Terminology

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Disaster risk

Source(s):  United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) [ 2 February 2017 ]

Definition:

The potential loss of life, injury, or destroyed or damaged assets which could occur to a system, society or a community in a specific period of time, determined probabilistically as a function of hazard, exposure, vulnerability and capacity.

Annotation: The definition of disaster risk reflects the concept of hazardous events and disasters as the outcome of continuously present conditions of risk. Disaster risk comprises different types of potential losses which are often difficult to quantify. Nevertheless, with knowledge of the prevailing hazards and the patterns of population and socioeconomic development, disaster risks can be assessed and mapped, in broad terms at least.

It is important to consider the social and economic contexts in which disaster risks occur and that people do not necessarily share the same perceptions of risk and their underlying risk factors.

Acceptable risk, or tolerable risk, is therefore an important subterm; the extent to which a disaster risk is deemed acceptable or tolerable depends on existing social, economic, political, cultural, technical and environmental conditions. In engineering terms, acceptable risk is also used to assess and define the structural and non-structural measures that are needed in order to reduce possible harm to people, property, services and systems to a chosen tolerated level, according to codes or “accepted practice” which are based on known probabilities of hazards and other factors.

Residual risk is the disaster risk that remains even when effective disaster risk reduction measures are in place, and for which emergency response and recovery capacities must be maintained. The presence of residual risk implies a continuing need to develop and support effective capacities for emergency services, preparedness, response and recovery, together with socioeconomic policies such as safety nets and risk transfer mechanisms, as part of a holistic approach.


  • About the Terminology The UNISDR Terminology aims to promote a common understanding and usage of disaster risk reduction concepts and to assist the disaster risk reduction efforts of authorities, practitioners and the public.

Please note: The 2009 Terminology was updated following the request of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (paragraph 50), which recommended the establishment of an open-ended intergovernmental expert working group.