Disaster Risk Management course offered by the Earthquakes and Megacities Initiative

The Earthquakes and Megacities Initiative (EMI) is an international scientific organization started in 1998 and established as a non-stock, non-profit organization.  Its mission is to advance policy, knowledge and practice of urban Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). EMI has been accredited by the United Nations Development Programme and has worked with the UN World Food Programme, the World Bank as well as major cities in disaster zones around the world.

The Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management Framework (CDRMF) is an online course offered by EMI in disaster risk management. The course addresses basic questions such as “why are disasters a development issue?”, ‘’what is the disaster cycle?’’ and “what are the fundamental components and processes of disaster risk management?” It also reviews the institutional arrangements and financing mechanisms of disaster risk management systems, and identifies the role of national and local actors in the processes related to risk assessment, mitigation and response. The course is targeted at all disaster managers and humanitarian agency staff who want to acquire fundamental knowledge on disaster risk management (DRM) including DRM professionals and general development practitioners.

The course starts with an analysis of disasters in the participants own country and seeks to highlight the various similarities and differences between DRM in developed and developing countries. Since participants are drawn from various countries around the world, these differences become apparent through the online discussion forums where participants share their views and learn from each other. Each week participants must take part in these discussions, read a number of case studies and profiles of DRM systems do an assignment and take an exam. The course finishes with a much larger assignment and exam, drawing from and testing knowledge built up over the four weeks.

Key lessons from each module:

Introduction to DRM

  • Worldwide trends in disaster occurrence across different countries
  • How natural hazards can impact development prospects
  • Linkages between natural hazard risk, natural resource management and environmental degradation (e.g. urbanisation, deforestation, watershed management)

National Disaster Management Systems

  • Introduction the key players in disaster risk management
  • The characteristics of effective national systems including organisational structures
  • The role national governments can play and instruments they can use to cope with the impacts of disasters

The Role of Local Actors

  • How development, societal susceptibility and resilience, and disasters are linked
  • Socio-economic factors contributing to vulnerabilities of local communities, urban and rural
  • The importance of including communities in when developing response capabilities, preparedness and mitigation, and risk management

Throughout the entire course, the importance of both communities and technology is very apparent with the convergence of the two – communities helping each other more effectively post-disaster using mobile communications – reported from many course participants. This is further sign that more and more disaster managers and humanitarian agencies are utilising mobile networks and partnerships with mobile operators as part of their disaster preparedness and response. Furthermore, since local communities have a better knowledge of their own disaster profiles and can take a sense of ownership from involvement in DRM, there is a benefit to both sides in such partnerships; the marriage of private sector funds and organisational capabilities with local know-how.

The author took the course last month in order to learn more about DRM generally and how national DRM policies can affect mobile operators by the development of enabling regulation. Overall the course was extremely interesting and brought fresh ideas to play in the mind of this participant. Not least of these was the idea that national policy and the correct and effective integration of many institutions is the best way to ensure that there is a robust disaster management plan. While the GSMA Disaster Response team works at an operator and humanitarian agency level, it can help or hinder the efforts of both in a national setting if the governance structures are not in place to promote these institutional relations. Mobile is a key enabler for innovation in the connected world and the GSMA Disaster Response team is working to ensure that re-enabling connections in post-disaster situations can also lead to innovation in the humanitarian world.

This course is highly recommended to those seeking to know more about disaster risk management at a policy level.

For more information about the courses offered by EMI, please visit: http://www.emi-megacities.org/home/training/147-ndrmp.html

Photo: Mexico City by Gabriel White, via Flickr.