Integrated Risk Management: A Holistic Vision of Disaster
Prevention and Response
By Omar Darío Cardona, Academic Director of CEDERI
Risk Assessment and Disaster Prevention Postgraduate Program of the Disasters
and Risk Studies Center (CEDERI) of the University of the Andes in Bogota,
Colombia, was conceived from the start as an integrated higher education
program that would involve all relevant disciplines and sectors. By August
2000, the Faculty of engineering and its Department of Civil and Environmental
Engineering will have a hundred alumni and postgraduate students who have
been trained in risk management. Physicians, lawyers, psychologists, architects,
sociologists, social communicators, geologists, economists, political
scientists, systems engineers, and civil, mechanical, industrial and mining
engineers are now qualified Specialists in Risk Management.
Many of them now work
in the private sector, in industrial and occupational safety, risk and
insurance management, and vulnerability assessment companies. In the public
sector, they work for disaster prevention agencies, civil defense departments,
emergency management organizations, and planning and environmental management
institutions. They also work for civil society organizations, such as
NGOs, foundations, or housing corporations, and for academic institutions,
as teachers and researchers. All this has been achieved thanks to a vision
of disaster prevention as multidisciplinary, interinstitutional, multisectoraland
a key component of all development efforts.
The program includes
a course on International Strategies, which analyzes the national and
regional processes of the recently concluded International Decade for
Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) and its new institutional avatar, the
United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). This
contribution of the University of the Andes to Colombian society will
soon be available to foreign students without having to leave their country
of residence. CEDERI is in negotiations with the Latin American Social
Studies Network for Disaster Prevention (La RED) to offer the program
over the Internet. The academic staff has participated in many CEDERI
research and extension projects for the national, municipal, and public-sector
institutions that make up the National Disaster Prevention and Response
System. These projects, some of them designed and implemented at the request
of international agencies, are used in class as examples, allowing students
to integrate theory with practical examples and case studies developed
by the faculty. This should be of value to professionals abroad who already
have substantial work experience, but need to perfect their conceptual
and practical knowledge of disaster reduction as provided by an institution
that is respected throughout Latin America and has had ample experience
in continuing-education courses on natural disasters and risk management
since the early 1990s.
The following five
modules make up the program, and reveal the multidisciplinary and integrated
vision that guides it, combining technical, scientific, economic, social,
cultural and institutional aspects.
The objective of the
module is to study the nature of disasters, describe the characteristics
of the natural and social phenomena associated with the occurrence of
disasters, understand the difference between hazards, vulnerability and
risk, and promote the analysis of the social and organizational factors
that influence the course of natural disasters and the need for an integrated
vision. There are two subjects:
of disasters. The concepts of crisis and disaster are presented and
discussed in their various interpretations. Students assess the various
factors related to the occurrence of a disaster, including not only
physical but also social, cultural, institutional and economic factors.
Specific natural phenomena are studied, such as earthquakes, volcanic
eruptions, landslides, and hydrometeorological events, and the temporal,
spatial and demographic dimensions of disasters.
- Disasters and
development models. In this class, the causes of disasters are discussed
from a historical perspective. Disasters are seen as processes that
evolve and change depending on social and economic transformations.
Specific disasters are discussed at the national and international level,
as is the relationship between catastrophic events and the development
process of the societies in question. Students compare the causes and
implications of disasters in regions with different levels of development,
and discuss the relationship between environment, vulnerability, and
The objective of this
module is to study techniques for identifying and modeling the factors
that determine the occurrence of disasters. Hazard, vulnerability, and
risk analyses are conducted, including a look at technical and social
aspects. Students learn the criteria for determining acceptable levels
of risk as part of strategic decision-making, prevention, and planning.
Hazard, vulnerability, and risk are integrated conceptually through the
additional concepts of security and reliability. Two subjects make up
- Hazard and Vulnerability
Assessment. Hazards are studied as catalysts for the occurrence of a
disaster. Criteria for identifying, assessing and modeling hazards are
discussed. The concept of vulnerability is defined, and techniques and
methodologies are discussed for identifying potential damage scenarios.
Students learn about the physical, social and cultural factors that
determine damage potential and the vulnerability of a community, understood
as an indicator of development and quality of life.
- Risk Assessment
and Analysis. In this class, students discuss the key factors for assessing
the probability of a disaster in different contexts. The type and magnitude
of the expected social, economic and environmental losses are identified,
and tools are presented for diagnosis, evaluation, modeling, and risk
mapping and analysis. The concepts of security and reliability are discussed,
including their technical, social, and economic aspects.
Disasters, Risk and Sustainability.
The objective of this
module is to study disasters in the context of the environment, identifying
major environmental risks. The consequences of disasters for the urban
environment and habitat are analyzed in the short, medium, and long term.
Different alternatives for assessing technological and biological risk
due to toxic waste and water pollution, among other factors, are presented.
The following two subjects are studied:
- Manmade and Industrial
Risks. The chief industrial risks are identified, as are the consequences
for the environment of industrial and technological accidents. Students
evaluate the social and economic losses that can be caused by the use
of polluting or dangerous technologies. Risk is analyzed from the perspective
of public health.
- Disasters and
Sustainable Development. The concept of environmental security is defined
and discussed. Methodologies and strategies are presented for assessing
environmental impact and its relation to risk assessment. Various alternatives
are discussed for determining an acceptable level of environmental degradation,
as well as the question of the urban environment and its connection
with vulnerability and risk generation. The influence of environmental
degradation on the occurrence of natural disasters is analyzed. Students
learn about preventive management processes as sustainable development
strategies, look at global changes in the environment, and discuss sustainable
human development at the international level.
Prevention, Mitigation and Response.
The objective is to
study the various ways in which hazards and vulnerability can be mitigated
to reduce the risk of earthquakes, landslides, floods, hurricanes, and
other phenomena through direct physical interventionfor instance,
the structural reinforcement of buildings and lifelinesand other
means. Students analyze and discuss non-structural methods, such as emergency
preparedness plans, education and public information, land-use management,
and building codes. Two subjects are taught:
- Prevention and
Mitigation Measures. Students learn about the most effective prevention
measures to reduce risk through engineering methods, including vulnerability
reduction of buildings and lifelines. They discuss the main social and
economic obstacles to physical prevention, and alternatives to reduce
risk through complementary non-structural methods. Strategies to improve
standards, legislation, education and public information, land-use management,
building codes and general planning are presented and evaluated.
- Early Warning
Systems and Emergency Preparedness. Early warning systems are discussed
as preventive measures, including their benefits and limitations. Risk
perception is analyzed, as is the social and cultural response to risk
and disasters. Guidelines are given to design emergency and contingency
plans. Operational action and response strategies are defined, and the
social, cultural and economic factors connected to rehabilitation and
reconstruction are discussed.
Administration and Institutional Policies.
The objective is to
study institutional organization, risk management, and disaster preparedness,
including negotiation strategies and techniques to secure the participation
of the community and social organizations in mitigation and prevention
policies. Existing institutional management models are analyzed. Global,
regional and national trends in disaster management are presented, and
the twin issues of vulnerability and the feasibility of sustainable development
are analyzed from the point of view of political economy. Two subjects
- Management and
Planning for Prevention. Disaster management policies and standards
are analyzed, including the laws establishing national civil protection
or disaster management systems. Specific cases are presented in which
those systems have been put to the test. Legislation from other countries,
including developed countries, is analyzed. The issue of disasters and
risk is discussed from the point of view of sustainable development,
environmental protection, vulnerable communities, and the notion of
progress. The main factors that favor the accumulation of vulnerability
in the process of growth and urbanization are discussed, and national
and regional trends in planning, prevention, and development are analyzed.
- Political economy
and international strategies. Crisis and disaster management is evaluated
from a political and ethical point of view. The relationship between
political and economic factors is discussed, as well as the role of
international politics and bilateral and multilateral cooperation agencies.
Increases in vulnerability are seen as a result of unsustainable development.
Prevention, mitigation, and planning are viewed in the context of international
accords and conferences. The national and regional achievements during
the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction are analyzed,
as are the challenges that remain.
For more information, please contact:
Omar Darío Cardona Arboleda, Academic Coordinator
Mauricio Sánchez Silva, Administrative Coordinator
CENTRO DE ESTUDIOS SOBRE
DESASTRES Y RIESGOS CEDERI
Departamento de Ingeniería Civil y Ambiental
Universidad de los Andes
Carrera 1ª No. 18 A 70,
Tels. +(57 1) 332 43 12 y 332 43 15
Fax 332 43 13