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date: 24 November 2017

Governance of No-Notice or Limited-Notice Natural Hazards

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Natural Hazard Science. Please check back later for the full article.

The second priority of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 stresses that, to efficiently manage risk posed by hazards, disaster risk governance should be strengthened for all phases of the disaster cycle. Disaster management should be based on adequate strategies and plans, guidance, and inter-sector coordination and communication, as well as on participation and inclusion of all relevant stakeholders, including the general public. Hazards that occur with little or no warning challenge these efforts.

Different types of hazards present different challenges to societies in terms of detection, monitoring and early warning (and then response and recovery). For example, some hazards occur suddenly with little or no warning (e.g., earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, snow avalanches, flash floods, etc.), whereas others are slow-onset (e.g., drought and desertification). Hazards such as hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, and floods can unfold at a pace that affords decision makers and emergency managers time to affect warnings and undertake preparedness and mitigative activities. Others do not. Detection and monitoring technologies (e.g., seismometers, stream gauges, meteorological forecasting equipment) and early warning systems (e.g., the Australian Tsunami Warning System) have been developed for a number of hazard types, however, their reliability and effectiveness vary with the phenomenon and its location. For example, tsunamis generated by submarine landslides occur without warning, generally rendering tsunami warning systems inadequate.

The lack of reliable and timely warnings has serious implications for risk governance processes and practices. To manage events with short or no notice, emphasis should be given to the preparedness and mitigation phase of disaster planning, and in particular, to efforts to engage and educate the public. Risk and vulnerability assessment is also of paramount importance. The identification of especially vulnerable groups, appropriate land use planning, the introduction and enforcement of building codes, and reinforcement regulations can all help reduce casualties and damage to the built environment caused by unexpected events. Moreover, emergency plans must adapt accordingly, as evacuation plans may differ for long-notice events. Risk transfer mechanisms, such as insurance, and public-private partnerships should be strengthened, and redevelopment should consider relocation and reinforcement of new buildings. Finally, participation by relevant stakeholders is a key concept for the management of short or no notice events, as it is a central component for efficient risk governance. All relevant stakeholders should be identified and included in decisions and their implementation, supported by good communication before, during, and after hazard events.