Expert of the Week   for  16 - 22 Feb 2015

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Peeranan Towashiraporn

Department Head

Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) Expertise:  Earthquake engineering, disaster risk assessment, and post-disaster damage evaluation.

Dr. Peeranan Towashiraporn utilizes science to address challenges related to disaster risk management focusing on scientific quantification and mapping of disaster risk, effective risk communication, linking geospatial technology to disaster preparedness and response, and disaster risk financing. In recent years, he has taken part in projects to identify and map disaster risk in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Timor Leste, and Vietnam. He is currently involved in a project that promotes the use of geospatial information and analysis to support disaster risk reduction in the Lower Mekong region. Previously he has worked as senior engineer at AIR Worldwide Corporation, a premier catastrophe risk modeling firm in the United States. Dr. Towashiraporn has published several technical papers on earthquake engineering and vulnerability assessment, and has been a member of damage reconnaissance teams for an earthquake in Greece and several hurricanes in the United States. Dr. Towashiraporn holds a PhD degree in civil engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, USA.

Disaster risk assessment and its applications for disaster risk reduction.

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QQuestion by Mr Emin Yahya Mentese

Dear Dr. Towashiraporn
Risk assessment includes different types of inputs (hazard probabilty, exposure and vulnerability level, coping capacity etc.). How do you quantify and integrate these indicators to result as an "integrated-overall risk level" for a selected scenario. Could you share your experiances, implementations?
Best regards,

Mr Emin Yahya Mentese Geomatics Engineer, MSc | Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality

APosted on 22 Feb 2015

Dear Mr. Emin Yahya Mentese,

Disaster risk comprises of different components that you mentioned, i.e., hazard, exposure, vulnerability, and capacity. Quantifying the risk is really about quantifying each of its components. Quantifying the hazard requires scientific knowledge on the subject. For example, quantifying flood hazard requires the knowledge of hydrology and hydraulics, while earthquake hazard is estimated with the knowledge of geology and seismology. The actual calculation is normally aided by software (please see my response to another question on examples of the software.) as well as Geographic Information System (GIS).

Exposure databases will require a team of GIS experts and sometimes, surveyors, to collect additional data and to verify the data acquired remotely.

Vulnerability analysis of physical assets will need structural engineers' involvement. Social scientists will be brought in to do social vulnerability analyses.

At the end, all components are combined to produce the risk (or impact) due to the particular hazards. Your geographical areas of interest will be divided into smaller areas or grids. The risk is estimated for each of these little areas from the underlying hazard intensity (e.g., flood depth, wind speed), exposure (the number and type of houses), vulnerability (level of damage to the house given the flood depth). Putting these little grids together will result in maps that people can use to visualize the risk or impact of certain hazard scenarios.

Hope I have answered your question.

Best regards,

QQuestion by Eng Norbert TCHOUAFFE

Hi Dr,

What are the models do you use to address your applications for disaster risk reduction?

Best Regards.


Eng Norbert TCHOUAFFE Visiting scholar | MIT-DUSP
United States of America

APosted on 22 Feb 2015

Dear Eng Norbert Tchouaffe

I am guessing you meant 'software' when you asked about 'model', to fit in this week theme of disaster risk assessment. 

To assess the hazard, i.e., frequency, severity, and extent of hazard, the type of hazard dictates the model we would choose. Our team did use HEC-RAS (open-source software) as well as some of the MIKE software (commercial) to calculate flood hazard, while some of the software from the U.S. Geological Survey were used for earthquake hazard, for examples.

The risk or impact calculation in our recent works has been through open-source software such as HAZUS-MH and CAPRA. 

Every step of the analyses must be done in a GIS environment with software such as ArcGIS (commercial) and QGIS (open source).

To use the scientific results for practical applications for risk reduction, there is no 'model' involved. We heavily relied on our understanding of the local contexts, governance structure, and legal framework of the where the risk reduction initiatives are going to take place.

I hope this gives you some insights on the practical tools we used. Let me know if I did not answer your question.

Best regards,

QQuestion by Eng Ranjan Dhungel

Hi Peeranan,

First congratulation for your successful professional carrier and wish you all the best.
I know that your are expert for earthquake engineering/ structural engineering , i got opportunity to meet with you in UK in 2011. I would ask as a implementator of scientific knowledge how we can communicate earthquake risk to the local people ? I seismic hazard map is sufficient?

Eng Ranjan Dhungel Civil Engineer ( MSC risk and environmental hazard | abc

APosted on 21 Feb 2015

Dear Ranjan,

Thanks for your message. Of course I still remember when we met a few years ago in Durham during the start of the Earthquakes without Frontier project.

You pointed out correctly about the communication and dissemination of the scientific information. While the scientific community is comfortable exchanging views and sharing information among themselves, reaching out to non-scientific 'users' has been a major challenge. Many people tend to think that a way to make it works is to build technical capacity of the locals to be able to understand the science. Though that is true, to me it's only half true. Rather, we should use a two-way approach. The scientific community also needs to be willing to work with the locals in simplifying their language, avoiding technical jargon, and demonstrating real examples (which is something you have done very well there.) Using hard science to get buy-in from the locals does not work. 

Another key to success is to make the local people feel that they are part of the learning process too. Let them draw simple maps with guidance from the experts and let them discuss how they can understand and use the maps.

Hope this is helpful.

Best regards,    

QQuestion by Ms Sehrash Mumtaz

Hi. I am working in DPM sector since 2006. Our program focuses on CBDRM and mitigation projectd. I want to ask about disaster management plans at community level. What is the best proces and latest formates for that. Also I want to ask what points should be included in monitoring, if we are monitoring a CBDRM training (on going) and for impact based monitoring.
looking for your expert opinion.

Ms Sehrash Mumtaz Management Executive- Disaster Preparedness and Mi | Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund

APosted on 20 Feb 2015

Dear Ms. Mumtaz,

Evan at the community level, I believe that managing disaster risk begins from identifying the extent, distribution, and severity of the disaster risk. However, the comprehensive scientific risk assessment may not be appropriate at the community level. A more participatory is normally utilized, that is, having community members and leaders draw their own hazard and risk maps, which are guided by some experts (CBDRM experts and hazard experts). There should not be any sophisticated calculation involved otherwise you will lose the entire audience. Instead, drawing this kind of risk maps is based mainly on what the people perceive, what they have seen, what they have experienced in their communities. For example, where are the areas flooding occur every year, every 5 years, etc. Having the community members as part of the development will increase the chance of them using the products more. This will be part of the disaster management plan for the community.

You asked also about monitoring CBDRM training and its impact. While I am not an expert on training, we have a training unit at ADPC that can help you with this question. Please leave your e-mail address and I will have someone from the training unit e-mail you.

Best regards,

QQuestion by Ms Bert Struik

Often people say that a risk assessment cannot be done because the data and a useable risk assessment tool are not available. Is developing methods for using proxy data and approximations for hazard assessment, exposure and vulnerability measures, more useful than developing methods for citizens and experts to gather the necessary data?

Ms Bert Struik Emeritus Geology Researcher | Natural Resources Canada

APosted on 19 Feb 2015

Dear Ms. Struik,

Very good point. We have been asked similar questions in various fora before.

Disaster risk assessment is very data intensive, and in most cases, data is not available. In addition, the tool or software used for scientific risk assessment is not for anyone without technical knowledge and experience. Knowing these, the question is whether we should still aim for the best data and detailed risk assessment methodology, or should we opt for simpler and approximated methods for identifying the risk? The short answer is 'it depends'.

It depends on what you want to use the risk assessment results for. There are some instances where detailed risk assessment using authentic data and scientific tools are needed. An example is the risk assessment used for insurance purposes (or several other disaster risk finance options). In this case, accurate estimates of the level of risk (monetary impacts) and it's probabilities are required for insurance premium and compensation structure settings. At the other end of the spectrum, DRM practitioners do not need the same details. What's useful to them is the relative risk that indicates which parts of the country possess higher risk than the others, which will allow them to allocate resources for risk reduction measures more effectively or to develop policies that address the risk. In this case, using proxies to approximate disaster risk is acceptable. In fact, it is a preferred approach because the techniques could be easily replicated and/or repeated in the future without requiring experts' involvement.

Hope this is useful.

Best regards,

QQuestion by Mr Apibarl Bunchongraksa

Nowadays the climate change is challenging us because it caused severe disasters that can damage lives, assets and even economics. How do you have some guidelines to live with this risk? and how can we increase the community's capacity to cope with disaster?

Mr Apibarl Bunchongraksa Training Coordinator | Asian Disaster Preparedness Center

APosted on 17 Feb 2015

Dear Apibarl,

Thank you for your question. I believe climate change is real and is already affecting how disaster events occur  as you might have witnessed from the change in the pattern, frequency, and severity of extreme events such as floods and cyclones (typhoons or hurricanes in different parts of the world) These extreme events often caught people/communities/governments off guard because such events were never expected, leading to heavy damage and sometimes casualties.

Information is key in this fight. I am a firm believer that disaster risk must be handled by those that are equipped with right and up-to-date information. Disaster Risk Assessment is the first step where the frequency, extent, and severity of disasters for particular areas is estimated allowing DRR practitioners to use the information to make proper plans to mitigate the risk. The interplay between climate change and disaster risk, though complex, can be estimated scientifically and be incorporated in the risk assessment process. The end results of it will provide information on what kind of disasters will possibly happen at particular places.

People and communities will still be hit by disasters, but when they are well-informed, there is no surprise and they will be ready to handle it better.

Hope this answered your question.

Best regards,

QQuestion by Mr Kerem KUTERDEM

Dear Dr. Towashiraporn,

Both HFA and HFA2 is promoting countries to prepare local risk management plans. Do you think that standart guidelines (how to documents) prepared by international and/or regional organisations could be considered a practical tool for countries when preparing their risk reduction plans?

Many thanks in advance.

Mr Kerem KUTERDEM Geologist (MSc.) | AFAD Earthquake Department

APosted on 17 Feb 2015

Dear Mr. Kuterdem,

Thank you. The point you raised was was a good one. There are several aspects of risk reduction. I will first give you my view on the area I am most familiar with, that is disaster risk assessment.

Science-based disaster risk assessment follows certain and widely accepted steps, i.e., hazard, exposure, vulnerability, and risk (or impact) assessments. I think the 'how to do' part of disaster risk assessment is applicable to any country, so even if the guidelines are developed by international and/or regional technical agencies, it can still be used to guide risk assessment initiatives in a particular country (given that the required expertise exists in the country). That said, data that will be required in the risk assessment process varies significantly from one country to another (or even within a country, from national to local levels). The data varies in term of its availability, quality, scale, and resolution. The selection of an exact methodology for risk assessment must take into account the data availability and quality from the local perspective.  

Similarly, once it gets to the point where risk assessment outcomes are to be used for risk reduction planning, ones can only use internationally developed guidelines as a framework, but must adapt it to their local context taking into consideration the local capacity, resources, legal framework, as well as cultural differences.

In conclusion, I think internationally developed DRR guidelines are still useful to guide the process of DRR planning, but to really implement those plans in a country, it requires DRR practitioners in the country to put their heads together to come up with locally-adjusted actions.

This is my view. Hope it is helpful.

Best regards,

QQuestion by Ms ali abdouhazize

je suis un sapeur pompier travaillant a la direction de la protection civile du Niger
je souhaite participer à des formation dans le cadre de la gestion de crise ,pour aider les villes de mon pays dernier de la planète.
merci a tres bientot

Ms ali abdouhazize director of prevention and operations | Departement of civil defense Niger

APosted on 16 Feb 2015

Dear Ms. Ali Abdouhazize,

I am not sure if there was anything wrong with the system, but your question appeared in a foreign language. I am guessing it's French. My best attempt to translate it (through Google Translate) yielded the following result.

"I am a firefighter working at the direction of civil protection in Niger

I would like to participate in training as part of crisis management , to help cities my last countries in the world."

At ADPC, we offer several training courses related to disaster risk management, some of which touch upon the concept of disaster risk assessment and provide insights on how to apply it for certain uses, e.g., for climate risk management, for flood risk management, for mainstreaming disaster risk into development planning, as well as how risk assessment fits in the grand scheme of disaster risk management.

There are training courses on disaster risk assessment offered by other agencies as well, but I do not have information off the top of my head.

Let me know if I have answered your question. I will be happy to receive follow-up questions.

Best regards,