Disaster management

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The United Nations defines a disaster as a "serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society"[1] (see UN-SPIDER UN General Assembly Resolution 61/110 - (2017)[2] about United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response).

Aral Lake - Consumption of Water Resources
Earthquake - destroyed infrastructure
Bush Fire
Environmental and Food Security Impacts of Pollution

Classification of Disasters


Disaster can be classified in the following way:

  • Natural disasters: including extreme temperature events (climate change), earthquake, volcano erruption, floods and cyclones/hurricanes that have direct impact on human health/public health due to exposure to forces of the natural disaster and secondary impacts causing further death and suffering from destructions caused e.g. by tsunamis, floods, landslides, fires and destroyed infrastructure.
  • Environmental emergencies: due human errors, failure of technological, private and industrial accidents can occur and lead to major environmental disasters, exposure to chemicals, fire. The damage is usually caused by production process and unexpected behavious in complex dynamic system, including the use or transportation of hazardous material. Long-term impact due to continuous contamination of product entering our food chain can cause further long-term victims of an environmental disaster. Environmental disasters might not occur by a single event (e.g. Fukushima, Tschernobyl) but also by continuous contamination of an ecosystem or continous economic and private exploitation of water resources that lead to a break-down of ecosystem and agricultral infrastructure e.g. in developing countries.
  • Public security emergencies: single events of conflict or persistent conflict situations and war can generate a break-down of authority, including looting and attacks on strategic installations (e.g. water and energy supply).
  • Pandemic emergencies: are disasters that affect either a large number of the worlds population or involving a sudden onset of contagious communicable disease (e.g. Ebola or Spanish flu that affects health. When the disease is highly infectious and highly pathogen and the citizens cannot protect themselves the pandemic emergency could disrupts public and private services and businesses, causes economic and social costs. Especially when public security is endangered risk mitigation strategies might not be in operation anymore, which can in turn increase the vulnerability of citizens.

Systemic Connectivity of Disasters


Depending of the type of disasters involve widespread human, material, economic, environmental or security impacts. Furthermore the types of disasters are connected. A flood as a natural disaster cause e.g. a Cholera epidemic due to the break-down of clean water supply. If governmental services are not in operation anymore and the supply with water, food and shelter cannot be assured a public security. Due to the exposure to unexpected events a disaster can be characterized by a situation in which the ability of the affected community or society to cope with the disaster impact exceeds their capacity and their own resources.

Sustainable Development Goals


Natural and man-made disasters can have a major impact on the accomplishment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Analyse the 17 SDGs and link them to the natural and man-made disasters that affects sustainability.


  • an IT-infrastructure imports, processes and exports Decisions Support Layers that can be used in Decision Support Systems
  • OpenSource infrastructure can be used in parallel with other approaches, that allow
    • a transparently to analyis of the applied algorithms, the libraries and software packages can checked for quality assurance and error correction and optimization in a Version Control System.
  • Data-Subsetting - from huge datasets areas of interest can be selected, and variables that should be processed for the selected areas (see https://eo4sd.org)

Learning Task

  • Go to the knowledge portal of the United Nations Programme UN-SPIDER and learn about Risk and Disaster management in the context of United Nations.
  • Analyse your personal environment for risks and derive appropriate risk mitigations strategies for that.
Chronic Kidney Disease of non-traditional causes
  • Analyse the Chronic Kidney Disease of non-traditional causes (CKDn):
    • Start at an NGO La Isla Foundation and get an idea about the health disaster.
    • Learn about the progression of the disease CKDn, especially Mesoamerican Nephropathy, a form of CKDu, is "a new form of kidney disease that could be called agricultural nephropathy".[3].
    • Analyse a generic geospatial principle of attaching information to geolocation that support risk awareness and risk mitigation strategies (see Open Educational Resources)
  • Learn about spatial Risk Management to identify spatial pattern of risk.
  • Look at Humanitarian Open Street Map Team[4] and how HOT addresses humanitarian disasters and support communities in capacity building. Explain how spatial aspects of risk mapping help decision makers to understand and manage the disasters.

See also


External Resources



  1. UNSDR - Definition: Disasters - accessed 2017/08/14 - section disasters - https://www.unisdr.org/we/inform/terminology
  2. United Nations - Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) - Resolution 61/110 - (2017) - http://www.unoosa.org/pdf/gares/ARES_61_110E.pdf
  3. "Epidemiology of chronic kidney disease in adults of Salvadoran agricultural communities". MEDICC Rev 16 (2): 23–30. 2014. PMID 24878646. http://www.medicc.org/mediccreview/index.php?issue=28&id=351&a=va. 
  4. Humanitarian Open Street Map Team - visited 2017 - https://www.hotosm.org/about
  5. Aitsi-Selmi, A., Egawa, S., Sasaki, H., Wannous, C., & Murray, V. (2015). The Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction: Renewing the global commitment to people’s resilience, health, and well-being. International Journal of Disaster Risk Science, 6(2), 164-176.