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Agenda: Community Based Disaster Risk Management

Agenda (selected) 

Course Overview

The human causes of natural disasters find greater recognition today in the theory and practice of disaster management, and there is a discernible shift in the nature of disaster preparedness and mitigation activities. While governments, supported by other actors—international agencies, academia, and non-governmental organizations—play a key role in organizing and funding disaster management programs, the content and implementation of these initiatives now include communities as prime actors. This approach has evolved in the last two decades. It is based on the recognition that the socio-economic vulnerability of communities, rather than physical hazard, explains the impact of disasters and that interventions must therefore aim at reducing vulnerability at the community level.


Successive disasters in different parts of the world have demonstrated time and again that the impact of a disaster in terms of life, assets, and potential for recovery is borne disproportionately by developing countries, and within them by the poorest segments. A community-based approach aims to reduce their socially constructed vulnerability by involving communities as active participants in a disaster program. There is also a broadening consensus that it is cost-effective to train and educate communities about risks they face, provide them access to resources and knowledge, and to develop community-based preparedness and mitigation programs. This approach has emerged as a complement to structural mitigation (dams, dykes, levees, etc.) and even certain types of non-structural mitigation programs (land use, building codes, development regulations, etc.).


A community-based disaster risk management program does not follow a standard course of action or a master plan. Instead, it is a series of action plans that allow methods to be less normative, procedures less standardized, and intervention mechanisms more innovative and improvised. The key issues are creating access to resources for protecting shelter and livelihoods, greater knowledge and choices for hazard mitigation, and reducing socio-economic vulnerability.


The objective of this course is to introduce the concepts, tools, and mechanisms, which help design and implement community-based disaster risk management programs. The course highlights the flexibility and innovation required for these community-based initiatives. Further, it underscores the need for greater engagement with people and a better understanding of their risks and resources

This specialization course targets local government policymakers, NGOs, community leaders and disaster management professionals. The course consists three sessions and end of course exercise.

  • Session 1: Community-level Vulnerability Assessment and Disaster Preparedness

The presentation discusses vulnerability assessment (VA), a most critical exercise in disaster preparedness. VA provides the basis for disaster preparedness at the community level by identifying important community concerns such as livelihood and consumption, housing and social infrastructure, and gender and intra-household relations. Though different methods of carrying out VA have evolved, it is critical that they adapt to local conditions, and include all the relevant socioeconomic indicators of well being. In addition, systems of early warning, family and community preparedness, and volunteer-based response can be developed for specific hazards. However, the community preparedness presupposes a certain level of social organization and an institutional framework.

  • Session 2: Access to Resources for Community-based Mitigation

The presentation focuses on resources that communities need to reduce their vulnerability and adopt mitigation measures. Access to resources can be secured through financial mechanisms and incentives, as well as economic programs. These include credit, savings, and insurance which are provided by banks and microfinance institutions, and public support by the government in the form of social funds, social security schemes, and relief and rehabilitation works. An appropriate mitigation strategy be based on a balance between market-based instruments and public-funded programs. An ideal community-based mitigation program has no standard prescription; it takes into account the vulnerability of a community and the feasibility of different mitigation strategies and instruments.

  •   Session 3: Planning and Implementing a Disaster Management Program at Community - level

The presentation discusses the basic approach to designing and implementing community-based disaster management programs. It reviews the process and the tools of participatory risk assessment, methods of analyzing hazards, hazard exposure and community vulnerabilities. It then derives the main ingredients of a community response plan and mitigation program from the assessment and an analysis of available resources. The presentation emphasizes the importance of networks, and training and education programs, which provide people with more information and a better understanding of risks and risk reduction mechanisms. The session underlines that education and training programs need to be cross-sectoral, to address environmental and natural resource management simultaneously with discussing shelter and livelihood concerns. While there can be an informal orientation program for a larger number of community members, formal instruction should be provided to the people who volunteer their services for disaster preparedness and response. A certain level of standardization must be introduced through curriculum and course material, trainers’ competence, and levels of certification. At the same time, such an education process also needs to draw upon grassroots experience, traditional knowledge and local practices.

  •   End of Course Project

To meet the course completion requirement the participants are required to submit an end-of course case study/project. The objective of the course project is to apply the newly acquired knowledge to prepare a Community-level Disaster Preparedness Program. The project should draw upon the information and methods presented in the course materials and data specific to the selected community. The project should be prepared in a case study format.



Krishna Vatsa, Secretary, State of Maharashtra, India

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