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Toward a Theory of Vulnerability Understanding and Addressing Liabilities and Capacities.

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Presentation on theme: "Toward a Theory of Vulnerability Understanding and Addressing Liabilities and Capacities."— Presentation transcript:

1 Toward a Theory of Vulnerability Understanding and Addressing Liabilities and Capacities

2 Preliminary Remarks The theoretical context of emergency management The theoretical context of emergency management A war of concepts A war of concepts The need to unify a fragmented field The need to unify a fragmented field

3 Examples Natural hazards Natural hazards Civil defense Civil defense Comprehensive emergency management Comprehensive emergency management Resistance Resistance Resilience Resilience Homeland security Homeland security Others (e.g., risk management, the crisis approach) Others (e.g., risk management, the crisis approach)

4 Our Current Status Tierney (1999, 216) says the field of disaster studies has yet to develop a coherent theoretical perspective.” Tierney (1999, 216) says the field of disaster studies has yet to develop a coherent theoretical perspective.” Mileti (1999, 35) acknowledges that “researchers have called for a broader view of the disaster problem and even for a revolution in approach.” Mileti (1999, 35) acknowledges that “researchers have called for a broader view of the disaster problem and even for a revolution in approach.”

5 The Current Literature Mileti’s path-breaking book Mileti’s path-breaking book

6 Interest in Vulnerability “Vulnerability is a greater determinant of disaster than hazards themselves” (Alexander 2006, 2). “Vulnerability is a greater determinant of disaster than hazards themselves” (Alexander 2006, 2). “Governments, disaster management agencies and the community are increasingly accepting that the proper focus of disaster management is not on the hazard agent in itself” (Buckle in Quarantelli 2005, 344). “Governments, disaster management agencies and the community are increasingly accepting that the proper focus of disaster management is not on the hazard agent in itself” (Buckle in Quarantelli 2005, 344).

7 Interest in Vulnerability (cont.) Comfort et. al. (2005, 43) “propose that human vulnerability... becomes an integral concern in the development and evaluation of disaster policies.” Comfort et. al. (2005, 43) “propose that human vulnerability... becomes an integral concern in the development and evaluation of disaster policies.” Quarantelli (2005, ) states “the recent shift in much of the literature from a primary focus on hazards to one of vulnerability is a step in the right direction.” Quarantelli (2005, ) states “the recent shift in much of the literature from a primary focus on hazards to one of vulnerability is a step in the right direction.”

8 Social Vulnerability Concentrates on social structure Concentrates on social structure Wisner’s Pressure and Release Model Wisner’s Pressure and Release Model May not capture all of the factors that lead to disasters May not capture all of the factors that lead to disasters “It is very difficult to assess all the known points of vulnerability” (Cutter 2005, 41). “It is very difficult to assess all the known points of vulnerability” (Cutter 2005, 41).

9 What is Vulnerability? Divergence of opinion Divergence of opinion “Vulnerability is the likelihood that an individual or group will be exposed to and adversely affected by a hazard” (Cutter 1996, 532). “Vulnerability is the likelihood that an individual or group will be exposed to and adversely affected by a hazard” (Cutter 1996, 532). “Vulnerability is the potential for loss” (Mitchell as cited by Cutter 1996, 532). “Vulnerability is the potential for loss” (Mitchell as cited by Cutter 1996, 532). “Vulnerability is a state of defenselessness which renders a community powerless to withstand the debilitating effects of events commonly perceived as disaster or natural hazard” (Mustafa 1989, 290). “Vulnerability is a state of defenselessness which renders a community powerless to withstand the debilitating effects of events commonly perceived as disaster or natural hazard” (Mustafa 1989, 290). “The degree to which a system or part of a system may react adversely to the occurrence of a hazardous event” (Timmerman 1981, 21). “The degree to which a system or part of a system may react adversely to the occurrence of a hazardous event” (Timmerman 1981, 21).

10 Areas of Convergence Scholarship illustrates that vulnerability is produced by humans as they interact in the physical and social environments. Scholarship illustrates that vulnerability is produced by humans as they interact in the physical and social environments. Our land-use planning and construction Our land-use planning and construction Our apathy toward emergency management Our apathy toward emergency management

11 Areas of Convergence (cont.) Liabilities Liabilities “A measure, for a given population or region, of the underlying factors that influence exposure to the hazardous event and predisposition to the adverse consequences” (Downing as cited by Green 2004, 323). “A measure, for a given population or region, of the underlying factors that influence exposure to the hazardous event and predisposition to the adverse consequences” (Downing as cited by Green 2004, 323). “It involves a combination of factors that determine the degree to which someone’s life or livelihood is put at risk by a discrete and identifiable event in nature or society” (Wisner et. al. 2004, 11). “It involves a combination of factors that determine the degree to which someone’s life or livelihood is put at risk by a discrete and identifiable event in nature or society” (Wisner et. al. 2004, 11). “The likelihood that a person will be negatively affected by environmental hazards” (Bolin and Stanford 1998, 9). “The likelihood that a person will be negatively affected by environmental hazards” (Bolin and Stanford 1998, 9).

12 Areas of Convergence (cont.) Capabilities Capabilities “A function of a system’s ability to cope with stress and shock” (Nicholls and Dlein as cited by Green 2004, 323). “A function of a system’s ability to cope with stress and shock” (Nicholls and Dlein as cited by Green 2004, 323). “The characteristics of a person or group in terms of their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist, and recover from the impact of natural hazards” (Wisner et. al. 2004, 11). “The characteristics of a person or group in terms of their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist, and recover from the impact of natural hazards” (Wisner et. al. 2004, 11). “Refers to the resources and coping abilities of specific community to a specific hazard” (Lindsay as cited by NOAA 2006). “Refers to the resources and coping abilities of specific community to a specific hazard” (Lindsay as cited by NOAA 2006).

13 Accepting Both Features Liabilities and capabilities Liabilities and capabilities “Vulnerability... Refers to exposure to contingencies and stress, and difficulty in coping with them. Vulnerability thus has two sides: an external side of risks, shocks and stress to which an individual or household is subject, and an internal side which is defenselessness, meaning a lack of means to cope without damaging loss” (Chambers 1989, 1). “Vulnerability... Refers to exposure to contingencies and stress, and difficulty in coping with them. Vulnerability thus has two sides: an external side of risks, shocks and stress to which an individual or household is subject, and an internal side which is defenselessness, meaning a lack of means to cope without damaging loss” (Chambers 1989, 1). “Vulnerability is a product of physical exposure to natural hazard, and human capacity to prepare for or mitigate and to recover from (cope with) any negative impacts of disaster” (Pellinga and Uitto 2001, 50). “Vulnerability is a product of physical exposure to natural hazard, and human capacity to prepare for or mitigate and to recover from (cope with) any negative impacts of disaster” (Pellinga and Uitto 2001, 50).

14 Bringing it All Together Address liabilities Address liabilities Risk Risk Susceptibility Susceptibility Address capabilities Address capabilities Resistance Resistance Resilience Resilience

15 A Model

16 How Can Vulnerability be Reduced? Address risk Address risk Understand what can happen Understand what can happen Protect the environment Protect the environment Locate people and property in safer areas Locate people and property in safer areas Warn and evacuate people Warn and evacuate people

17 How Can Vulnerability be Reduced? (cont.) Address susceptibilities Address susceptibilities Overcome apathy Overcome apathy Reduce poverty Reduce poverty Improve health Improve health Anticipate and react effectively to demographic changes Anticipate and react effectively to demographic changes

18 How Can Vulnerability be Reduced? (cont.) Address resistance Address resistance Construct homes and structures with latest engineering techniques Construct homes and structures with latest engineering techniques Build infrastructure with disasters in mind Build infrastructure with disasters in mind Improve building codes and enforce them Improve building codes and enforce them Apply technology carefully Apply technology carefully

19 How Can Vulnerability be Reduced? (cont.) Address Resilience Address Resilience Prepare and plan Prepare and plan Give more resources to emergency management Give more resources to emergency management Network Network Rely on insurance Rely on insurance

20 How Can Vulnerability be Reduced (cont.) A simple process for emergency management A simple process for emergency management Assess liabilities and capabilities Assess liabilities and capabilities Reduce risk and susceptibilities Reduce risk and susceptibilities Augment resistance and resilience Augment resistance and resilience

21 A Holistic Approach? Relation to: Relation to: Hazards Hazards Phases Phases Actors Actors Variables Variables Disciplines Disciplines

22 Support for the Model? Thomas and Mileti (2003, 7) affirm that professionals in emergency management should “acquire a basic understanding of risk, susceptibility, resilience and resistance.” Thomas and Mileti (2003, 7) affirm that professionals in emergency management should “acquire a basic understanding of risk, susceptibility, resilience and resistance.” Cutter et. al. (2003, 226) assert that “we need to broaden our understanding of vulnerability... To a more holistic view that includes exposure, susceptibility, resistance, [and] resilience.” Cutter et. al. (2003, 226) assert that “we need to broaden our understanding of vulnerability... To a more holistic view that includes exposure, susceptibility, resistance, [and] resilience.”

23 Support for the Model? (cont.) Villagran Da Leon observes that the initial approaches “now encompass issues such as coping capacities, resilience, susceptibility and [other] new terms (2005, 145). Villagran Da Leon observes that the initial approaches “now encompass issues such as coping capacities, resilience, susceptibility and [other] new terms (2005, 145). A “consensus about policy priorities may be occurring” (McEntire 2006, 181; Britton 1999, 227; Cole and Buckle 2004). A “consensus about policy priorities may be occurring” (McEntire 2006, 181; Britton 1999, 227; Cole and Buckle 2004).

24 Future Possibilities Study vulnerability in different disaster contexts Study vulnerability in different disaster contexts Develop model more fully with variables Develop model more fully with variables Identify the complex relation among all of the factors that lead to vulnerability Identify the complex relation among all of the factors that lead to vulnerability Integrate the findings from different disciplines Integrate the findings from different disciplines

25 Thank You! David A. McEntire Emergency Administration and Planning Department of Public Administration University of North Texas (940)


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