Newswise — MCLEAN, Va. (March 2017) — Hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis and other disasters cannot be stopped, but countries can plan for them — something some areas of the world seem to do better than others, according to a new study published in the journal Risk Analysis.
Oceania, which includes Australia and surrounding Pacific islands, was deemed to be the most resilient region of the world, meaning it would likely suffer fewer losses during a disaster than other areas. The study also revealed that Asia is the least resilient. Understanding resilience — and how to improve it — can help governments better prepare for disasters and reduce risks to human life.
“Resilience is the ability to prevent loss caused by disasters,” according to Hong Huang, corresponding author and professor at the Institute of Public Safety Research at Tsinghua University in Beijing. “High resilience is like an umbrella that can protect against not only single and normal disasters, but also against miscellaneous and unconventional emergencies.”
In the study, “Resilience Analysis of Countries Under Disaster Based on Multi-Source Data,” 38 factors that affect a country’s resilience were derived from national and international databases including the U.S. Census, the United Nations and the World Health Organization. The researchers used these databases to grade the resilience of each country and continent and develop a comprehensive index that includes indicators such as the number of disasters and their death tolls, as well as an area’s population, infrastructure, economy and educational system.
The researchers also analyzed 100 years of historical data from more than 20,000 disasters and accidents to develop a resilience score for each country. They researchers also ranked each country based on the danger it faces from disasters and the degree to which its resilience to disaster has improved over time.
Extreme heat, tsunami and drought ranked as the most severe types of disasters, causing about 5,000 deaths in countries with a population density of at least 100 people per square kilometer. According to the data, Estonia, Libya, Sudan, Russia and Myanmar had the lowest resilience scores. The latter three countries cover large areas and therefore have difficulty implementing comprehensive resilience plans encompassing the entire region. In general, African countries have low resilience because of poor infrastructure, bad economies, and lower education levels.
The researchers found it was easier for smaller nations to be more resilient than larger nations. Some of the most resilient nations included Barbados, Marshall Islands, Singapore, Cayman Islands, and Antigua and Barbuda.
Many countries have become more resilient to the threats posed by disasters over the last 50 years, particularly developing nations. Having a higher population density and GDP positively affected countries’ resilience scores. Other factors that play critical roles in improving a nation’s resilience include its ratio of insurance consumption to GDP and how many hospital beds it has per 1,000 people. Countries should consider these factors first when looking to increase resilience, the researchers said.
Becoming more resilient to disaster also varies by country because the impact from a certain type of disaster and countries’ infrastructures and economies vary. “Different cities and countries have their own characteristics,” Nan Zhang, assistant professor at Tsinghua University and lead author said. “Developing an index system is a very useful way not only to uncover the vulnerable areas, but also to discover the sensitive influencing factors that can improve resilience.”
More areas are also looking to make changes that improve their resilience, according to the researchers. For example, New York is working to become more resilient to flooding by improving flood insurance, building codes and flood zoning. Tokyo is using operational meteorological networks and advanced instruments to build infrastructure that is better equipped to withstand extreme weather conditions.
The researchers recommended that future studies should focus on determining the resilience of each country as it relates to each type of disaster.
Researchers from Tsinghua University conducted the study with support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 71473146) and the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China (Grant No. 2015BAK12B01 and 2016YFC0802501).
Risk Analysis: An International Journal is published by the nonprofit Society for Risk Analysis (SRA), an interdisciplinary, scholarly, international society that provides an open forum for all who are interested in risk analysis, a critical function in complex modern societies. Risk analysis includes risk assessment, risk characterization, risk communication, risk management, and risk policy affecting individuals, public- and private-sector organizations, and societies at a local, regional, national, or global level. To learn more, visit www.sra.org.