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Tenets of vulnerability: An assessment of a fundamental disaster concept

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Abstract

This article reviews academic findings on disaster vulnerability and provides 15 tenets about this fundamental concept. Research is taken mainly from sociologists but also include findings from other disciplines. The study uncovers what is known about vulnerability and stresses the importance of this concept for those interested in disaster reduction.

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... As has been argued elsewhere, there may be utility in concentrating our efforts on the management of disaster vulnerability (McEntire, 2004a). Vulnerability is almost always defined in terms of proneness to disasters, limited capability to deal with disasters, or a combination of the two (McEntire, 2005). ...
... Put differently, vulnerability management is nothing more than liability reduction and capacity building (McEntire et al., 2002). Liability reduction is the minimisation of risk and susceptibility, which are respective products of the physical and social environments (McEntire, 2004a). Risk, or exposure, is often determined by our land-use planning decisions, our use or misuse of natural resources, and our interaction with industrial facilities and modern technology such as computers. ...
... Capacity building is the enhancement of resistance and resilience -two goals that also have relation to the physical and social milieus (McEntire, 2004a). Resistance is often determined by the design and construction of structures as well as the careful application of technological know-how and tools in the nation's critical infrastructure. ...
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This paper presents various fields of study under the public affairs rubric and highlights the importance of cooperation among varying public service organisations if complex social and health problems are to be solved. Informatics research will provide armamentaria to practitioners and organisational leaders for collecting, mining and analysing data under guided theoretical frameworks to generate scientific information that can support evidence-based decision making. Such decisions ultimately increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of public goods.
... These points logically beg the important theoretical and practical question: is there a perspective that can guide emergency management policy in light of the complexity of today's disasters? As has been argued elsewhere, there may be utility in concentrating our efforts on the management of disaster vulnerability (McEntire, 2004a). Vulnerability is almost always defined in terms of proneness to disasters, limited capability to deal with disasters, or a combination of the two (McEntire, 2005). ...
... Put differently, vulnerability management is nothing more than liability reduction and capacity building (). Liability reduction is the minimisation of risk and susceptibility, which are respective products of the physical and social environments (McEntire, 2004a). Risk, or exposure, is often determined by our land-use planning decisions, our use or misuse of natural resources, and our interaction with industrial facilities and modern technology such as computers. ...
... Since risk and susceptibility have bearing on vulnerability, they both must be addressed if disaster probabilities or consequences are to be reduced. Capacity building is the enhancement of resistance and resilience – two goals that also have relation to the physical and social milieus (McEntire, 2004a). Resistance is often determined by the design and construction of structures as well as the careful application of technological know-how and tools in the nation's critical infrastructure. ...
Article
This paper discusses the application of networking as a global governance tool to improve community resiliency in preparedness-oriented disaster response. The perspective presented here challenges the trend of humanitarian aid allocation to affected individuals after disaster. Preemptive strengthening of community resiliency via local, government and international network development may do far more to mitigate disaster impact and aid sustainable recovery for people and communities than any amount of donated monies or supplies.
... In addition to the physical causes for vulnerability there are also social explanations. People's attitudes and behaviors are a strong determinant of disaster (McEntire, 2009;McEntire, 2004;Mileti, 1999). Some individuals might have fatalistic perspectives, thinking that they have no control over vulnerability because disasters result from God or nature alone. ...
... The loss of trees and over-use of soil, for instance, may make humans more vulnerable to flooding and famine. People's vulnerability will likewise increase if they do not or cannot purchase insurance (McEntire, 2004;Dlugolecki, 1993). That is to say, their capacity to rebound after an event is decreased substantially. ...
... Most scholars assert that risk is the probability of disasters (Smith and Petley, 2009, p. 13;Mileti, 1999, p. 106), and those who focus on it often stress physical variables pertaining to vulnerability. Therefore, one of the first steps to reducing risk is to understand what types of hazards and disasters can occur (McEntire, 2004). For instance, it is imperative that those working in the disaster field recognize the hazards prevalent in a particular geographic area (Pine, 2009). ...
Article
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This article was subsequently published in Disaster Prevention and Management, Volume 21 Issue 2. The author wishes to thank Afua Kwarteng, a graduate of the MPA program, for her assistance in preparing this paper.
... A third and final proposal to improve EM theory is to consider the utility of the concept of vulnerability. 32,33 Vulnerability, unlike hazards, is the only thing we really have control over in the disaster equation. Thus, vulnerability may help us better comprehend the true nature of disasters. ...
... Vulnerability is related to the variables influencing disasters and the players in and phases of EM. 13,[31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39] For instance, our physical location and infrastructure may make us vulnerable to disasters. Our culture, economic conditions, political system, and weak EM institutions can bring disaster upon us and constrain our ability to react to them. ...
... This adaptation in how vulnerability is utilized for mitigation planning represents a small portion of the critical paradigm shift identified by Rubin (2000) and Mileti (1999) as a logical and necessary progression towards improved disaster management. Furthermore, the approval of this study characterizes a significant maturation phase by the CPRA as they began to understand the importance of managing hazards and vulnerability as opposed to trying to eliminate them (McEntire, 2004;Wisner, Blaikie, Cannon, & Davis, 2004). Past research has clearly demonstrated that disasters are events grounded in social constructs, as they are often quantified by impacts on the health or fiscal aspects of human life (Weichselgartner, 2001). ...
... When considering this question in conjunction with the fact that no structural mitigation measure can ever remove risk entirely, we put forward an alternative approach to vulnerability assessment. By combining elements such as economic loss estimation, repetitive loss analysis, and social vulnerability valuations into the overall vulnerability assessment of the region, a new dimension of mitigation planning has been revealed (McEntire, 2004;McEntire, Fuller, Johnson, & Weber, 2002;Weichselgartner, 2001). This paper highlights the methodological aspect of the recently completed Northshore Hurricane and Flood Protection study as well as the connections between methods and decision making. ...
Article
Continued population growth and development in exposed areas across Coastal Louisiana has created a new geography of hazards and disasters within the coastal zone. Increasing storm frequencies coupled with sea level rise will undoubtedly intensify the intersection between flood hazards and coastal residents. Accordingly, the baseline (inherent) capacity of places to adequately prepare for and rebound from disaster events will be negatively impacted. This paper summarizes the value of incorporating research-based techniques into a non-structural assessment of flood vulnerability within the Northshore Region of Louisiana. The exploratory nature of the methodology employed in this study was focused on determining the value of non-structural measures of vulnerability in mitigation planning and the role of research in evidence-based decision support for public officials. The outcome of the study highlighted new perspectives for measuring vulnerability within a policy environment, offering community officials a more robust understanding of the dynamic intersection of the physical threats, social vulnerability, and economic components of flood risk. This knowledge is currently being used by decision makers in the region to cultivate enhanced mitigation tactics that have traditionally been structurally focused. By incorporating the biophysical, economic, and social vulnerability into a qualitative "place" vulnerability matrix for the study area, the authors have been able to gain a more robust understanding of the flood risks across the region. By integrating this new understanding of risk into potential mitigation strategies, planning for risk reduction expenditures can more appropriately consider the drivers of place-specific vulnerability.
... "A problem is familiar if the decision maker knows the optimal way to attack it" (Selten 1999, 5). McEntire (2004) underlines this aspect and directly links it to the concepts of vulnerability and resilience. According to Tashi (2011), it can be estimated that an increase in risk perception is bound to negative experiences, such as certain social and environmental disasters. ...
Article
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Hunger, malnutrition, food insecurity and famines are still persistent in many regions globally. Especially on a local level new concepts of targeting food insecurity need to be implemented. Prior to applying new practical concepts the initial situation has to be understood accurately. Therefore, this methodology paper aims at enhancing monitoring systems in times of food scarcity. The overall aim of the “Farmers Food Insecurity Monitoring” system presented is threefold: First, to accelerate the processes between data gathering and data evaluation; second, to close the gap between recognising a food supply problem and taking actions; and third, to integrate the perception, knowledge, and experience of affected people on a local level. The spatial framework should also integrate urban areas and peri-urban areas, while the current models mostly focus on rural areas. Fulfilling these requirements enhances the opportunities of affected societies to deal with food shortages.
... In light of these issues and the increasing necessity of a solution to the disaster problem, the following paper will add to this discussion and present some perspectives that will strengthen the argument for change. Utilizing McEntire's (2004aMcEntire's ( , b, 2005b previous research as a platform, we will attempt to show the growing importance of vulnerability in research and for practitioners. Specifically, we will outline the current views on vulnerability and vulnerability reduction in physical science, engineering, structural and organizational schools, and then illustrate the importance of combining the alternatives into a new policy and holistic paradigm. ...
Article
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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to review current theoretical approaches in disaster studies and put forward a model of vulnerability that incorporates physical science, engineering, and social science research. Design/methodology/approach – A comprehensive model of vulnerability is proposed, which includes both liabilities and capabilities from the physical and social environments. The model is related to risk, susceptibility, resistance, and resilience to vulnerability and disasters. Findings – This review assesses current concepts as guides for disaster management and suggests that a more complete view of vulnerability is more apt to generate inclusive and integrated disaster policies. Research limitations/implications – Since this model is relatively new, its applicability needs to be examined further in terms of the phases of disasters and the many stakeholders involved in emergency management. Practical implications – The holistic model of vulnerability in this paper may help emergency managers better understand disasters and devise relevant policies to counter them. The paper underscores the importance of broad and integrated methods for dealing with socially constructed disasters. It is related to environmental, infrastructure, economic, political, cultural, and other variables. Originality/value – This paper is unique in that it presents four viewpoints of vulnerability and because it applies the proposed model to many different types of disasters.
... (Palliyaguru and Amaratunga, 2011). McEntire (2004) acknowledges that we can certainly limit, although not completely eliminate, vulnerability to disasters. Rautela (2006) clearly states that all risk reduction related efforts are associated with reducing the vulnerability of the community as this is the most critical issue that forms and enhances disaster impact. ...
Article
As a result of the increase in natural disaster losses, policy-makers, practitioners, and members of the research community around the world are seeking effective and efficient means of overcoming or minimising them. Although various theoretical constructs are beneficial to understanding the disaster phenomenon and the means of minimising losses, the disaster risk management process becomes less effective if theory and practice are set apart from one another. Consequently, this paper seeks to establish a relationship between two theoretical constructs, 'disaster risk reduction (DRR)' and 'vulnerability reduction', and to develop a holistic approach to DRR with particular reference to improving its applicability in practical settings. It is based on a literature review and on an overall understanding gained through two case studies of post-disaster infrastructure reconstruction projects in Sri Lanka and three expert interviews in Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom.
... An explanation of such an apparent contradiction resides in the risk absorbing system. Indeed, the relevance of operational risks is also determined by inherent characteristics of the subject threatened by a specific hazard, in a word, by its vulnerability (McEntire, 2004). ...
Article
International airports are complex sociotechnical systems that have an intrinsic potential to develop safety and security disruptions. In the absence of appropriate defenses, and when the potential for disruption is neglected, organizational crises can occur and jeopardize aviation services. This investigation examines the ways in which modern international airports can be “authors of their own misfortune” by adopting practices, attitudes, and behaviors that could increase their overall level of vulnerability. A sociotechnical perspective, the macroergonomic approach, is applied in this research to detect the potential organizational determinants of vulnerability in airport operations. Qualitative data nurture the case study on international airports produced by the present research. Findings from this study highlight that systemic weaknesses frequently reside in areas at the intersection of physical, organizational, and social spaces. Specific pathways of vulnerability can be drawn across these areas, involving the following systemic layers: individual, task, tools and technology, environment, and organization. This investigation expands the existing literature on the dynamics that characterize crisis incubation in multiorganization, multistakeholder systems such as international airports and provides practical recommendations for airport managers to improve their capabilities to early detect symptoms of organizational vulnerability.
... is claimed, therefore, that, although these hazards may or may not be preventable, their effects and losses can be prevented or mitigated. Palliyaguru and Amaratunga (2011) state that the best way to prevent or mitigate disaster losses is to prevent (eliminate) or mitigate (reduce) vulnerabilities, commonly referred to as 'vulnerability reduction '. McEntire (2004) acknowledges that one certainly can limit, although not eliminate completely, vulnerability to disasters. Rautela (2006) notes that all risk reductionrelated efforts are associated with decreasing the vulnerability of the community, as this is the most critical variable in relation to the impact of a disaster. Weichselgartner (2001, p. ...
... Scholars have long proposed that we reconsider the "naturalness" of disasters, 17 arguing that we must acknowledge the social construction of such events. 18 It is my opinion that over-reliance on the term hazards in EM perpetuates the myth that we have absolutely no influence over disasters. There are numerous cases of this among civilians, politicians, and the media. ...
Article
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Like every natural phenomena, natural hazards are common occurrences which can distract, modify and influence the residential environment, economy society and culture as well. Hazard is thus regarded as the disaster situation, in which some risk of disaster exists because the human population has set itself in situation of vulnerability. The occurrence of hazard largely depends upon location of any region. Thus any region with a mere fragile physical location is more prone to hazardous situations. These regions are known as the vulnerable ones as all those are intensely used by human being. Vulnerability is both physical and social in nature. An assessment of the risks faced by any region thus gives an idea regarding vulnerability of the same. The present study is regarding the vulnerability and risk assessment of the Patharpratima block of South 24 Parganas district, West Bengal. In this study an attempt has been taken to bring forward how the block is vulnerable to certain natural threats which have been clearly explained by an assessment of the risks faced by the same. The major objective of this study is to find out the vulnerability of the study area, both environmental and social and providing an assessment of the risks faced by the block. It was found from the field visits and primary survey that, a number of initiatives have been taken on the part of the GP to protect the embankments but they are all in vain due to the incoming surges and tidal currents which is a very common feature here. It has also been assigned that though human being are continuously proving themselves better with the passage of time, still we are at the mercy of nature. Nobody can do anything when a cyclone or a flood strikes in. Thus, it is better to make ourselves more prepared to face the challenges so that at least some lives can be saved.
Chapter
Capacity for managing and preventing disasters depends upon how disasters are defined or understood. Until the nineteenth century, the capacity to manage disasters was limited to the ability to undertake relief and rescue operations. Beginning in the early 1900s, social scientists laid a foundation for understanding disasters as the product of natural and social forces. Based on this understanding, the capacity to manage “disaster risk” required the ability to develop good models of disaster risk, planning to mitigate known disaster risks, and transferring risk of economic losses from likely disasters along with the ability to be prepared for disasters. However, even with the new understanding and increased efforts associated with disaster response and mitigation, monetary losses from disasters are increased globally. Social scientists now believe that we live in a “risk society” where “industrial-technical-scientific projects” produce unintended risks that are incalculable, uninsurable, and uncontrollable. The capacity to manage disasters now requires an ability to learn, internalize and make change, manage information flow and exchange, ensure flexibility and adaptability in the structure and functions of organizations, and coordinate work with multiple agencies and units to achieve a common purpose. This chapter provides a strong theoretical basis of what capacities are needed for managing disasters and who needs these capacities. This chapter is divided into four sections: (i) the need for capacity development in disaster risk management, (ii) key concepts, (iii) historical evolution of the field and where it is heading, and (iv) what and whose capacity.
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The concepts of governance, capacity and fragility have been used by researchers, practitioners and donors focused on development in low income countries. All three concepts remain contested; there are neither undisputed meanings nor applications for each of them. Nevertheless, in international development the three concepts are in good currency and they are used to interpret myriad dimensions of development including how disaster risk management is practiced in low income countries. By connecting the three development concepts with a fourth—vulnerability, we provide a more comprehensive understanding of how development interventions, specifically those related to disaster risk management, can be targeted in countries labelled as fragile. This approach is consistent with recent arguments that recommend sector specific and even program specific interventions that may have a higher likelihood of succeeding by iteratively addressing vulnerability in countries with poor governance, fragility and low capacity.
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Purpose – The following conceptual exposition is presented in light of the growing number of scholars who indicate need for a comprehensive and coherent approach to disaster reduction, while practitioners seem to be continually faced with dynamic and seemingly contradictory goals and strategies. Design/methodology/approach – This article reviews arguments from an assorted collection of literature in order to increase theoretical understanding of disasters and attempts to integrate various concepts, paradigms and policy proposals. Findings – The discussion points out the strengths and weaknesses of alternative viewpoints about disasters, and suggests that a broad conceptualization of vulnerability may be best suited to assimilate findings for academia and simplify policy guidance for professionals in the field. Research limitations/implications – Because this is a cursory exploration of the casting of vulnerability management in terms of liability reduction and capacity building, additional research on the matter will undoubtedly be needed. Nonetheless, it is hoped that this article may pull together diverse academic frameworks, in order to avert recurring mistakes among those designing and implementing policy. Originality/value – By updating the author's prior work in this area with additional considerations regarding the natural hazards, civil defense, risk management and homeland security schools, this article may be useful for scholars and practitioners interested in reversing the trend of more frequent and intense disasters.
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Natural Calamity is a bitter truth from which no one can escape. So many deaths, diseases, economic and social loss are few results of natural calamity. Disaster risk is on the rise all the way through the world. The economic losses and the number of people who have been affected by natural calamities have increased significantly over the past decades than the population growth, which slows down the economic growth of the affected country. The physical, social, particularly the emotional aspect and economic losses caused by these disasters are particularly more expensive for developing countries. To minimize the damages caused by disasters, various efforts have been taken by government, society, NGO's and international communities. Despite highest disaster preparedness by Japanese Government, on March 11, 2013, northeastern part of Japan has been severely devastated by magnitude 9 earthquake followed by tsunami (called Tohoku Earthquake) which killed 25,000 people, 50,000 people missing and made 250000 people homeless and preliminary loss of lives and properties worth of $310 billion dollars. The severity of the disaster was beyond imagination which caused such big damage of valuable lives and properties. Even as horrific disaster that struck Japan continues to linger in our minds, one cannot but wonder what would happen if a similar disaster were to strike India? For this reason, community should be more conscious about disaster prevention culture and mitigation. They should be involved in post disaster recovery and reconstruction process for facing the future disasters and mitigate it. Japan Government's initiative and commitment to mobilize local and international community to minimize the damage and loss from Disaster is highly commendable. Japanese experience of disaster management and mitigation and community involvement in the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake had been proven most successful. Now days, India is also facing such consequences very frequently. Japanese lessons can be helpful to India to overcome with this challenging and vulnerable situation. In this paper we examined the major disaster phenomenon in Japan and India, a comparative study of disaster management system of Japan and India, techniques of community mobilization in Japan for successful implementation of disaster preparedness planning and recovery from post disaster situations. We would like to replicate some experience; we gained from Japan to our country and recommend some suggestions on effective community mobilization in India.
Chapter
IntroductionPost-disaster reconstruction as a window of opportunity for developmentMillennium development goals as a framework of action for sustainable socio-economic development and infrastructure reconstructionPost-disaster infrastructure reconstruction as a sustainable socio-economic development strategySummaryReferences
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What is the present state of international disaster relief? Seeks to answer this important inquiry because the increased emphasis on prevention does not make post-disaster response unnecessary. In so doing, this article will explore three important questions. Have practitioners overcome the obstacles to effective and efficient relief which have been identified in previous studies? What problems remain? What are the solutions to those issues which have not been resolved? Suggests numerous opportunities for improvement in both disaster management and scholarship.
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There is a need to study hazards faced by physically disabled people during earthquakes. A literature review showed the importance of occupant behavior as a factor that contributes to casualty during earthquakes. A survey questionnaire was used to study the behavioral responses of 33 disabled residents, none of whom sustained injury, during the Loma Prieta earthquake of 17 October 1989. An occupant risk analysis methodology was developed to study the sequence of activities of the disabled people. Severe restrictions in the physical capabilities of the respondents did not appear to increase their exposure to hazards. Overall, the physically disabled occupants did not think of themselves as vulnerable, and those who felt vulnerable initiated self-protective action in response to the hazards present in their immediate surroundings.
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In a panel study, more than 200 older adults were interviewed before and after a severe flood in southeastern Kentucky in 1984. The issue in this study was whether older adult flood victims were differentially vulnerable to increases in psychological and physical symptoms on the basis of their age, sex, marital status, occupational status, education level, and preflood symptom levels. Flood exposure was related to increases in depressive, anxiety, and somatic symptoms at 18 months postflood. Within this older adult sample, men, those with lower occupational status, and persons aged 55-64 were at significantly greater risk for increases in psychological symptoms. Sociodemographic status did not moderate the impact of flood exposure on physical health. Implications for crisis-intervention services to older adult disaster victims are discussed.
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The devastating effects of earthquakes have been demonstrated repeatedly in the past decade, through moderate and major earthquakes such as the October 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake (5.9 on the Richter scale), the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (7.1) and the January 1994 Northridge earthquake (6.7). While 'official' tallies of injuries and deaths are reported for each event, the numbers vary from report to report. For Northridge, the number of injuries vary between 8,000 and 12,000; the number of deaths from 33 to 73 (Peek-Asa et al., 1997; Durkin, 1996). While official estimates are commonly reported following disasters, the study of actual numbers, types and causes of casualties has not developed. In this paper, we identify the numbers and risk factors for injuries within community-based samples across three earthquakes in urban California. We first report the numbers and types of injuries in each earthquake and then identify risk factors specifically associated with the Northridge earthquake.
Emergency Management: Principles and Practice for Local Government
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