SDMM15001U Core Course 1: Disaster Risk Management - From Theory to Practice
When the term “disaster” is mentioned there is an immediate assumption that it is about the hazard – earthquake/flood/volcanic eruption/landslide, etc. When in actual terms, these are merely natural phenomena that only lead to “disasters” in the presence of certain conditions. Such conditions that lead to damage and fatalities are inherent vulnerabilities in both social groups and physical structures. There is an obsession in the media with the science of hazards and far less focus on socio-economic and political vulnerabilities leading to a misconception that science is the answer to what’s essentially a consequence of inequality, lack of access and entitlement to resources and far wider structural factors.
The course is an introduction to the central space vulnerability takes in understanding disasters. It is mainly an examination of the nature, scope, context, concepts, and dynamics of vulnerability and risk. This will be undertaken through looking at factors contributing to vulnerability due to structural forces created by economic globalisation and their impact on local-level vulnerability. The course puts people at the centre of the examination focusing on the socio-economic and political dimensions as well as health aspects of vulnerability and disasters rather than hazards per se. The course also touchs on issues of climate change and forced migration, and overall vulnerability reduction and resilience building.
Instead of a conventional approach where introduction to the subject and definitions constitute the first part, the course starts with the main issues in question and works its way to extracting the concepts, dynamics and definitions of vulnerability from looking at the global picture first. This way students, especially those who have no prior knowledge or experience in disaster related work could make sense and relate better to practical cases and examples rather than sitting through theoretical and descriptive definitions.
The course is designed more like a learning journey and structured into progressive but non-linear blocks of exploration with clear signposts and landmarks. The course is designed in a way where “imparting knowledge” is kept to a minimum. This is an extremely practical subject with highly problematic and politically charged areas. It’s best approaching this course in a way of mutual learning, challenging preconceptions and exploring answers rather than expecting to be given such answers. The course will also be flexibly shaped around students’ experience and areas of interest. While there are set sessions, emphasis will be gauged to students’ level.
The main content areas are:
- The disaster-development nexus
- Introduction to the nature of disasters and forensics of the complexity of vulnerability
- Risk configuration and accumulation due to multiple factors – structural and temporal
- Health issues in disasters and disaster risk management
- Models of disaster risk management and good practice
- Brief introductions to disaster preparedness, response and recovery
- Climate change impact on natural resources and livelihoods and connection to disasters
On completion of the course, students should be able to:
- Demonstrate a critical understanding of the nature, typology and dynamics of vulnerability.
- Demonstrate a critical and practical understanding of the factors affecting and leading to vulnerability not only on a local level but those emanating from structural global processes.
- Understand the complex connections and interaction between hazards and vulnerabilities and how risk is contextually configured.
- Demonstrate an understanding of the central role of disaster related health impacts and health status as chronic vulnerability issues that reduces people’s resilience in the face of extreme events and hazards.
- Have a command of the key concepts, theories, models and principles relevant to disaster management and risk reduction.
- Have an adequate understanding of climate change and climate adaptation in general and in relations to extreme events in particular and be able to relate long-term impact of climate change to disaster risk management were both impacts overlap and add to further complexity.
- Identify the main actors in risk and disaster management and understand their impact in the field.
- Research into the issues of risk and vulnerability in a specific country or for a specific event/hazard.
- Demonstrate knowledge of methods and tools for risk analysis and risk evaluation, including methods for identification and analysis of hazards and vulnerabilities.
- Acquire the conceptual basis to appreciate the complexities of vulnerability, risk and disaster management.
- Develop a better ability to engage with and relate to disaster professionals – across sectors and disciplines and work collaboratively in a field situation through understanding what constitutes vulnerability and how to deal with it.
- Develop some research ability in constructing vulnerability and disaster profiles.
- Critically evaluate the strengths and limitations of policies and practices in the field that could potentially lead to increased vulnerability of the population.
- Apply tools used for teambuilding and stress management and demonstrate knowledge about intercultural communication.
- Identify and formulate a relevant and current research question and develop a vulnerability profile for a case study assignment.
- Work independently in self-directed study.
- Work in a group – teamwork and presentation.
- Engage in dialogue and discussions, and argue a case.
- Negotiation, including compromise, argument and trade offs.
- Read and critique literature.
• Lectures - Imparting knowledge, concepts, theories and models
• Exercises – Inquiry or skills based with emphasis on analytical skills and problem solving
• Videos – Guided with a set of questions or an exercise that follows
• Seminars – Self-directed by students and guided and mentored by tutors
• Presentations – of group assignments and feedback by a panel of tutors
• Paper – To develop academic writing skills and assessed by course leader and external examiner
Examiners give a short written feedback to each student's paper via Digital Exam.
This course is open to external participants who fulfill the MDMa Admission criteria.
- 7.5 ECTS
- Type of assessment
- Written examination, 48-HoursAn essay examination of 2 questions. Students will use real case examples from the Case Assignment to answer the questions. The aim of the exam is test the students’ ability to bring theory and practice closer.
- Exam registration requirements
Registration in the exam upon course registration.
- All aids allowed
- Marking scale
- 7-point grading scale
- Censorship form
- No external censorship
- Exam period
See the exam plan
See the exam plan
Criteria for exam assesment
To achieve the maximum grade of 12, the student shall be able to:
• Have a command of the key concepts, theories, models and principles relevant to disaster management and risk reduction.
• Demonstrate a critical and practical understanding of the factors affecting and leading to vulnerability not only on a local level but those emanating from structural global processes.
• Research into the issues of risk and vulnerability in a specific country or for a specific event/hazard.
• Critically evaluate the strengths and limitations of policies and practices in the field that could potentially lead to increased vulnerability of the population.
• Identify and formulate a relevant and current research question and develop a vulnerability profile for a case study assignment.
• Read and critique literature.