Measuring Vulnerability to Natural Hazards: Toward Disaster Resilient Societies

Sample Chapter
  • Edited Jörn Birkmann

    ISBN-10: 92-808-1135-5,
    ISBN-13: 978-92-808-1135-3
    United Nations University Press
    October 2006

    A seemingly non-stop series of disasters has shown that societies worldwide seem unprepared for the threats posed by natural hazards: Hurricane Katrina, drought in Africa; flooding in China and Germany; earthquakes in Pakistan and India; a tsunami in South-East Asia; and forest fires in Portugal, Australia and North America.

    The tragic impacts of these events drew short-term attention from policy makers, the media and the general public, but their response was too late to prevent serious harm. Societies need to measure their vulnerabilities in advance, and make adequate provisions. To do so, they have to understand the complex relationships between natural hazards and the related social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities. Recognizing and measuring vulnerabilities is the first and perhaps most important step towards disaster resilient societies.

    Measuring Vulnerability to Natural Hazards presents a broad range of current approaches to measuring vulnerability and contains concrete experiences and examples from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe to illustrate the theoretical analyses.

    This book is a unique compilation of state-of-the-art vulnerability assessment and is essential reading for academics, students, policy makers, practitioners, and anybody else interested in understanding the fundamentals of measuring vulnerability. It is a critical review that provides important conclusions which can serve as an orientation for future research towards more disaster resilient communities.


    Jörn Birkmann is an Academic Officer at the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and Chair of the International Expert Working Group on Measuring Vulnerability.

    Contents Overview

    • Foreword, Hans van Ginkel
    • Preface, Sálvano Briceño
    • Introduction, Janos J. Bogardi

    Basic principles and theoretical Basis

    • Contributors include: Jörn Birkmann; Stefan Schneiderbauer; Daniele Ehrlich; Angela Queste; and Peter Lauwe

    Vulnerability and environment

    • Contributors: Fabrice Renaud; Marcel T.J. Kok; Vishal Narain; Steven Wonink; Jill Jäger

    Global, national and sub-national index approaches

    • Contributors include: Mark Pelling; Pascal Peduzzi; Maxx Dilley; Omar Cardona; Stefan Greiving; Robert Benjamin Kiunsi; Manoris Victor Meshak; and Erich J. Plate

    Local vulnerability assessment

    • Contributors include: Christina Bollin; Ria Hidajat; Masaru Arakida; Juan Carlos Villagrán de León; Ben Wisner; Jörn Birkmann; Nishara Fernando; and Siri Hettige

    Institutional vulnerability, coping and lessons learned

    • Contributors include: Louis Lebel; Elena Nikitina; Vladimir Kotov; Jesse Becamante Manuta; Reinhard Mechler; Stefan Hochrainer; Joanne Linnerooth-Bayer; Georg Pflug; Simon Horner; Peter Billing; Ulrike Madengruber; Elisabeth Krausmann; and Fesil Mushtaq

    Comparative glossary of disaster reduction, Katharina Thywissen

    Conclusion, Jörn Birkmann