Preparedness and mitigation
Despite the increasing frequency and severity of the catastrophes that strike humankind, it is becoming increasingly possible to prevent and mitigate the effects of disasters. Of all the global environment issues, natural hazards are in some ways the most manageable. The risks are readily identified. Effective mitigation measures are available. And the benefits of vulnerability reduction greatly exceed the costs. Natural disasters are unjust because they strike hardest at some of the world's poorest countries, which are the least able to defend themselves against extreme events or to recover from them.
While disaster relief captures the imagination of the public, disaster prevention often ranks relatively low on public agendas. Relief and rehabilitation constitute the primary form of disaster risk management and account for most of spending on disaster-related activities annually, leaving a very low balance for prevention. Cost-benefit analyses suggest that appropriate investments in prevention could substantially reduce the burden of disasters, which falls disproportionately on countries that are already desperately poor. A dollar invested in disaster preparedness and mitigation will prevent four to eight dollars in disaster losses. The sheer scope of the socio-economic impacts of natural disasters is at last slowly bringing about a shift in approach away from disaster relief and toward disaster prevention, with risk reduction increasingly considered as a priority development tool in its own right.
Preparedness and prevention are key elements of mitigation. According to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), preparedness refers to activities and measures taken in advance to ensure effective response to the impact of hazards, including the issuance of timely and effective early warnings and the temporary evacuation of people and property from threatened locations.
Governments must integrate disaster risk reduction into their laws, programmes and plans, and ensure the participation of local communities in planning. Urbanization plans should take risks into consideration and safety construction codes need to be defined and implemented. Integrated risk reduction strategies and mitigation measures must be developed and include planning, prevention, preparedness, awareness raising, education and emergency services for relief and recovery.