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Report

Natural Disasters – Saving Lives Today, Building Resilience for Tomorrow

In this report we examine the three key aspects of disaster response, and the need for engineers to be at the heart of efforts to reduce the impact of these events, from initial humanitarian aid through to building resilience for the future.

Every year, natural events, such as earthquakes, floods, storms, heatwaves and droughts cause huge humanitarian and economic damage around the world. Although we are now better able to identify and respond to such natural disasters than ever before, in many cases lack of knowledge and poor planning, resourcing and deployment of relief systems can create problems for both the local and global community.

In this report we demonstrate that it is crucial for the future of people’s lives, their properties and communities – as well as local, national and global economic activity – that resilience building is incorporated more vigorously in the human response to extreme natural events.

Key recommendations

  1. Focus more international development funding on building future resilience
    Currently only 4% of all international humanitarian aid is channelled to helping build resilience in disaster hotspots, well below the UN’s recommended 10%. It is estimated that every $1 spent on making communities more resilient can save as much as $4 in disaster relief in the future by spending now. Donor nations such as the UK maximising their development aid would provide better living for residents, ensure more effective use of UK taxpayers’ money and help ensure a more secure future for all.
  2. Build local capacity through knowledge transfer
    Governments, the private sector and all those with a stake in global supply chains need to prioritise the transfer of knowledge, information and skills for the building of local resilience capacity. Technical knowledge for embedding resilience thinking, improved building standards and codes, engineering practice know-how and appropriate relevant training builds local expertise and indigenous capability.

    To facilitate international knowledge transfer partnerships, the Hyogo Framework priority for action to reduce the underlying risk factors must be reinvigorated by the UN, and DFID and its international counterparts should create long-term engineering placements (three or more years) that enable effective transfer of relevant skills and know-how. By helping to ensure nations are able to cope more effectively with extreme natural events, the prospects for the future stability and continuity of worldwide supply chains are improved.
  3. Embed the long-term engineering view in the short-term response
    NGOs, national governments, the UN and others involved in co-ordinating the short-term response to natural disasters should seek the early involvement of engineers in their activities. Decisions made in the immediate recovery stage of a response set the engineering foundations and constraints for eventual reconstruction and redevelopment. The quicker engineers can begin infrastructure assessment and longer-term reconstruction planning, the better short-term decision-making will be and the more likely a successful overall outcome that increases a community’s resilience.

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