3 Ways to Strengthen Disaster Resilience

Sitting in the Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia’s geographic location is an unfortunate hotspot, utterly vulnerable to natural disaster. According to the Indonesia’s National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB), there are 695 disaster events in the first quarter of 2015 alone and over 1,550 disasters in the previous year (BNPB, 2015). The 2014 World Risk Levels by the UNU-EHS and the Alliance Development Works/Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft (BEH) also indicates Indonesia with ‘Very High’ status of risk level (WRR, 2014). It is thus imperative for Indonesia to spare significant effort to build on its resilience to such shocks and stresses, i.e. by being able to plan, prepare, adapt to, recover from damage and bounce back better to its previous form in the event of disaster. In addition, strengthening disaster resilience is not only about saving people’s life but also improving the livelihood of those who survive.

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Indonesia is indicated as ‘Very High’ in its Disaster Level of Risk. Source: WRR, 2014

Of the frequent occurrences of disasters in Indonesia, 97% of them in 2012-2014 are hydro-meteorological with flood being the most occasional one (BNPB, 2015), while according to the Prevention Web (2014) 43.8% of the overall disaster occurrences is flood. The number of victims have also marginally yet consistently spiked up year after year. This is exacerbated by at least two factors. First, climate change has caused condensed water concentration in the atmosphere and distressed climate cycle causing extreme weather events, irregular rainfall in one corner of the globe while prolonged drought in the other. Second, inefficient Disaster Risk Management (DRM), which according to the World Bank (2014) stems from insufficient investment in prevention and risk reduction, inexperienced and inadequate capacity of DRM institutions and the absence of comprehensive framework of risk financing. While the incoming disasters can not be altogether nullified, the damage it creates can be accurately projected and thus minimized. This is why improving DRM policy and framework is pivotal as the extent of disasters may not only damage infrastructure and cost lives, it may have prolonged aftermath to development. Flood may, for instance, destroy crops and threaten food security. Students may not be able to access education due to submerged school buildings. The cumulative impact of these may compensate the overall effort to ameliorate development and can be felt considerably even after the disaster has long been surpassed.

While Indonesia’s geographic location is given, both climate change and DRM policies can either be circumvented and/or proliferated. And although both of the aforementioned can seem insurmountably grande and complex, they are rooted from something that each individual can have effects on. Efforts to improve resilience should be multifaceted, involving not only top-down approach, but more importantly a bottom-up involvement.


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3 Ways to Strengthen Disaster Resilience that Anyone Can Do.

In micro scale, there are at least three things anyone can do to dodge disaster. First, awareness advocacy. Although the carbon emission produced from individual household  is insignificantly lower compared to those emitted by industry, vehicles and forest fires, individual lifestyle may influence demand to what and how goods and services are produced. Collective individual awareness can be a powerful driver to push business and government to adopt eco-friendly policies and practices, needed to halt the increase of global temperature to 2 degree Celsius.



BNPB Rescue Team during a Flood Event in Jakarta. Source: BNPB, 2015

Second, collective disaster risk reduction effort in communities. In many cases, policy implementation are only effective by inclusive participation of communities. Oxfam in 2014 released a report on best practices of community involvement in disaster preparedness. According to the report, the inclusion of women and youth, for example, is decisive in ensuring responsiveness in disseminating information in DRR advocacy. This bottom-up approach involving communities with their intergenerational local wisdom may ease the process of implementing DRM framework.

Third, availability of quality data. The problem faced by many disaster managers in policy making is often time the unavailability of reliable and up-to-date data, including that of hazard and exposure data necessary for accurate contingency planning. The latter is where the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) is focusing its effort through participatory mapping using the OpenStreetMap and InaSAFE  (Indonesia Scenario Assessment for Emergencies), an open and free software that produces realistic natural-hazard impact scenarios for better planning, preparedness, and response activities. The use of open sources and technology and inclusive participation of the grass-root can accelerate the process of gathering data, such as lifeline infrastructure, including buildings and roads as well as population size and land-use. It is through informed and active citizen’s contribution, that the extent and risk of disaster can be slashed down to improve resilience.

This writing has been chirpified into smaller bits of storyline here: chirpstory.com/li/329572

Biondi Sima
Biondi Sima
Biondi is a Communications Specialist in the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) Indonesia. He studied International Economic Policy and Sustainable Development in SciencesPo Paris and Peking University Beijing.

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