Populations that are rendered socially invisible by their relegation to realms that are excluded—either physically or experientially—from the rest of society tend to similarly be left out of community disaster planning, often with dire consequences. Older adults, persons with disabilities, linguistic minorities, and other socially marginalized groups face amplified risks that translate into disproportionately negative outcomes when disasters strike. Moreover, these disparities are often reproduced in the aftermath of disasters, further reinforcing preexisting inequities. Even well-intentioned approaches to disaster service delivery have historically homogenized and segregated distinct populations under the generic moniker of “special needs,” thereby undermining their own effectiveness at serving those in need. The access and functional needs perspective has been promoted within the emergency management field as a practical and inclusive means of accommodating a range of functional capacities in disaster planning. This framework calls for operationalizing needs into specific mechanisms of functional support that can be applied at each stage of the disaster lifecycle. Additionally, experts have emphasized the need to engage advocacy groups, organizations that routinely serve socially marginalized populations, and persons with activity limitations themselves to identify support needs. Incorporating these diverse entities into the planning process can help to build stronger, more resilient communities.
Federico Marco Federici
Communication underpins all phases of disaster risk reduction: it is at the heart of risk mitigation, by increasing resilience and preparedness, and by interacting with affected communities in the response phase and throughout the reconstruction and recovery after a disaster. Communication does not alter the scope or severity of a disaster triggered by natural hazards, but the extent to which risk reduction strategies impact on affected regions depends greatly on existing differences inherent in the society of these regions. Ethnic minorities and multilingual language groups―which are not always one and the same―may become vulnerable groups when there has been little or no planning or no awareness of the impact of limited access to trustworthy information when the disaster strikes. Furthermore, large-scale disasters are likely to involve personnel from the humanitarian sector from both local and international offices. Communication in most large-scale events has progressively become multilingual; from the late 20th and early 21st centuries, it is expected that large disasters see collaboration between intergovernmental, governmental, local, national, and international entities that operate in different ways in rescue and relief operations. Regardless of linguistic contexts, communication of reliable information in a trustworthy manner is complex to achieve in the aftermath of a disaster, which may instantaneously affect telecommunication infrastructures (overloading VOIP and GPS systems). From coordination to information, clear communication plays a role in any activity intending to reduce risks, damages, morbidity, and mortality. Achieving clear communication in crisis management is a feat in a monolingual context: people from different organizations and with different capacities in multi-agency operations have at least a common language, nonetheless, terminology varies from one organization to another, thus hampering successful communication. Achieving effective and clear communication with multilingual communities, while using one language (or lingua franca), such as English, Arabic, Spanish, or Hindi, depending on the region, is impossible without due consideration to language translation.
Volcanic risk is highly complex, and incorporates social, economic, physical, infrastructural, and cultural elements. It is also high stakes, but low probability—making it particularly challenging for governments to manage. Substantial advances in the understanding of volcanic processes, hazards, and monitoring signals can enable scientists to forecast volcanic activity in many cases, but high levels of uncertainty remain. Volcanology itself is a relatively young science, emerging in the 20th century following the growth of the geological sciences in the post-Enlightenment period. Crises in the late 20th and early 21st century have demonstrated the complexity of applying uncertain scientific models in particular, local, and politically challenging contexts. Volcanology continues to make advances in integrating disciplines—particularly in the combination of physical hazard science with impact assessment, and increasingly with the social sciences. Volcanic eruptions can also substantially alter the power dynamics in a particular context, as volcanologists’ forecasts can become all-consuming for local populations. This is challenging both for scientists and for political officials and populations coming to terms with the threat they may face. The critical geography of disasters, as it incorporates these issues of relationality, must also learn from the action research literature and develop and deploy interventions that can change the emerging possibility spaces within an emergent disaster assemblage. Understanding the relational processes of sociomaterial disasters through an “imaginations” lens can enable interventions to be identified at an early stage.