Disaster Risk Reduction

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDDR) defines disaster risk as the potential loss of life, injury, or destroyed or damaged assets that could occur to a system, society or a community. To define “disaster risk reduction” and its links to “resilience”, and “sustainable development” the following UNDDR statement can be used:

“Disaster risk reduction is aimed at preventing new and reducing existing disaster risk and managing residual risk, all of which contribute to strengthening resilience and therefore to the achievement of sustainable development.”

Guidance on disaster risk reduction in Australia typically refers to disasters caused by natural hazards. However, it is acknowledged that the principles reducing the risk of disasters and an “all-hazards approach” also increase overall disaster resilience (NSW Government, 2018). Some of the hazards mentioned in guidance are storms, cyclones, floods, droughts, bushfires, agricultural / animal disease, industrial incident and accidents, terrorism, cyber-attacks, financial crises, economical fluctuations, conflicts, and pandemics. With a focus on natural hazards it is difficult to control the hazard itself, but the risk is also driven by the exposure and vulnerability of the community and environment, which is where action is targeted. Two of the key drivers that increase exposure and vulnerability over time are population growth and climate change (NSW Reconstruction Authority, 2024).

There are four key environments coexisting in systems to consider in disaster risk reduction: built, social, natural, and economic (National Recovery and Resilience Agency, 2019; Council of Australian Governments, 2011). A disaster resilient system is considered one that can withstand, respond to and adapt more readily to shocks and stresses (Resilient Sydney website: https://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/governance-decision-making/resilient-sydney). Shocks are sudden events, such as floods, bushfires, and cyber-attacks. Stresses are long term or chronic, such as drought, ageing infrastructure, species extinction, and social cohesion and inclusion.