Tracing how disaster impacts escalate will help improve resilience

Published: Thursday, 18 January 2018 10:33

Mapping common pathways along which the effects of natural and man-made disasters travel allows more flexible and resilient responses in the future, according to UCL researchers.

“We’re quite good at responding to high-frequency threats, such as floods, but aren’t well equipped to deal with risks that indirectly cause loss of life,” explained lead author PhD candidate, Gianluca Pescaroli (UCL Institute of Risk & Disaster Reduction). Co-author Professor David Alexander (UCL Institute of Risk & Disaster Reduction), adds “Natural hazards that lead to disasters such as volcano eruptions, tsunamis and earthquakes is very well characterised, but surprisingly little research has been done into the socioeconomic impacts and cascade pathways of disasters and how to mitigate them,”

In a new study, published recently in a special issue of Safety Science and funded by the European Commission and UCL, a team of researchers from UCL Cascading Disasters Group and the University of Bologna propose a scenario mapping approach called M.OR.D.OR – ‘Massive, OveRwhelming Disruption of OpeRations’ – to map vulnerabilities and test emergency responses to unknown events.

The team studied two scenarios with different hazards – extreme space weather events where the Sun’s activity may compromise satellite functions, including GPS - and cyber security attacks. They found that despite the different nature of the triggers, there are common vulnerabilities are triggered similar cascading effects occur. All threats, known and unknown, that impact the same technological vulnerability pathway can result in a M.OR.D.OR scenario, meaning that highly-developed countries are susceptible.

More details.