Why Bother? Understanding Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM)
Apr 23, 2020
By : Angelo Trias
Why bother understanding a mouthful concept such as disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM)? As a student, you could spend the time learning about other things instead.
The answer is quite simple. However, we live in one of the most disaster-prone and -affected countries in the world. Disasters don’t discriminate. It can affect anyone. Which means every able Filipino – regardless of their background – should care about it.
Most people relate DRRM to disaster response: the action-packed and flashy moments during calamities. But DRRM is MUCH more than that.
Basic DRRM Equation
DRRM is a catch-all term used by the Philippine government to refer to a “proactive, people-centered, and holistic” approach to reducing risk and managing disaster impacts.
DRMM encompasses different ways resources are organized and applied to increase resilience, lessen disaster losses, and achieve sustainable development. The keyword is organized.
Okay, cool. But to what end?
DRMM aims to decrease disaster-related damages to lives, livelihoods, property, and assets of a nation. It seeks to minimize disruption to socio-economic functions when disaster strikes. It also aspires to prevent disaster risks from getting worse and new ones from developing.
I know. There’s a lot going on here! But consider this equation:
Disaster Risk = (Hazard x Exposure x Vulnerability) ÷ Capacity
Unpack The Buzzwords
DRMM is filled with jargon and technical terms. So let’s work this out and unpack the buzzwords.
All disasters are triggered by a hazard. A hazard is a natural process or human activity that can cause health impacts, injuries, and loss of life. It can also destroy stuff, negatively affect human activities, and degrade the environment! It has three broad categories: natural, human-induced, and socio-natural.
Natural hazards include floods, typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. By now, you might realize how prone we are to these natural hazards. Just follow the daily news!
On the other hand, situations of armed conflict, mass violence, and social instability fall under human-induced hazards. The 2017 Marawi Siege is one example of this category.
When natural and human-induced hazards combine, that’s when we experience socio-natural hazards. It is linked to wider issues such as climate change.
Disasters can set-off from a single hazard, a sequence or a combination of two or more kinds. Mind you, hazards by itself are not disasters.
So what makes a disaster? Well, there has to be someone exposed to the hazard itself. If it does not affect people, it can’t count as a disaster.
Exposure is a situation wherein people and things that matter to them are physically located in hazard-prone areas.
Remember your last beach trip? Basking under the sun increases your exposure to sunburn, while staying under the shade lowers it. Likewise, communities living in low-lying coastal areas where typhoons frequently pass are highly exposed to water-related disasters.
Being merely exposed to hazards does not necessarily mean one will ‘suffer’ from disaster impacts, right? Correct! This is where the human dimension of DRRM comes in.
The Human Dimension
Vulnerability covers pre-existing conditions that make people more susceptible to the impacts of hazards. For instance, poor people are among the most affected by disasters because they live in substandard housing in unsafe locations, have limited resources, and lack access to basic services,
Capacity, on the other hand, are positive factors—attributes, strengths, and resources—that increase people’s ability to cope with hazards. It includes things like knowledge, skills, relationships, infrastructure, and institutions that allow us to manage and bounce back from disasters.
That’s it. You now know the basic pieces of the disaster puzzle. Put them all together and you will realize this: disasters happen when vulnerable people with low capacity are highly exposed when a hazard occurs. We call it disaster risk when it’s just a possibility a.k.a when it is likely to happen.
Talk About It
Now that you’re familiar with the basic equation of DRRM, try opening a conversation with your friends and loved ones about: what can cause harm, where and when it could happen, who may be in harm’s way, how susceptible are they, and how capable are they to deal with it. Good job!
Speaking of equations, here are the answers to the emoji guessing challenge! Let’s see if you got the equations right.
Up next: It was great learning what DRRM is about. But how is it applied in real life? In the next article, we will explore how your newly gained understanding of DRRM can be used in a practical way.
Want to learn more about Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM)? Thinking of starting a career in Humanitarian Affairs? Or are you seeking personal development in this field? The General Academic Strand (GAS) strand offers Disaster Readiness and Risk Reduction as a core subject for Senior High School students.
PreventionWeb. Disaster risk reduction & disaster risk management. 12 November 2015.
UNDRR. About Disaster Risk Reduction. 2019.
UNDRR. Terminology. 02 February 2017.
UNDRR. What is Disaster Risk Reduction?. 2019.
Twigg, J. ”Good Practice Review 9: Disaster Risk Reduction”. 2015 ed., Overseas Development Institute, 2015.
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