and environmental management, and improved preparedness for adverse events.

DRR is a conceptual framework of factors considered with the chances of reducing disaster risks and vulnerabilities throughout a community, to prevent or limit the adverse impacts of hazards, within the wide structure of sustainable development. This framework is composed of the following fields of action;

  • Awareness and assessment of risk; including analysis of hazard, vulnerability, and capacity.
  • Knowledge development; including training, research, education, and information.
  • Institutional frameworks and public commitment; including policy legislation and community action.
  • Application of measures; including urban planning of land-use, environmental management, application of science and technology, protection of critical facilities, financial instruments, and partnership and networking.
  • Early warning systems; including warning dissemination, forecasting, reaction capacities, and preparedness measures.


  • Disaster preparedness

While some disasters are preventable, others may not be. When building on the activities to reduce disaster risk, the communities need to develop structures and build capacity to cope with disasters. Preparedness means improvement in capacity, knowledge, and confidence to protect people’s lives from the effects of disasters.

  • Disaster response

After a disaster strikes, it is crucial to act swiftly to rescue people and their belongings. Response activities include:

  • Short-term relief aid to curb further loss of lives and assets.
  • To protect the dignity of the affected people and protect them from any abuse.
  • To provide recovery support.


Firefighters extinguishing blazing fires as a disaster response action


  • Disaster risk reduction plan

This is a document prepared by an organization that outlines the specific objectives for reducing disaster risks and the related actions needed to accomplish them. Disaster risk reduction plans should follow the Hyogo Framework guidelines and should be within relevant development plans, program activities, and resource allocations. National level plans should be specific to each administrative responsibility level and adapted to the different present geographical and social conditions. The time frame and responsibilities for execution and the funding sources should also be specified in the plan and linkages to climate change adaptation plans made where possible.

It might be difficult to prevent the occurrence of a hazard, but through the use of skills acquired from Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM), you can prevent a hazard from becoming a disaster. This would mitigate its effects by increasing resilience among the communities affected. Undertaking a professional course in Disaster Risk Reduction & Management (DRRM) prepared by Humanitarian Global will equip you with in-depth knowledge in this professional area. Register today for a 10% discount and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for more insightful articles.


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