Hazards and Disasters - Risk Assessment and Responses


Flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina

1. Characteristics of hazards


Explain the characteristics and spatial distribution of these hazards:
either earthquakes or volcanoes
hurricanes (tropical cyclones, typhoons)
any one recent human-induced (technological) hazard (explosion or escape of hazardous material).
Distinguish between the chosen hazards in terms of their spatial extent, predictability, frequency, magnitude, duration, speed of onset, and effects.

7 hours

Differentiating between hazard and disaster
Can you name different types of hazard exercise. Dave's Landslide blog - 10 most important natural disasters of the last 10 years
Consider Venn diagrams of the degree of interaction between a vulnerable population and an extreme natural event resulting in either no interaction = no hazard and large interaction = major hazard
Different characteristics of a hazard.
Why does there have to be ten deaths before a hazard becomes a disaster?
Can we be objective when considering a disaster? Hazarddefinition

Earthquakes You always have to think about the location, the frequency and the predictability of earthquakes. usgs-quakes-20002009.gif

Why did so many people die in Haiti's quake BBC

Aid situation one month after the earthquake
Haiti damage and logistics
A history of natural disasters in Haiti
Haiti beset by a series of natural disasters You tube
NASA earth observatory

L'Aquila 2009
Did a technician accurately predict the L'Aquila earthquake
Wikipedia - always the first place to research in times of need

Kobe Jan 17 1995
Great Hanshin earthquake




How predictable are hurricanes?
Hurricane season 2008 You Tube

Hurricane Katrina August 29 2005
Times Picayne interactive graphic - all the information you need!
BBC weather

Cyclone Nargis
Wikipedia Cyclone Nargis
BBC weather report on Nargis
Burma cyclone misery one year on .


East Africa
Kenyas drougth an audio slideshow
Drought in Kenya National Geographic
Kenya may go from drought to disasterous flooding - Oct 23 2009 Earthweek
Kenyas heart stops pumping - series of BBC articles on the impact of deforestation and subsequent drought
(This topic links with the Mau Forest in Environmental Sustainability)
The Economist
East Africa in Drought crisis

Australia rivers face disaster BBC
Big dry takes its toll on Australian farmers BBC
Australian Government - Living with drought
Drought puts pressure on electricity

Exam Style Question - Explain the reasons for the occurrence and scale of impacts of a specific drought event that you have studied. (10 marks)


Industrial Disasters Wikipedia
Chernobyl 26th. April 1986
Consequences for other countries of Chernobyl
Effects of Chernobyl explained 23 years later
Chernobyl You Tube videos

Deep Water BP 2010
Wikipedia Deep Water Oil Spill
BP Gulf of Mexico Responses
The Guardian - BP Oil spill
Interactive timeline of oil spill
National Geographic - Gulf manta rays affected by oil spill
Did gulf oil spill boost dead zone National Geographic

Buncefield 11 December 2005
Photos on Flicker
Massive blaze at fire depot BBC **
The legacy of Buncefield one year on
Buncefield parallels drawn abroad

2. Vulnerability

vulnerable populations

Explain the reasons why people live in hazardous areas.
1 hour

Hazards and vulnerability research institute
adaptation, acceptance and fatalistic in their approach to a potential hazard.


Discuss vulnerability as a function of demographic and socio-economic factors, and of a community’s preparedness and ability to deal with a hazard event when it occurs.
Explain the reasons for some sectors of a population being more vulnerable than others.
3 hours

Demographic factors
size of vulnerable population
population density
Socioeconomic factors
individual wealth
countries level of development
Community preparedness
recent hazard events
early warning systems
building codes and practice
Communities ability to deal with the hazard event
emergency personnel
lines of effective communication

who are the most vulnerable:
minority groups

Who suffers, identifying the vulnerable groups.
The Chile earthquake stronger than the one in Haiti but why was there was far less damage The geography of social vulnerability, race, class and catastrophe

3. Risk and risk assessment

risk relationships

Examine the relationships between the degree of risk posed by a hazard and the probability of a hazard event occurring, the predicted losses, and a community’s preparedness for it.
Explain the reasons why individuals and communities often underestimate the probability of hazard events occurring.
Discuss the factors that determine an individual’s perception of the risk posed by hazards.
3 hours

What do you think is a risky thing to do?
Is it all just a matter of perception?
What is the relationship between the degree of risk posed by a hazard and the probability of that hazard event ever occurring?
What about the level to which a community is prepared for a hazard and their predicted losses?

UN feels that risks of a disaster occurring are increasing
Map of death
Why do you think that communities and individuals often underestimate the probability of a disaster occurring?

hazard event prediction

Examine the methods used to make estimates (predictions) of the probability (in time and space) of hazard events occurring, and of their potential impact on lives and property.
Discuss these methods by examining case studies relating to two different hazard types.
3 hours

How prepared should we be for the big one?
Preparedness now!
Before Disaster strikes

You need to be able to discuss two different case studies of two different hazards.
You have to be able to make predictions on the probability of the hazard occurring and the potential impact of the hazard.

The focus has to be on Katrina (MEDC) and on Cyclone Sidr and/or Nargis (LEDC)
How prepared were the countries? Was New Orleans arrogant in its presumption they could shut the city for a few days and then clean up and get back to normal? Was the impact so substantial because of the poverty of the people affected in both New Orleans and myanmar?
Was the government blackout on news influential in making predicion and subsequent impact worse in Myanmar?
National Geography, is global warming making hurricanes worse?
Saffir Simpson Scale

You need to have detailed notes on Haiti or Iran (LEDC) and either Kobe or L'Aquila (MEDC)
What degree of advanced prediction and preparedness was there?
Haiti history of hardship
How do we measure the magnitude of an earthquake?
When earthquakes hit, its the poor city dwellers that die Among the quake victims - Haiti's government
Is California worth the risk?

4. Disasters

Distinguish between a hazard event and a disaster. Explain why this distinction is not always completely objective.

This document explains the difference between the two clearly along with a wide variety of examples.
Natural Disaster
measuring disasters



Describe the methods used to quantify the spatial extent and intensity of disasters.
Explain the causes and impacts of any one disaster resulting from an environmental hazard.
Explain the causes and impacts of any one recent human-induced hazard event or disaster.
Examine the ways in which the intensity and impacts of disasters vary in space and have changed over time.
4 hours

Glossary of key terms
Hopefully you completed the extended paragraph about quantifying the spatial extent and intensity of disasters. Reporting and being able to pinpoint the usefulness of crisis mapping tools and how important social networking can be ......... told you twitter and facebook were og geographical importance!
BBC and Aid agencies using new tools
Washington Post and crisis mapping

This is where you should be looking at your previous notes that you made in Characteristics of Hazards right at the beginning, so if your notes are not as strong as they should be now is the time to update them with the following resources.

Drought (Environmental Hazard)
What causes drought?
Reality of drought
Devastating East Africa drought caused by volatile climate
Kenya's heart stops pumping

Human (Human induced hazard)

The continental scale of chernobyl
Atomic insights Chernobyl
Cause of Buncefield explosion

5. Adjustments and responses to hazards and disasters

responses to the risk of hazard events



Discuss the usefulness of assessing risk before deciding the strategies of adjustment and response to a hazard.
Describe attempts that have been made to reduce vulnerability by spreading the risk (aid, insurance) and by land use planning (zoning).




before the event



Describe strategies designed to limit the damage from potential hazard events and disasters.
4 hours

Review IGCSE Resources on managing the hazard
Reduction of the potential hazard, how to reduce earthquake damage

how to survive the storm


Disasters, chemical spills and accidents
short-term, mid-term and long-term responses after the event



Describe the range of responses, at the community, national and international levels, during and after a hazard event or disaster.
Distinguish between rescue, rehabilitation and reconstruction responses.
Explain how these responses are affected by individual and community perceptions.
Examine the factors that affected the choice of adjustments before, and responses to, actual hazard events or disasters.
Discuss the importance of re-assessing risk, and re-examining vulnerability, following any major hazard event or disaster.
5 hours






Skills covered when teaching this optional theme could include:
Direction, latitude and longitude, isoline and isopleth maps, choropleth maps, aerial photographs, ground-level photographs and satellite images.


A threat (whether natural or human) that has the potential to cause loss of life, injury, property damage, socio-economic disruption, or environmental degradation.
Hazard event
The occurrence (realization) of a hazard, the effects of which change demographic, economic and/or environmental conditions.
A major hazard event that causes widespread disruption to a community or region, which the affected community is unable to deal with adequately without outside help.
The susceptibility of a community to a hazard or to the impacts of a hazard event.
The probability of a hazard event causing harmful consequences (expected losses in terms of deaths, injuries, property damage, economy and environment).