Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why disaster warning and development go hand in hand

Andrew Collins in  Disaster predictions have significant uncertainty that tends to undermine efforts to act on early warnings. In Bangladesh, for example, where there are extensive climatic hazards, people risk their lives by not taking refuge in a cyclone shelter, choosing instead to guard livestock or their homes.

Such risk-taking is repeated by poor people around the world, so early action must be linked to the wider development concerns that underpin their decisions. For many people in communities most at risk of disaster, this means a risk reduction culture that is embedded in poverty reduction efforts.

When people find a way to reduce their daily workload they free up time, energy and capacity for plans to cut the risk of hazards. Early action will follow when communities can take ownership of the design and implementation of early warning systems, and become motivated by how they can benefit.

Beyond the availability of knowledge and technology, the effectiveness of early warning depends on the factors that drive individual and group behaviour. People put greater trust in one another when precautions for a disaster need to be taken, and governments and relief services need to be aware of such trust at the individual and community level (e.g. in the workplace), to avoid working against it.

But the building of trust, and governments' capacity to work with it are not simple processes. Perceptions and complex social relationships need to be understood to promote sustainable and effective early action....

An avalanche in Vrsic, Slovenia, shot by ismeretlen, public domain

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