Cities at Risk

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Aims and Rationale

The focus of this book is on how cities prepare for and recover from disaster events.  Disaster is used here in a broad sense.  It includes what are commonly considered natural disasters – events such as floods, seismic activity and the like.  Each of these events gains in significance as it interacts with the human-made environment.  That is, the significance of natural disasters is relative to the extent to which they are harmful to people and their built environment.  It is also reasonable to include what might be considered man-made disasters that have an impact on the natural environment.  The Exxon Valdez or Deepwater Horizon are examples of this type of disaster.  The Fukushima earthquake and tsunami was a natural disaster with human disaster implications because of its impact on nuclear power facilities.

The definition of disaster also includes the dimensions of scale and time.  Here again the relationships among the natural and built environments are important.  While the exact tipping point is not clear, it is generally assumed that a disaster has an impact on a large number of people, in terms of displacement, death or economic damage.  Some disaster events, such as earthquakes, can be quite sudden, leaving little time for preparations.  Others, such as hurricanes, allow some time to take actions that mitigate the extent of eventual damages.  Still others, for example the changes that occur as a result of climate change or economic restructuring, unfold over a much longer time period.  Thus, there is more time to make preparations, but often insufficient incentive to motivate actions.

As levels of urbanization increase around the world, the potential for significant damage and destruction also increases, not to mention the potential for greater loss of life.  The growing concentrations of population and economic activity in urbanized areas increases the level of vulnerability.  Even if the rate of occurrence of natural disasters remains unchanged (an unlikely prospect in the face of ongoing climate change), the risk of extensive damage will increase as cities continue to grow. 

Urbanization does not just increase the spatial concentration of people and things that are at risk, it also increases the interdependencies among people.  Millions of people can be affected by damage to water supply and sewage treatment infrastructure.  Power failures can shut down thousands of businesses.  As a result, the potential for human and economic loss has increased, along with the time required for recovery.

Some cities have locations that put them at greater risk, for example, in areas susceptible to flooding or areas where seismic events are common.  Although the risk potential may be widely recognized, plans and preparation are often inadequate.  Many of these vulnerable cities are among the most rapidly urbanizing.  The vulnerable populations of these cities are also increasing. Governmental institutions and resources for dealing with disasters often prove to be inadequate compounding the problems. 

Contribution to Scholarship

Urban disasters appear to be increasing in both numbers and severity.  While it may be possible for North Americans to dismiss natural disasters in developing countries, the recent floods in Boulder, Calgary and Toronto caused significant damage and disruption in locations close to home that are not typically considered to be at risk.  This volume will provide a broad overview of the issues – from assessing risks to accounting for damages – related to a variety of disasters around the world, in an accessible format. 

Because it deals with different types of disasters in a range of urban locations, the book will be useful in identifying opportunities for policy transfer.  While there is no “one size fits all” solution to hazard mitigation, there are clearly opportunities to learn from the experiences of others.  The book’s chapters emphasize methodological approaches, including a number of different models for assessing hazard risk as well as strategies for increasing the resiliency of vulnerable populations.  Although the subject matter is primarily contemporary, the time span ranges from the historic (18th Century Lisbon earthquake) to the future (displacement of populations as a result of climate change).

Draft Contents

    Part 1 Introduction  

    Pierre Filion, University of Waterloo; Mark Skidmore, Michigan State University; and Gary Sands, Wayne State University

    Part 2 Theory and Models

    Chapter 2 Multi Criteria Method for the Evaluation of Urban Resilience to Seismic Event
    Claudia Ceppi, Technical University of Bari and Lucia Tilio, Éupolis Lombardia

    Chapter 3 The earthquakes in Lisbon (1755) and Angra do Heroísmo (1980): reconstruction processes and actual risk.

    Daniel Félix, University Lusíada VNF, CITAD, Portugal; Roberto Bologna, University of Florence, DIDA, Italy; Catarina Leão, University Lusíada VNF, CITAD, Portugal; Catarina M. Martins, University Lusíada VNF, CITAD, Portugal; Artur Feio. University Lusíada VNF, CITAD, Portugal

    Chapter 4 Considering Local Vulnerability and Resiliency to Natural Disasters:  Lessons from the Impacts of Flooding in Amenity-rich Tourism Regions

    Hyun Kim, University of Wisconsin-Madison and David W. Marcouiller, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Chapter 5 Climate Migrants in the Megacities of the Global South

    Saleh Ahmed and Farida Khanam

    Chapter 6 Resilience Planning in India: Addressing risks and vulnerabilities in urban areas due to natural hazards and climate change

    Rohit Jigyasu, Sumetee Pahwa Gajja, and Garima Jain

    Chapter 7 Urban Recovery: Lessons toward Damage Reduction and Sustainability

    Zhila Pooyan, International Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Seismology

    Chapter 8   Enhancing Hazard Resilience among Impoverished Urban Communities in Ghana: The role of women as catalysts for change

    Kiki Caruson, University of South Florida

    Chapter 9 An Economic Vulnerability Assessment Tool for Tsunami Preparedness in Rural Coastal Counties

    Yong Chen, Yunguang Chen, and Bruce Weber, all University of Oregon

    Chapter 10 Planing for and Recovering from Urban Disasters

    Nancy Bowen-Ellzey, Ohio State University

    Chapter 11 Governmental Performance During Urban Disasters In Democratic Political Systems: A comparison of the United States and Japan 

    Saundra K. Schneider,Michigan State University; Marty P. Jordan Michigan State University

    Chapter 12 Planning Urban Disaster Recovery - Research Approaches

    Mark Kammerbauer, Technical University Munich

    Chapter 13 Some Issues in Accounting for Disasters

    Charles Steindel

    Chapter 14 Lessons  

    Filion, Skidmore, Sands