Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Economics

In recent months we have seen emergencies and natural disasters strike communities around the world. Every emergency unfolds differently, but in cities, industrial or agricultural areas, there are always social and economic impacts from the situation. One of the more contentious questions that follows a disaster is simply, “What could have been done differently to prepare for a better outcome?”

The document below, created by the World Bank in 2010, outlines the case for more dollars to be spent on prevention, greater information sharing and understanding of risks and vulnerabilities, and generally reinforces the concept that money spent on maintenance and prevention is considerably less than that spent on fixing the infrastructure when it is damaged in a disaster. I know that not everyone has time to read the whole document, but at least read the introduction, which lays out the premise of the document.

Those of us in roles of public policy-making should understand the economic and social claims made in a document like this and how it could apply to the disasters that our jurisdiction faces, whether forest fires, floods, earthquakes or storms.

Our emotional reaction may be accentuated by a perceived lack of controlover the event (Acts of God). But natural disasters, despite the adjective,are not “natural.” Although no single person or action may be to blame,death and destruction result from human acts of omission—not tying down the rafters allows a hurricane to blow away the roof—and commission—building in flood-prone areas. Those acts could be prevented, often at littleadditional expense.This report is about prevention—measures that reduce the risk of death,injury, and damage from disasters—and how to ensure it cost-effectively.

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For all of us as individuals, chapter 3 of the document outlines the options and mechanisms for individual protection and how these are chosen in difference circumstances, ranging from prevention, self insurance, market insurance, and coping (in relief and recovery).

Overall, it’s a slightly depressing topic, but one that will continue to get coverage here at UrbanWorkbench, for the simple reason that awareness is the first step in action.

Here’s a pdf of the document available for download:

Natural Hazards Unnatural Disasters – Report – pdf

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

2 replies on “Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Economics”

  1. Thanks, Mike!

    …for raising this important issue.

    Would that those responsible for Public Policy in ALL Communities, would take the matter to heart … and ACT …. not only developing appropriate Policies — but also in sharing the important ‘need to know’ information with their Constituents.


    Raymond Koehler

    4363 Broadwater Road,
    Castlegar, BC V1N 4V7

    (currently – BC Cancer Agency – Kelowna)


    Voice Mail: 250.317.7951

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