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  • Managing city-scale slow-onset disasters: Learning from Cape Town's 2015–2018 drought disaster planning
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Managing city-scale slow-onset disasters: Learning from Cape Town's 2015–2018 drought disaster planning

Source(s):  International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction (Elsevier) (IJDRR)

This paper provides unique insight into the disaster planning and management that was undertaken by the City of Cape Town government in response to its most severe hydrological drought on record. Disaster planning for slow-onset city-wide shocks will be become increasingly necessary, particularly as cities face increasingly severe climate hazards. It describes how risk was understood and why decisions were made on key elements of the plan, including trigger points, risk prioritisation and mitigation, and the location and design of points of distribution of water rations for the public.

Reflecting upon the authors’ experience and interviews with senior City officials who worked on the drought disaster planning and response, the paper extracts five key lessons learnt that have since been applied during the COVID-19 pandemic: 

  1. the need for cross-functional planning and response skills, 
  2. the need for integrated, up-to-date and scale-appropriate data; 
  3. the importance of scenario-based simulations, communication and rapid costing to enable the rapid scaling-up of a response; 
  4. the value of being able to use outsourced expert capacity effectively; and
  5. the application of previously used disaster management and planning experience to build resilience in cities.



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  • Managing city-scale slow-onset disasters: Learning from Cape Town's 2015–2018 drought disaster planning
  • Publication date 2021
  • Author(s) Cole, Hugh; Cole, Megan; Simpson, Kayleen et al.
  • Number of pages 35 p.
  • ISBN/ISSN 10.1016/j.ijdrr.2021.102459 (DOI)

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