In the spring of 2001 Dr. Allan T. Williams, a professor of Geography and Coastal Geomorphology at the University of Glasmorgan, Pontynild, Wales, UK, and I, when I was Deputy Director of the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University, collaborated in authoring a paper titled Vulnerability Assessment a Tool for Mitigation ( Vulnerability Assessment as a Tool for Mitigation ) focusing on the methodology of Vulnerability assessment. We submitted this paper as our proposed entry for one of the working sessions at an upcoming NATO sponsored advanced research workshop on various issues related to tsunamis taking place in Istambul, Turkey in May 2001.
This paper was mainly based on my work, going back to 1993, on the topics of natural hazards, vulnerability, damage and mitigation or damage reduction, which had led me to the following position: hazards whether natural or antropogenic must be considered as sources of potential damage and damage-reduction is at the core of hazard mitigation, defined as the cost-effective measures taken to reduce the potential for damage to a community or facility from the hazard impact. An equation can be written to express that position of mine as follows:
HAZARD (Source of Damage) + DAMAGE REDUCTION ACTIONS = MITIGATION
Apparently a straight forward and simple equation, but why is it then that damages, often repetitive, are mounting as hazards strile vulnerable communities or specific facilities everywhere? My research had shown me there were [are] knowledge gaps regarding the cause-and-effect relationship between the impact of hazards and the resulting damage on human activity, reflecting a general lack of understanding about the sequence of events that lead to actual damage. what this means is that humankind is generally ignorant or at best poorly informed about its own vulnerability to the adverse consequences of hazards.
The result of this is that vast segments of human society continue to engage in building structures and facilities of all types, in developing infrastructure, and in all the wide range of human activity without utilizing the assessment of their vulnerabilituy as a tool to reduce the potential for damage from the impact of hazards.
Effective mitigation – hazard damage reduction – must be based on a clear understanding of the causes of damage. This understanding comes from knowlwedge gained by applying the methodology of vulnerability assessment.
Vulnerability assessment and hazard mitigation must be essential components in the practice of human activity in vulnerable communities everywhere!