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  • Risk and resilience report: preventing and managing large-scale disasters in Swiss cities
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Risk and resilience report: preventing and managing large-scale disasters in Swiss cities

Source(s):  Center for Security Studies, ETH Zurich (CSS)

This report assessed and analyzed the current state of Switzerland’s disaster management at the city level. More specifically, the study provides an overview of how major Swiss cities prepare and plan for large-scale disasters. The study examined cities’ planning and organization concerning the major risks they identified. A key element of the analysis was an examination of the institutional set-up that cities have put in place in the area of disaster prevention and management.

In order to assess civil protection processes and practices in urban areas in Switzerland, the study addressed several relevant questions:

  • How are Switzerland’s major cities equipped to respond to large-scale hazards?
  • How much institutionalization is necessary and useful to prepare for and respond to disasters that cut across jurisdictional boundaries?
  • What are the personnel, financial, and infrastructure resources that cities are capable and willing to invest into managing extreme events?
  • Who are the city risk managers and what agencies are they affiliated to? Who do they cooperate with to fulfill their tasks?
  • Which risks are given highest priority in urban disaster management in Switzerland – and which risks might be overlooked?

The study was designed as a qualitative case description of Switzerland’s largest urban areas. Results from this analysis demonstrate that three factors are particularly important in urban disaster management practice: adequate financial support and resources; political support (both at the city level, and at higher levels); and a strong partnership with the public.

The study shows that institutional ambiguities impact civil protection efficiency. While responsibilities are clear in legal terms, responsibility, competency, and task sharing are in reality rather complicated in Switzerland’s subsidiary system. These challenges are further intensified by accelerated urbanization. While in normal times, cooperation between the city and the federal level works well, the decentralized system underlines potential weaknesses in large-scale events.



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  • Risk and resilience report: preventing and managing large-scale disasters in Swiss cities
  • Publication date 2016
  • Author(s) Linda Maduz; Florian Roth; Tim Prior
  • Number of pages 22 p.

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