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Disaster management is a relatively new discourse on the academic platform but has evolved
from various perspectives, including the traditional view that disasters are an act of God and
nothing can be done about them except wait for them to occur and then manage their impacts
Quarantelli (1996). However an in-depth analysis of the phenomenon known to have claimed
thousands of lives and maimed millions more has revealed that there in fact exists nothing in
its original form as a disaster, with scholars arguing that it is in fact socially crafted
vulnerability that translates otherwise natural phenomenon into dreaded disasters, Not even
windstorm, earth-tremor, or rush of water is a catastrophe. A catastrophe is known by its
works; that is, to say, by the occurrence of disaster. So long as the ship rides out the storm, so
long as the city resists the earth-shocks, so long as the levees hold, there is no disaster. It is
the collapse of the cultural protections that constitutes the disaster proper, Carr (1932).
Managing disasters and minimising their impacts has also been an equally challenging task
for organisations. Wisner et al (2003) postulate that disasters are a result of the interaction of
vulnerabilities and a given hazard, maintaining that there cannot be a disaster if there are
hazards but vulnerability is (theoretically) nil, or if there is a vulnerable population but no
hazard event. Disaster management is also often used in a general sense, covering the
implementation of preparedness, mitigation, emergency response and relief and recovery
measures, Twigg (2004). Therefore, an effective disaster management model should be one
that best combines the implementation of hazard assessment, preparedness, mitigation,
emergency response ,recovery, monitoring and evaluation phases.
This essay analyses the extent to which disaster management can be effective, demonstrating
that effectiveness of disaster management does not necessarily depend on the model applied,
but the activities conducted at each component of disaster management and their ability to
reduce the probability of a hazard occurring, the intensity of the hazard and the degree of
vulnerabilities of elements at risk. Pressure and Release model focuses much on the reduction
of vulnerability, Blaikie (1994) while expand-contract model focuses on a sequential
unfolding of disaster management activities. The models however assist to ensure the
prioritisation of certain components seen to be contributing more towards the vulnerability
and therefore the impact of disasters. Kelly (1998), states that, there are four main reasons
why a disaster model can be useful including the following:

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A model can simplify complex events by helping to distinguish

between critical elements. Its usefulness is more significant when

responding to disasters with severe time constraints.

Comparing actual conditions with a theoretical model can lead to
a better understanding of the current situation and can thus
facilitate the planning process and the comprehensive completion

of disaster management plans.

The availability of a disaster management model is an essential

element in quantifying disaster events.

A documented disaster management model helps establish a
common base of understanding for all involved. It also allows for
better integration of the relief and recovery efforts.

It is argued in this essay that a well-defined and clear model is highly beneficial in the
management of disasters because it facilitates the securing of support for disaster
management efforts, thus plays a crucial coordinative and guiding role, Mayers (1993).
According to VUSSC (2012) Disaster management is a systematic process that is based on
the key management principles of planning, organising, and leading which includes
coordinating and controlling. It aims to reduce the negative impact or consequences of
adverse events, since disasters cannot always be prevented, but the adverse effects can be
minimised. Twigg (2004) unpacks disaster management as a term often used in a general
sense, covering the implementation of preparedness, mitigation, emergency response and
relief and recovery measures. Effective disaster management therefore calls for measures that
temper with either the hazard or the existing levels of social and human vulnerabilities such
that natural hazards remain hazards through mitigation and preparedness among others. This
calls for a guiding theory or model to be effective. The essay discusses the Traditional
Approach model, Expand and contract model and lastly the Pressure and Release Model,
highlighting the weaknesses of the three models, before recommending the way forward.
Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC), (2012) suggest that
human vulnerability is the relative lack of capacity of a person or community to anticipate,
cope with, resist and recover from the impact of a hazard. Factors that increase human
vulnerability to disasters include rapid urbanization, population growth, and lack of
knowledge about how to effectively resist the effects of disasters and poverty Menoni (1996).
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Of all the factors, poverty is perhaps at the root of what makes most people vulnerable to the
impact of most hazards, Bankoff (2001).
UNDRO (1992:16) asserts that, the most important single influence on the impact of a
disaster is poverty. They argue that all other factors could be lessened if the affected
population were not also limited by poverty, and maintain that virtually all disaster studies
show that the wealthiest of the population either survive the disaster unaffected or are able to
recover quickly, UNDRO (1992:16). They conclude that across the broad spectrum of
disasters, poverty generally makes people vulnerable to the impact of hazards, ibid. Blaikie,
et al (1994) postulate that a disaster stems from the fact that certain communities or groups
are forced to settle in areas susceptible to the impact of a raging river or a volcanic eruption.
For example the Indian Ocean Tsunami that affected the poorest the most was due the type of
structures they stayed in and the geographic location that predisposed them to violent waves,
Blaikie (2005)
According to UNDRO (1992) vulnerability to tsunami includes location of settlements in low
lying coastal regions; lack of tsunami resistant buildings; lack of timely warning systems and
evacuation plans; and unawareness of public to destructive forces of tsunamis.
The Traditional approach to disaster management holds that disasters are acts of God (which
means that nothing can be done about them) or acts of nature (which means that the problem
can be resolved by scientific or technical interventions alone), Twigg (2004). The model was
thus used for response after disaster had stricken. The model focuses on two phases, the predisaster and post-disaster phases. The pre-disaster phase is given very little time frame of
implementation of activities and resources where prevention and mitigation, and
preparedness strands are short circuited. Recommended guiding principles of the UNDP
underscore the need for special attention to disaster prevention and preparedness by the
Governments concerned, as well as by the international community. In that light, they argue
that there should be,
..a clear relationship between emergency, rehabilitation and development, so that
in order to ensure a smooth transition from relief to rehabilitation and
development, emergency assistance should be provided in ways that will be
supportive of recovery and long-term development. Thus, emergency measures
should be seen as a step towards long-term development. UNDRO (1992:128).
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According to Practical Action (2010), ultimately, disaster management aims to reduce the
impact of disasters. The ways of achieving this have varied and evolved over time from
focusing on the post disaster to the pre-disaster phase of development where prevention
features alongside preparedness. Mitigation takes the form of structural and non-structural
measures undertaken to limit the adverse impact of natural hazards, environmental
degradation and technological hazards. UNDRO (1992) unpack structural mitigation as
construction projects which reduce economic and social impacts. For example the recently
collapsed five storey building at Nigerias acclaimed Prophet T.B Joshua resulting in the
death of over hundred people from various nationalities (http// According to
Twigg (2004:13) non-structural activities of mitigation include policies and practices which
raise awareness of hazards educating businesses and the public on simple measures they can
take to reduce loss.
The Traditional Model puts much emphasis on the relief and rehabilitation strands, as they
are the ones that remain visible after the disaster, overlooking pre-disaster measures that were
ongoing and stretched over a longer time period.
The earliest and still predominate approach is for agencies to provide relief to those affected
once a disaster has happened. Rescue assistance, medical support, food and water supply are
vital for saving lives which prevent further harm, McEntire (2006).
However, responding to a disaster can only do so much, and a level of loss is almost
inevitable before a rescue operation can even arrive. Practical Action (2010) posits that more
recent approaches take a more holistic view and seek to reduce the risk of a disaster, where
rather than waiting to respond, disaster management programmes plan for the whole disaster
process including a range of activities at different stages of disaster management. They argue
that the strategies include risk reduction such as hazard, exposure and sensitivity reduction,
impact reduction, and capacity building for resilience addressing not only the impacts but the
factors that turn a hazard into a disaster. A diagrammatical representation of the traditional
model is as follows;

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ig 1.0 Traditional Model of Disaster Management adapted from ADPC (2000)

The model comprises six stages that include prevention, mitigation, preparedness, responserelief, recovery and development. The model does not say anything about the environmental
or weather effect on disasters, neither does it highlight anything about hazard assessment. It
assumes that all the time after prevention comes mitigation which will be followed by
preparedness, then response if a disaster occurs which will be followed by recovery and
finally development, which of cause is not always the case that this routine traditional
response must be followed. Sometimes development may be infused in preparedness, for
example the Japan housing system which is now ready for earthquakes through development
they are now prepared, (
The Expand Contract Model is seen as a continuous process. There is a series of activities
that run parallel to each other rather than as a sequence, albeit with varying degrees of
emphasis. These activities are expressed as the different strands, ADPC (2000); Atmanand
(2003) and continue side by side, expanding or contracting as needed, DPLG-2 (1998). As an
example immediately after a disaster the relief and response strand will expand. But with
time this activity would reduce and the recovery and rehabilitation strand will expand. The
relative weighting of the strand will vary depending on the relationship between the hazard
event and the vulnerability of the community at risk. This model overcomes the limitations of
the traditional model which is sequential in nature. This approach acknowledges that disaster
management is a discipline which consists of various activities and actions that occur








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Expand-Contract Model of Disaster Management adapted from ADPC (2000);

An understanding of human vulnerability provides us with an understanding of the
significance of what physical measures should be naturally favoured in the various
circumstances. To that end, in pursuit of effective strategies for disaster management, Wisner
et al, (2004) postulate that the Pressure and Release Model (PAR) is the most appropriate
model for the effective management of disasters, as it tracks the various levels of
vulnerability to their root causes, hence addresses them at various levels, preventing future
disasters thereby. Their model demonstrates the various levels of vulnerability progression
that result in an interaction between hazards and vulnerabilities to cause a disaster.
Like the Traditional Approach and the Expand-Contract Model, the Pressure and Release
emphasizes the reduction of vulnerability, where mitigation, an activity that features on all
models focuses on saving lives; reducing economic disruption; decreasing vulnerability as
well as increasing capacity; and finally decreasing chance of and level of conflict, UNDRO
(1992). Development initiatives that do not foster disaster risk reduction can and often
increase peoples vulnerability. UNDRO (1992) argue that side effects of well-meaning
development efforts sometimes have disastrous consequences. They finger development
projects implemented without taking into account existing environmental hazards as
increasing vulnerability to natural disasters, ibid. The progression of vulnerability can be
diagrammatically explained as follows;

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Fig 3.0 Pressures that result in disasters: the progression of vulnerability adapted from Blaikie et al

The Pressure and Release Model targets the reduction of vulnerability of three front where
underlying root causes, dynamic pressures, and the unsafe conditions precipitate a disaster.
For example, from the diagram above, projects designed to increase employment
opportunities, and thus income, usually attract additional population growth, where lowincome people may then have to seek housing in areas previously avoided, on hillsides or in
floodplains. For example, high housing and population densities magnify the effects of
pollution and disease. Domestic fires, which are a significant risk in houses made of materials
that burn easily, such as wood, thatch and cardboard, can, where homes are packed tightly
together, easily get out of control. Industrial accidents can be devastating. According to
official figures, the explosion at a chemical factory in the Indian city of Bhopal in 1984
resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths and 100,000 injuries; more than 200,000 people had to be
evacuated, Shrivastava (1992).
According to Chambers (2006), within cities and villages, the biases of cores persist with the
poorer people often at the peripheries. But poor people can also be seen in core places.
Pressure and Release Model allows for elimination of vulnerability at various levels through
risk reduction, mitigation, and preparedness. Twigg (2004) notes that, poverty forces people
to live in the most polluted and dangerous areas: river valleys, flood plains, hillsides, next to
roads, waste dumps and hazardous industries. This scenario precipitated one of the deadliest
disasters ever, after the Indian earthquake of December 26, 2004. While the earthquake itself
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lasted for only 10 seconds, it caused a tsunami that killed 200,000 to 310,000 people along
the shores of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, South India, and Thailand with one death even occurring












(http// and preparedness would and should

include their relocation away from toxic industries like the residents near Bhopal in India
Shrivastava (1992), emphasising on the creation of and enforcement of building codes and
safety within industries through safety policies. Where they lack legal title to their property
as in many urban settlements and live in fear of eviction they have little incentive to invest
in private or communal mitigation measures, and in any case have little money for doing so.
Another component of the Pressure and Release model is that of dynamic pressures that
mould underlying vulnerabilities into unsafe conditions, resulting in an intersection with a
hazard, leading to disaster occurrence. Focusing on root causes of vulnerability assists
disaster management to nip the vulnerability of elements at risk in the bud, thus allowing
resources to be channelled towards sustainable development through the mainstreaming of
risk reduction measures espoused in both mitigation and preparedness.
Based on the progression of vulnerability model that identifies root causes of vulnerability as
limited access to power, structures, and resources, the Pressure and Release Model for
example would result in enactment of policies that address power inequalities, resource
distribution, for example adopting gender budgeting initiatives to empower women and
thereby rid society of vulnerabilities that would have resulted in disasters in the event of
hazards occurring, Twigg, (2004).
However the models discussed so far describe how the relationship between different phases
of the disaster management process is mediated. It can be inferred from the study of these
models that most revolve around the four major phases of disaster management: prevention,
mitigation, response and recovery. According to Alexander (1991), the discussed models are
not planned to cover all the aspects of the disaster management domain and have some
limitations; for example, the above models do not go beyond describing disaster stages but
only provide conceptual frameworks for the very basic activities of a disaster. The expandcontract model does not encapsulate hazard assessment and risk management activities.
Similarly, the pressure and release model only identifies the underlying causes of a disaster
and do not highlight other major activities of disaster management. There is no single model
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that encapsulates most of the major activities of disaster management within a single
framework. The above-mentioned models do not consider environmental conditions that
might affect the severity of a disaster. They only think of environment as another disaster
category. They fail to present a comprehensive description of disaster management activities
within a single model. Furthermore, the arrangement of activities (if any) is not in a logical
sequence. The evaluation and analysis of information and data related to a current disaster
are highly important and essential ingredients in the mitigation of future disasters. The
existing models do not give effective consideration to evaluation and analysis, Alexander
As a way forward to address the above shortcomings, Alexander (1997), suggests that, it is
imperative to design a comprehensive model that does not revolve around the four
fundamental phases of disaster management only. It must have some of the following
components: strategic planning, hazard assessment, risk management, disaster management
actions (four fundamental phases of disaster management), monitoring and evaluation and
environmental effects. The results of, and assessments derived from the comprehensive
model should be utilized as an input for a new evaluation which is obtained through the
monitoring and evaluation stages. Therefore, the evaluation of all measures, and feedback to
the strategic planning, is recommended. This model will enable disaster managers to improve
the forecasting of future events and their impacts, particularly those where the disaster
management actions might be affected by changing environmental conditions for example,
climate change. The assessment of possible disaster events is a very important issue when
mitigating disasters. An integrated disaster management model is a means of organizing
related activities to ensure their effective implementation. Four main components can be
identified: Hazard assessment, risk management mitigation and preparedness. The first task
in an integrated disaster management model is hazard assessment which provides the
information necessary for the next phase, risk management. This result in decisions about the
balance of mitigation and preparedness actions needed to address the risks Manitoba-HealthDisaster-Management (2002). The advantage of this model is that it provides a balance
between preparedness and flexibility in order to respond fluidly to the specific needs of
disasters. Since this model provides the link between actions and events in disasters such
links can be tight or loose.

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In light of the above discussion it is basically true that the extent to which disasters can be
effectively managed is often influenced by the model applied although no model can solely
operate in isolation from others, effective disaster response is a combination of all models.

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ADPC (2000), "Community Based Disaster Management (CBDM): Trainer's Guide, Module
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