Document Outline

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The aim of this report is to give an extensive over-view of contemporary disaster and risk management approaches in urban areas in different world regions from a theoretical and practical perspective. Based on this information, we provide recommendations for future developments in this field for Swiss cities.

I Friese S. Qualitative Data Analysis with Atlas.ti. London: Sage;


and peer-reviewed literature. Thirdly, the city profiles (not included here for reasons of privacy) were used to develop a semi-structured interview schedule. This included information not covered by the city profile, and on issues that have been identified in the pro-files, but were considered necessary to explore more deeply in an interview.

The interviewees were city officials knowledgeable of their city’s disaster and urban security management planning processes and practices. These officials were identified either by the research team (London, Sydney), or by representatives from the FOCP (Frank-furt, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Singapore, Vienna, Rot-terdam). Each potential interviewee was contacted first by email with a detailed description of the pro-ject and how information they provided would be used in the study. Once each official agreed to be interviewed, they were sent the specific interview schedule for their city prior to their interview being conducted, and asked to nominate a suitable time for the research team to conduct the interview.

Figure 1: Cities included in the sample of the study.

ures and programs for public risk education. The third section on institutions and collaboration explores how responsibilities for the different stages of urban disaster management are institutionally distributed in different city contexts. In this section we not only describe which agency is in charge of what, but also examine how collaboration among key actors is or-ganized. We identify key factors that foster or impede inter-organizational collaboration and integration.

Moreover, this section also looks at how key actors outside the traditional ‘disaster management com-munity’ – in particular the private sector and civil stakeholders – can contribute to successful disaster management, and what measures can be undertak-en to nurture the bundertak-eneficial involvemundertak-ent of these ac-tors. Finally, we describe ways to strengthen the links between cities and their neighboring regions as well as to improve inter-city collaboration and learning.

The results of the analysis are organized in themes rather than as individual city reports. We aim to highlight the latest trends in practices and process-es across citiprocess-es, therefore yielding a comprehensive account of diverging or converging approaches and developments in the field of urban risk management and preparedness. In each section, we additionally focus on current challenges and how cities plan to address them, as well as recent changes.

The results of the analysis are condensed in Chapter 4, where we draw conclusions about the trends and chal-lenges cities face in contemporary disaster planning and preparedness. We also discuss the opportunities that new approaches present for planning and pre-paredness. We explore how challenges are dealt with and learned from; how successes are shared and built upon; and how new trends are instituted into practice.

Finally, by illustrating developments that may be perti-nent in the context of Swiss cities in the coming dec-ades, we draw important recommendations from this international analysis for Swiss cities in section 4.2.

Chapter 2 addresses concepts and trends in current academic urban security and disaster research, with a special focus on cities. Firstly, we place the chal-lenges of contemporary disaster management in the context of the global city, describing how diver-sity, complexity and globalization relate to disaster in these geographical entities. Secondly, disaster is defined and definitions for core concepts in disaster studies are given, including: risk, hazard, vulnerability, resilience, and urban security. Given the theoretical and practical importance of concepts like vulnerabil-ity and resilience in discussions about disaster risk management, we draw on the disaster studies litera-ture to explore vulnerability and resilience of cities in detail, and explore cases where these concepts are applied in the context of cities’ responses to crises.

Together resilience and vulnerability provide a useful, and general starting point for exploring disaster pre-paredness and planning in more detail in a selection of eight large global cities.

The results of the cross-city analysis of city disaster risk management are presented in Chapter 3. They are structured in three overarching areas: risk assess-ment, mitigation strategies, and institutions and col-laboration. Within the area of risk assessment the fol-lowing questions are addressed: Which risks do cities already plan for and what are major emerging risks in the eyes of city officials? What tools and methods are employed in urban risk assessment? How has the awareness for urban risks changed in recent years at the different levels of responsibility? Section two – mitigation strategies – examines how theoretical concepts such as disaster prevention, preparedness or resilience are understood and implemented in the various practices of urban disaster management, in-cluding inter alia urban planning, public communica-tion and emergency management. Mitigacommunica-tion strate-gies discussed in this context include among others:

evacuation planning, public alarm systems, strate-gies for self-protection, as well as post-event


No matter their attractiveness, cities can be both the most dangerous or safest places to be when disasters strike. The very characteristics of urban life – such as population concentrations, places of assembly, com-pact architectural structures, the variety of economic opportunities as well as complex, interconnected in-frastructure systems – present both challenges and opportunities in terms of mitigating the impact of disasters. Poorly built urban environments on hazard-prone land, with unregulated construction and inad-equate infrastructure, as well as the low income of many urban communities, significantly increase the vulnerability to disasters. On the other hand, most urban environments offer considerable strengths in terms of economic production and distribution, hu-man resources, civil society and the availability of services, which can all be used to significantly reduce disaster risk and vulnerability.

This section provides a basic overview of recent re-search on disasters in urban settings, focusing partic-ularly on large cities from developed nations. Firstly, we place the work in the context of the global city, describing how diversity, complexity and globaliza-tion relate to disaster in these geographical entities.

Secondly, disaster is defined and definitions for core concepts in disaster studies are given, including: risk, hazard, vulnerability, resilience and urban security.

Given the theoretical and practical importance of concepts like vulnerability and resilience in discus-sions about disaster risk management and reduction, we finally draw on the disaster studies literature to explore vulnerability and resilience of cities in detail, and place this in the context of cities’ responses to crises. Based on the review of these different streams of research, the subsequent chapter explores the practices of disaster preparedness and planning in more detail in a selection of eight large global cities.

Today the majority of the globe’s inhabitants live in cites rather than in rural settings. Far from abating, this trend is predicted to continue, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) predicts the num-ber of people living in cities will rise from 3.6 billion in 2011 to five billion in 2030.II In addition, the UNFPA estimates that almost all of the world’s population growth from 2010 to 2030 will take place in urban ar-eas, particularly in low- and middle-income nations.

This increase is more than simple population growth, but is mostly a result of migration.

Wenzel and colleagues(2) define ‘mega-cities’ as cit-ies with more than eight million inhabitants suggest migration (rather than births) as the main driver of their growth. There is disagreement on this cut-off point, but Cross qualitatively suggests that mega-cities are generally regarded as the largest of metro-politan centers.(3) In this study, we define ‘global cit-ies’ as centers of business, or capital cities, which are highly connected to the world by communications, transport and markets. Global cities offer a variety of economic benefits, they present cultural and social connectivity to their inhabitants, centralize services and increase accessibility to these services. The rapid rate at which global cities are growing reflects their attractiveness. Cities are attractive places because they provide opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable.(4) The attractiveness is a result of ongo-ing globalization, a process of not just economic, but also cultural, social and technical connection. This has increased the complexity of the city, permitting

”multiple, interdependent flows of a greater variety of goods, services, people, capital, information and diseases”.(5, p. 32)

II United Nations Population Fund,

urbanization.htm, accessed 22.01.2013.

In the context of hazard, disruption and disaster (nat-ural, social or technological), there are two schools of thought regarding the increasing complexity of the global city, and the services they provide. On the one hand, complexity increases the robustness of service systems (particularly critical infrastructures) because increased connectivity creates redundancy, thereby overcoming issues associated with random faults and disruptions or targeted attacks.(11) On the other hand, complexity may be a problem for the city and its services if those services rely on all the supporting connections remaining constantly viable, which may not be the case in times of disruption or given the dynamic nature of the global city.(12)

Importantly, with globalization has come an increase in the consequences of disaster in cities, (13 – 15) and although there are arguments for robustness, com-plexity has heightened the vulnerability of the city system to change or disruption caused by hazards.

Most scholars perceive the global city no longer as a closed and self-sustaining system that can withstand disruption independently, but rather as an open sys-tem that is increasingly characterized by its external connections and interdependencies.(12) This open and dynamic nature is increasingly acknowledged in pre- and post-disaster planning and management, but likely requires a different approach to disaster management from the traditional top-down, ‘com-mand and control’ model.(16, 17)

For example, as different studies suggest, (2, 18) the dis-tributed nature of services in global cities, with cross-border interdependencies, calls for distributed and dynamic risk management and planning processes.

Consequently, one of the main challenges is to identify governance mechanisms that account for differences in legal structures, data availability and compatibility and institutional path-dependencies.(2, 18) In addition, given that in many cities important infrastructures and services are privatized, but that State or

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