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Disasters and the Private Sector: Impact of Extreme Events, Preparedness, and Contribution to Disaster Risk Reduction  

Simon A. Andrew, Vaswati Chatterjee, and Gary Webb

Private-sector organizations play a significant role in disaster management. Small businesses and larger corporations employ a sizable population in our communities, provide essential goods and services, and are often an integral component of community development. Within the disaster management arena, private-sector organizations in coordination with government agencies provide valuable services in the aftermath of disasters. They make valuable contributions to relief and response through donations and volunteering. They also aid the recovery process through continued employment that provides economic stability to the surrounding community and provision of essential services like food, rebuilding and reconstruction services, and housing for displaced populations. Certain businesses may also significantly contribute to long-term disaster management functions like community disaster risk reduction. While small businesses often actively participate in community resilience planning and implementation, larger corporations also contribute toward sustainable development through corporate social responsibility policies. However, to be effective partners in disaster management, businesses need to be first prepared to maintain continuity of operations in the aftermath of disasters. Having a continuity of operations plan and taking financial preparedness measures have been found to be effective for survival of businesses. Businesses may face other challenges when participating in disaster management actions—specifically, lack of resources and knowledge, as well as collective action risks associated with public–private partnerships. Additionally, not all private-sector agencies may be motivated to contribute toward disaster risk reduction practices. In fact, disasters can often create short-term positive economic impacts due to flow of external aid and increased demand for certain services like construction and housing—thus motivating businesses to choose short-term economic profits over long-term investments in disaster risk reduction. In summary, while the role of the private sector in disaster management is crucial, their involvement is complex and faces numerous challenges. The connection between businesses and community resilience is also less studied. It is therefore of value to examine the role of businesses as significant stakeholders in community disaster management, identify factors that motivate or hinder their participation, and discuss ways in which businesses can improve their own preparedness so as to minimize disruption in the aftermath of disasters.

Article

Housing Deficit and Disaster Risk Management in Chile  

Natalia Ponce Arancibia

The housing deficit, which affects especially the most vulnerable sectors, corresponds to a constant and growing challenge for housing policies developed in the Chilean context. Its provision presents complexities that respond, to a large extent, to the availability and high values of land as a result of market deregulation. The demand for new housing, in this sense, has been resolved under two mechanisms: through irregular land occupations and self-construction of housing, and through state action and the implementation of programmatic devices for the construction of new residential complexes. Housing developments or settlements are generally located on the margins of urbanized territory—that is, in sectors where land transaction costs are lower due, in part, to possible conditions of risk or territorial vulnerability. These conditions are strongly expressed in the housing configuration and spatial location patterns that characterize the commune of Alto Hospicio, located in the Tarapacá Region in northern Chile. In this commune, whether due to the spontaneous action of the inhabitants or the action of state institutions, housing intended for socially vulnerable sectors is exposed to conditions that can lead to significant losses of residential assets and affect the living conditions of their inhabitants.

Article

Integrating Access and Functional Needs in Community Planning for Natural Hazards  

Nnenia Campbell

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.

Article

Policy Process Theory and Natural Hazards  

Thomas A. Birkland

Natural disasters pose important problems for societies and governments. Governments are charged with making policies to protect public safety. Large disasters, then, can reveal problems in government policies designed to protect the public from the effects of such disasters. Large disasters can serve as focusing events, a term used to describe large, sudden, rare, and harmful events that gain a lot of attention from the public and from policy makers. Such disasters highlight problems and, as the public policy literature suggests, open windows of opportunity for policy change. However, as a review of United States disaster policy from 1950 through 2015 shows, change in disaster policy is often, but not always, driven by major disasters that act as focusing events. But the accumulation of experience from such disasters can lead to learning, which can be useful if later, even more damaging and attention-grabbing events arise.

Article

Public Participation in Planning for Community Management of Natural Hazards  

Andrea Sarzynski and Paolo Cavaliere

Public participation in environmental management, and more specifically in hazard mitigation planning, has received much attention from scholars and practitioners. A shift in perspective now sees the public as a fundamental player in decision-making rather than simply as the final recipient of a policy decision. Including the public in hazard mitigation planning brings widespread benefits. First, communities gain awareness of the risks they live with, and thus, this is an opportunity to empower communities and improve their resilience. Second, supported by a collaborative participation process, emergency managers and planners can achieve the ultimate goal of strong mitigation plans. Although public participation is highly desired as an instrument to improve hazard mitigation planning, appropriate participation techniques are context dependent and some trade-offs exist in the process design (such as between representativeness and consensus building). Designing participation processes requires careful planning and an all-around consideration of the representativeness of stakeholders, timing, objectives, knowledge, and ultimately desired goals to achieve. Assessing participation also requires more consistent methods to facilitate policy learning from diverse experiences. New decision-support tools may be necessary to gain widespread participation from laypersons lacking technical knowledge of hazards and risks.