NR 704 Models and Frameworks for Studying the Vulnerability DQ

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NR 704 Models and Frameworks for Studying the Vulnerability DQ

NR 704 Models and Frameworks for Studying the Vulnerability DQ


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Identify two models for studying vulnerability and compare and contrast differences when applied to the same population.

dq 2

due Mar 11

Week 2: Identifying and Defining Population Outcomes

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The National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI) has identified nurse-sensitive indicators from a variety of settings, including community-based setting. Identify two of these community-based indicators and determine appropriate outcomes.

Conceptual Frameworks of Vulnerability Assessments
for Natural Disasters Reduction
Roxana L. Ciurean, Dagmar Schröter and
Thomas Glade
Additional information is available at the end of the chapter
1. Introduction
The last few decades have demonstrated an increased concern for the occurrence of natural
disasters and their consequences for leaders and organizations around the world. The EMDAT International Disaster Database [1] statistics show that, in the last century, the mortality
risk associated with major weather-related hazards has declined globally, but there has been
a rapid increase in the exposure of economic assets to natural hazards.
Looking into more detail, UNISDR’s Global Assessment Report 2011 (GAR11) [2] indicates
that disasters in 2011 set a new record of $366 billion for economic losses, including $210 billion
as a result of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the accompanying tsunami alone, and $40
billion as a result of the floods in Thailand. There were 29,782 deaths linked to 302 major
disaster events including 19,846 deaths in the March earthquake/tsunami in Japan (figures
presented by other disaster databases for 2011 summary e.g. NATCAT Service – MunichRE,
are slightly different but in general agreement). Disaster databases, such as the ones referred
to above, represent key resources for actors involved in policy and practice related with
disaster risk reduction and response. However, considering their diversity and recognizing
their different roles, one can identify at least one limitation in their use i.e. the inclusion criteria
which inherently results in many hazard events not being registered. Compiling and analyzing
an extensive natural disaster data set for the period 1993 – 2002, Alexander [3] showed that,
for example, in the Philippines in 1996 there were 31 major floods, 29 earthquakes, 10 typhoons
and 7 tornadoes. Due to population pressure, large areas of Luzon and other islands were
denuded of their dense vegetation cover resulting in landslide prone slopes. Twelve major
episodes of slope failure causing high damages to infrastructure and build up areas were
registered in the archipelago during 1996. Although documentation of the Government
expenditures to finance relief efforts for natural disasters during the 1996 – 2002 period is not
© 2013 Ciurean et al.; licensee InTech. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the
Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
completely contained in Figure 1 [4], one can observe that 1996 stands out as a particular year
with high costs of rehabilitation.
Experience has shown that considering the frequency of disasters affecting the Philippines, its
socio-economic context, and risk culture, the disaster management system tends to rely on a
response approach. However, studies indicate that efforts are being made to engage more
proactive approaches, involving mitigation and preparedness strategies [4]. In order to achieve
this it is thus important to investigate not only the nature of the threat but also the underlying
characteristics of the environment and society that makes them susceptible to damage and
losses – in other words, the role of vulnerability in determining natural hazard risk levels.
1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
Real 2000 million peso
Figure 1. Philippines – annual expenditure under the National Calamity Fund (1996 – 2002) (Based on GDP at price
market) [4]
BOX 1: Vulnerability – One term many meanings
In everyday use of language, the term vulnerability refers to the inability to withstand the effects of a hostile environment.
The definition of vulnerability for the purpose of scientific assessment depends on the purpose of the study – is it to get
a differential picture of global change threats to human well-being in different world regions? Is it to inform particular
stakeholders about adaptation options to a potential future development? Is it to show that likelihood of harm and cost
of harm have changed for a specific element of interest within the human-environment system? In scientific assessment
the term vulnerability can have many meanings, differentiated mostly by (a) the vulnerable entity studied, (b) the
stakeholders of the study.
The design of scientific assessment (as opposed to scientific research) has to respond to the scientific needs of the particular
stakeholder who might use it [5]. An integral part of vulnerability assessment therefore is the collaboration with its
stakeholders [6], [7]. Thus, the specific definition and the method of vulnerability assessment is specific to each study and
needs to be made transparent in the specific context. An example set of definitions on vulnerability used in natural hazards
risk assessment and global change research is presented in section 2.2, Table 1.
4 Approaches to Disaster Management – Examining the Implications of Hazards, Emergencies and Disasters
The objective of this work is to discuss and illustrate different approaches used in
vulnerability assessment for hydro-meteorological hazards (i.e. landslides and floods, incl.
flash floods) taking into account two perspectives: hazard vulnerability and global change
vulnerability, which are rooted in the technical and environmental as well as social
disciplines. The study is based on a review of recent research findings in global change
and natural hazards risk management. The overall aim is to identify current gaps that can
guide the development of future perspectives for vulnerability analysis to hydro-meteoro‐
logical hazards. Following the introduction (section 1), the second section starts with a
definition of vulnerability within the context of risk management to natural hazards (subsection 2.1). Subsequently, various conceptual models (sub-section 2.2) and vulnerability
assessment methodologies (sub-section 2.3) are analyzed and compared based on their
different disciplinary foci. In the third section, the importance of addressing uncertainty in
vulnerability analysis is discussed and lastly general observations and concluding re‐
marks are presented.

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2. Conceptual frameworks
2.1. Vulnerability and risk management to natural hazards
According to the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) Report [8],
there are two essential elements in the formulation of risk (Eq. 1): a potential event –
hazard, and the degree of susceptibility of the elements exposed to that source –
In UNISDR terminology on Disaster Risk Reduction [9], «risk» is defined as the combination
of the probability of an event and its negative consequences”. A «hazard» is “a dangerous
phenomenon, substance, human activity or condition that may cause loss of life, injury or other
health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic
disruption, or environmental damage”.
Within the risk management framework, vulnerability pertains to consequence analysis. It
generally defines the potential for loss to the elements at risk caused by the occurrence of a
hazard, and depends on multiple aspects arising from physical, social, economic, and envi‐
ronmental factors, which are interacting in space and time. Examples may include poor design
and construction of buildings, inadequate protection of assets, lack of public information and
awareness, limited official recognition of risks and preparedness measures, and disregard for
wise environmental management.
Conceptual Frameworks of Vulnerability Assessments for Natural Disasters Reduction
BOX 2: Risk management frameworks are generally designed to answer the following
questions [10]:
What are the probable dangers and their magnitude? (Danger Identification)
How often do the dangers of a given magnitude occur? (Hazard Assessment)
What are the elements at risk? (Elements at Risk Identification)
What is the possible damage to the elements at risk? (Vulnerability Assessment)
What is the probability of damage? (Risk Estimation)
What is the significance of the estimated risk? (Risk Evaluation)
What should be done? (Risk Management)
2.2. Vulnerability models
There are multiple definitions, concepts and methods to systematize vulnerability denoting
the plurality of views and meanings attached to this term. Birkmann [11] noted that ‘we are
still dealing with a paradox: we aim to measure vulnerability, yet we cannot define it precisely’.
However, there are generally two perspectives in which vulnerability can be viewed and which
are closely linked with the evolution of the concept [12]: (1) the amount of damage caused to
a system by a particular hazard (technical or engineering sciences oriented perspective –
dominating the disaster risk perception in the 1970s), and (2) a state that exists within a system
before it encounters a hazard (social sciences oriented perspective – an alternative paradigm
which uses vulnerability as a starting point for risk reduction since the 1980s). The former
emphasizes ‘assessments of hazards and their impacts, in which the role of human systems in
mediating the outcomes of hazard events is downplayed or neglected’. The latter puts the
human system on the central stage and focuses on determining the coping capacity of the
society, the ability to resist, respond and recover from the impact of a natural hazard [13].
While the technical sciences perspective of vulnerability focuses primarily on physical aspects
[14], the social sciences perspective takes into account various factors and parameters that
influence vulnerability, such as physical, economic, social, environmental, and institutional
characteristics [8]. Other approaches emphasize the need to account for additional global
factors, such as globalization and climate change. Thus, the broader vulnerability assessment
is in scope, the more interdisciplinary it becomes.
The different definitions of vulnerability can also be viewed from a functional and subject/
object-oriented perspective i.e. considering the end-user of the scientific assessment results
(e.g. technical boards, administration officers, representatives from the civil protection,
international organizations, etc.) and the vulnerable entity (e.g. critical infrastructure, elderly
population, communication networks, mountain ecosystems, etc.).
6 Approaches to Disaster Management – Examining the Implications of Hazards, Emergencies and Disasters
Vogel and O’Brien [17] emphasize that vulnerability is: (a) multi-dimensional and differential
(varies for different dimensions of a single element or group of elements and from a physical
context to another); (b) scale dependent (with regard to the unit of analysis e.g. individual, local,
regional, national etc.) and (c) dynamic (the characteristics that influence vulnerability are
continuously changing in time and space). With regards to the first characteristic, there are
generally five components (or dimensions) that need to be investigated in vulnerability
assessment: (1) the physical/functional dimension (relates to the predisposition of a structure,
infrastructure or service to be damaged due to the occurrence of a harmful event associated
with a specific hazard); (2) the economic dimension (relates to the economic stability of a region
endangered by a a loss of production, decrease of income or consumption of goods due to the
occurrence of a hazard); (3) the social dimension (relates with the presence of human beings,
individuals or communities, and their capacities to cope with, resist and recover from impacts
of hazards); (4) the environmental dimension (refers to the interrelation between different
ecosystems and their ability to cope with and recover from impacts of hazards and to tolerate
stressors over time and space); (5) the political/institutional dimension (refers to those political
or institutional actions e.g. livelihood diversification, risk mitigation strategies, regulation
control, etc., or characteristics that determine differential coping capacities and exposure to
hazards and associated impacts).
During the last decades, various schools of thinking proposed different conceptual models
with the final aim of developing methods for measuring vulnerability. The following subsections give a short overview of some of the conceptual models presented in [11], such as the
double structure of vulnerability, vulnerability within the context of hazard and risk, vulner‐
ability in the context of global environmental change community, the Presure and Release
Model and a holistic approach to risk and vulnerability assessment. Other models not
discussed herein are: The Sustainable Livelihood Framework, the UNISDR framework for
disaster risk reduction, the ‘onion framework’, and the ‘BBC conceptual framework’, the last
two developed by UNU-EHS (UN University, Institute for Environment and Human Security).
Working definitions(s): Vulnerability is… Source
The degree of loss to a given element at risk or a set of elements at risk resulting from the
occurrence of a natural phenomenon of a given magnitude and expressed on a scale from 0 (no
damage) to 1 (total damage)
The conditions determined by physical, social, economic, and environmental factors or processes,
which increase the susceptibility of a community to the impact of hazards
The characteristics of a person or group in terms of their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist
and recover from impacts of a hazard
The intrinsic and dynamic feature of an element at risk that determines the expected damage/
harm resulting from a given hazardous event and is often even affected by the harmful event
itself. Vulnerability changes continuously over time and is driven by physical, social, economic
and environmental factors
The degree to which geophysical, biological and socio-economic systems are susceptible to, and
unable to cope with, adverse impacts of climate change
[15], [16]
Table 1. General definitions of vulnerability used in risk assessment due to natural hazards and climate change
Conceptual Frameworks of Vulnerability Assessments for Natural Disasters Reduction
2.2.1. The double structure of vulnerability
According to Bohle [18] vulnerability can be seen as having an external and internal side
(Figure 2). The external side is related to the exposure to risks and shocks and is influenced by
Political Economy Approaches (e.g. social inequities, disproportionate division of assets),
Human Ecology Perspectives (population dynamics and environmental management capaci‐
ties) and the Entitlement Theory (relates vulnerability to the incapacity of people to obtain or
manage assets via legitimate economic means). The internal side is called coping and relates
to the capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impact of a hazard and is
influenced by the Crisis and Conflict Theory (control of assets and resources, capacities to
manage crisis situations and resolve conflicts), Action Theory Approaches (how people act
and react freely as a result of social, economic or governmental constrains) and Model of Access
to Assets (mitigation of vulnerability through access to assets). The conceptual framework of
the double structure indicates that vulnerability cannot adequately be considered without
taking into account coping1
and response capacity2
Figure 2. Bohle’s conceptual framework for vulnerability analysis [18] in [11]
1 Coping capacity is the ability of people, organizations and systems, using available skills and resources, to face and
manage adverse conditions, emergencies or disasters [8]
2 Capacity is the combination of all the strengths attributes and resources available within a community, society or
organization that can be used to achieve agreed goals [8


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