Reformation of the Curricula on Built Environment in the Eastern Neighbouring Area

No shelters of last resort in New Orleans storm plan

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No shelters of last resort in New Orleans storm plan

‘New Orleans’ Superdome and convention center, where scenes of despair, anger and death shocked the world after Hurricane Katrina, will not be shelters of last resort in Mayor Ray Nagin’s new storm evacuation plan. Instead, buses and trains will rush the disabled and elderly out of the battered city as officials start to empty it 30 hours before a strong hurricane makes landfall, Nagin said on Tuesday as he announced the long-awaited strategy.

… Nagin was widely criticized for waiting too long before ordering evacuation ahead of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall as a Category 3 storm and killed 1,300 people along the Gulf Coast. Poor, disabled and elderly people were left with no means to leave.

As levees failed and 80 percent of the city flooded, thousands of residents made their way to the Louisiana Superdome and Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, which had no power or working plumbing and little security. Television beamed scenes of hunger, thirst, illness and even death to the world, as days passed with no rescue.

… Nagin could not say if the plan would be in force by the June 1 start of the hurricane season if he loses the May 20 runoff election. But he noted a new mayor ‘would have to be Einstein’ to quickly cobble together a different strategy.’


The aim of emergency response is to provide immediate assistance to maintain life, improve health and support the morale of the affected population. Such assistance may range from providing specific but limited aid, such as assisting refugees with transport, temporary shelter, and food, to establishing semi-permanent settlement in camps and other locations. It also may involve initial repairs to damaged infrastructure. The focus in the response phase is on meeting the basic needs of the people until more permanent and sustainable solutions can be found. Humanitarian organisations are often strongly present in this phase of the disaster management cycle.

As the emergency is brought under control, the affected population is capable of undertaking a growing number of activities aimed at restoring their lives and the infrastructure that supports them. There is no distinct point at which immediate relief changes into recovery and then into long-term sustainable development. There will be many opportunities during the recovery period to enhance prevention and increase preparedness, thus reducing vulnerability. Ideally, there should be a smooth transition from recovery to on-going development.

Recovery activities continue until all systems return to normal or better. Recovery measures, both short and long term, include returning vital life-support systems to minimum operating standards; temporary housing; public information; health and safety education; reconstruction; counselling programmes; and economic impact studies. Information resources and services include data collection related to rebuilding, and documentation of lessons learned.

Table 1 provides some examples of the type of activities or measures that might occur in each of the four disaster management phases, in respect of different types of disasters.

Table 1: Example of Measures in Each Disaster Risk Management Phase [Source: Asian Disaster Reduction Centre]  

Disaster Phase


Storm (cyclone, typhoon,





- Seismic design

- Retrofitting of

Vulnerable buildings

- Installation of seismic

isolation/ seismic

response control systems

- Construction of tide wall

- Establishment of forests to protect against storms

- Construction of erosion control


- Construction of retaining walls


- Construction and operation of earthquake

Observation systems

- Construction of


- Construction and operation of meteorological observation


- Construction and operation of

Meteorological observation


- Preparation of hazard maps

- Food & material stockpiling

- Emergency drills

- Construction of early warning systems

- Preparation of emergency kits


- Rescue efforts

- First aid treatment

- Fire fighting

- Monitoring of secondary disaster

- Construction of temporary housing

- Establishment of tent villages


- Disaster resistant reconstruction

- Appropriate land use planning

- Livelihood support

- Industrial rehabilitation planning

Humanitarian action

During a disaster, humanitarian agencies are often called upon to deal with immediate response and recovery. To be able to respond effectively, these agencies must have experienced leaders, trained personnel, adequate transport and logistic support, appropriate communications, and guidelines for working in emergencies. If the necessary preparations have not been made, the humanitarian agencies will not be able to meet the immediate needs of the people.
        1. Practice questions

  1. Read case study 1, which provides some lessons from Hurricane Katrina. Widen your reading by searching for more articles on the Hurricane and its impact on New Orleans, Louisiana.

Evaluate New Orleans’ preparedness and readiness in 2005 to deal with an emergency situation such as a major Hurricane. Your evaluation may consider issues such as the government, organisations, and individuals’ plans to save lives, minimise disaster damage, and enhance disaster response operations.

  1. Expand Table 1 by identifying examples of measures in each disaster risk management phase for:

    1. a flood

    2. a terrorist strike on a major retail centre

        1. Lecture 2- Disaster risk reduction and development

The role of disaster risk reduction and development

Effective lesson learning should reduce the risks of future disasters through well-informed mitigation and preparedness planning. In this respect, disaster management can be visualised as a two-phase cycle, with a post-disaster recovery informing pre-disaster risk reduction, and vice versa. In the ideal case, mitigation eliminates the risk of future disaster, though this is a virtuous circle unlikely to be fully realised in all but the propitious circumstances.

Clearly, the risks associated with disasters could be considerably reduced and their impacts mitigated if the disaster cycle was taken as the basis for disaster management. It implies giving greater attention to pre-disaster planning and preparedness, and sharing the lessons from previous disasters, particularly in the process of medium and long-term recovery. Much effort has gone into developing disaster risk reduction policy and institutions on a global scale from the 1970s onwards.

In the four years between 1997 and 2001, a series of natural disasters served to heighten this concern. El Niño brought floods to East Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean in 1997-1998. It was succeeded by Hurricanes Georges and Mitch in the Caribbean, mudslides in Venezuela, the cyclone in Orissa, India and earthquakes in Turkey, Iran, El Salvador and Gujarat in India.

Implementing risk reduction policies, however, presents huge challenges, and requires particular tools and approaches to ensure proper management and resourcing of the reconstruction effort in the wake of disasters that cannot be avoided. Low-income developing countries are normally the least equipped and able to implement disaster planning and risk reduction. At the same time they are the countries most at risk and most vulnerable to the impacts of disasters in terms of their ongoing development.

‘Disasters are first and foremost a major threat to development and specifically a threat to the development of the poorest and most marginalized people in the world. Disasters seek out the poor and ensure that they remain poor’ (Didier Cherpitat, General Secretary of the IFRC quoted in Oxfam America, 2004, p.12). 

In 2000, the development agenda of the international community crystallised around the eight Millennium Development Goals and its associated targets (see Appendix 5). As Mark Malloch Brown, former Head of the UNDP and now Deputy Secretary General of the UN, puts it: ‘Natural disasters exert an enormous toll on development. In doing so, they pose a significant threat for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, in particular the overarching target of halving extreme poverty by 2015’ (UNDP, 2004, Foreword). Disasters constrain development through the destruction of physical and human assets; unsustainable development increases the risk of disaster whilst sustainable development reduces it. (UNDP, 2004, p.20).

A greater integration of disaster management and development planning is called for. One focused and cost effective way in which international development can reduce the risk of disaster resulting from natural hazards is to mainstream disaster risk assessment within the development planning process, and the UN has called for risk assessment to become an integral part of environmental impact assessment. Another is to integrate planning for long-term recovery within the early phases of planning and co-ordinating humanitarian relief in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster.

Sustainable development

Developmental considerations contribute to all aspects of the disaster management cycle. One of the main goals of disaster management, and one of its strongest links with development, is the promotion of sustainable livelihoods and their protection and recovery during disasters and emergencies. Where this goal is achieved, people have a greater capacity to deal with disasters and their recovery is more rapid and long lasting. In a development oriented disaster management approach, the objectives are to reduce hazards, prevent disasters, and prepare for emergencies. Therefore, developmental considerations are strongly represented in the mitigation and preparedness phases of the disaster management cycle. Inappropriate development processes can lead to increased vulnerability to disasters and loss of preparedness for emergency situations.
Role of built environment professionals in disaster management

The recovery role of construction from both natural and human disasters is well documented. In particular, post-disaster reconstruction has been the subject of a significant body of research (for example Karim, 2004; Lizarralde and Boucher, 2004; Nikhileswarananda, 2004; Young, 2004; Jigyasu, 2002) with particular emphasis on developing countries that are less able to deal with the causes and impacts of disasters. The importance of improving the construction industries of developing nations is widely recognised, highlighting a need to equip them to manage recovery (Ofori, 2002). Construction is typically engaged in a range of critical activities: temporary shelter before and after the disaster; restoration of public services such as hospitals, schools, water supply, power, communications, and environmental infrastructure, and state administration; and, securing income earning opportunities for vulnerable people in the affected areas (World Bank, 2001). Similarly, disaster planners have begun to realise the link between disaster and development (Fox, 2002) – a large and well-established field relating to social, economic, and significantly from a construction perspective, physical aspects of society.

Although more robust construction in and of itself will not eliminate the consequences of disruptive events, there is widespread recognition that the engineering community has a valuable role to play in finding and promoting rational, balanced solutions to what remains an unbounded threat (Sevin and Little, 1998). There has been considerable research aimed at developing knowledge that will enable the construction of a generation of buildings that are more resilient and safer, for example, through reduction of injury inducing blast debris, the development of glazing materials that do not contribute to the explosion-induced projectiles and have enhanced security application, as well as the integration of site and structure in a manner that minimises the opportunity for attackers to approach or enter a building (Levy and Salvadori, 1992; Mallonee et al, 1996; National Research Council, 1995; The President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, 1997).

The pre-disaster phase of the disaster management cycle includes both mitigation and preparedness. The RICS (Max Lock Centre, 2006) propose that disaster mitigation refers to any structural and non-structural measure undertaken to limit the adverse impacts of natural hazards, environmental degradation, and technological hazards. Mitigation measures may eliminate or reduce the probability of disaster occurrence, or reduce the effects of unavoidable disasters. These measures may include building codes; vulnerability analyses updates; zoning and land use management; building use regulations and safety codes (Warfield, 2004). Mitigation seeks to eliminate the risk of future disasters by effective sharing of lessons learned through preparedness planning.

Peña-Mora (2005) suggests construction managers have a key role to play because they are involved in the construction of the infrastructure, and therefore should also be involved when an event destroys that infrastructure. He highlights construction management skill in getting equipment, scheduling a set of activities to accomplish a task, and knowing how to manage those activities can be very valuable when an extreme event occurs. Moreover, he stresses that construction engineers possess valuable information about their projects, and that information can be critical in disaster preparedness, as well as response and recovery. The information they posses, he argues, may be the difference between life and death. Similarly, the Max Lock Centre (2006) concluded that chartered surveyors, with appropriate training, have key roles to play during all disaster phases, from preparedness to immediate relief, traditional recovery and long-term reconstruction.

Sevin and Little (1998) suggest that computerised building plans, structural analysis programmes, and damage assessment models may all facilitate rapid rescue and recovery of victims in the aftermath of an event, and that these all require the active involvement of the construction professions. They also suggest that the construction professions are in the best position to frame the discussion of the cost-benefit tradeoffs that occur in the risk management process, for example the need for risk avoidance against the cost of implementing safety strategies.

Although the construction industry is traditionally associated with the long-term reconstruction phase of the disaster management cycle, there is growing recognition that built environment professionals have a much broader role to anticipate, assess, prevent, prepare, respond, and recover from disruptive challenges.

Where professional built environment expertise is needed

[Source: Max Lock Centre (2006) Mind the Gap, RICS, London]

The following is an extract from an RICS report, Mind the Gap that deals with issues of long-term recovery from natural disasters and the perceived gap between humanitarian relief, and efforts focused on reconstruction and the longer-term rehabilitation of affected households and communities. A copy of the report can be downloaded from:

In the foreseeable future, in most low-income developing countries, professional skills and expertise in the built environment will remain a scarce resource, particularly in the more remote regions.

This requires trained surveyors and other built environment professionals to ‘think outside the box’ and to work with each other, with other professional intermediaries (e.g. the medical profession) and with skilled, non-professional intermediaries, to make the most cost effective use of their existing skills and knowledge.

In addition, new skills are needed to work with the very poor communities who are worst affected by disasters, or with the agencies and intermediaries who are engaged with them. Major disasters hit poor communities hardest, both in terms of numbers immediately affected, and through prolonged suffering during reconstruction.

Among the poor, groups that are particularly vulnerable to the immediate impacts, such as children and old people, are often also the most vulnerable to its aftermath, for example, in relation to their basic human rights and land rights.

There is evidence to suggest that women were the main victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami. An Oxfam International report suggests that 70-80% of those who died in Aceh, Sri Lanka and India were women (Oxfam International 2005, ACHR 2005, p2).

‘7,669 schools were destroyed in the earthquake [in northern Pakistan], killing 18,100 students and affecting 790,000 children. So far 500,000 pupils have returned to school, but many are still being taught in makeshift tents and buildings. The charity is providing temporary classrooms for up to 600 schools and 60,000 children in Pakistan over the next two years, but warned that the scale of the problem meant more assistance and funding was urgently needed’ (Jessica Aldred, the Guardian 7 April 2006).

Local NGOs and community-based organisations already play a key role in the recovery of poor and disadvantaged groups, but this role could be enhanced and greater use made of the largely untapped or unmanaged efforts of the disaster victims themselves. More attention needs to be given to restoring and improving local capacity, particularly the professional capacity within local government.

Earlier assessment of the impacts of the disaster and better cost planning and control, with improved mechanisms for monitoring funding flows and expenditure, are ways of greasing the wheels of recovery.

In post disaster conditions communications are often poor and information is a scarce resource, but more widespread and intelligent use could be made of community-led surveys and independent monitoring by local civil society organisations which, with appropriate professional support, could fill the gaps.

Technology has a role to play, but it needs to be used intelligently. New forms of telecommunication and the use of satellites, for example, are increasingly important in helping the recovery effort. The use of remotely-sensed satellite images and GIS is now an essential element of planning and co-ordinating recovery and reconstruction.

Given that recovery funding tends to be front-loaded, short-term, and mostly spent on logistics, the use of helicopters can be excessive and waste resources. More intelligent logistical planning, making better use of local knowledge, could release resources for reconstruction.

Cost planning advice is needed in the management of microfinance, social funds, compensatory and cash transfer payments, which all have an important role to play in allowing greater choice and ensuring that financial inputs respond to real need. If properly managed, and alongside cash for work programmes, such financial support can ensure the recovery effort does not have a negative impact on local markets and economic institutions, but rather contributes to sustainable economic recovery, income generation and the restoration of livelihoods.

Along with the better use of local human resources, reconstruction should maximize the use of locally-sourced materials, including, in particular, recycling the debris of the disaster. The challenge for reconstruction is to ensure that what is built is better than what it replaces, without sacrificing cultural appropriateness and support for local economic recovery, for the sake of technical efficiency and expediency.

Mass produced housing may be quick to ship in and erect but it is seldom appropriate to need, or sustainable. A flexible approach to rehousing during the transition and reconstruction phases is required, employing local resources wherever possible.

The procurement process has to be carefully managed, to avoid pushing up prices and the exploitation of the situation by unscrupulous contractors and suppliers. The planning and reconstruction of accommodation for those made homeless is a difficult and complex task, and our research shows that the time required to do it effectively should not be underestimated. The pressures of meeting urgent requirements for temporary, transitional and permanent forms of shelter, produce solutions that are frequently sub-optimal at every stage. The delay in providing permanent housing for the majority of victims highlights the importance of providing appropriate transitional shelter, for whom ‘temporary’ can be a very long time.

In Sri Lanka, the President celebrated the fact that 50,000 transitional shelters had been put up in six months but, with the start of the monsoon season, many of these temporary homes were already in need of upgrading (Oxfam International, 2005, p.5).

At a time when they are at their most vulnerable, and often suffering from post-disaster trauma, people are housed in unsatisfactory transitional accommodation, often with complete uncertainty as to whether and, if so, where, they will finally be permanently accommodated. Sometimes, as currently in Pakistan, there is pressure for them to leave ‘tent cities’ without a proper plan for their permanent re-accommodation.

The current approach to building shelter lacks flexibility, and does not allow for proper consultation and community participation. It fails to recognise that ‘temporary’ can be a very long time, and often ignores the needs and cultural mores of particular groups.

Often, people prefer to remain close to the ruins of the old home, for fear of losing their property to land grabs by speculators, government appropriation or exclusion through new planning regulations, or occupation by other refugees. Where they are scattered, this can make catering for their immediate needs and planning for the long-term rehabilitation more difficult. Establishing and restoring property rights can be a major hurdle to locally appropriate reconstruction, and there is a huge demand for professional support in this area.

Key factors in ensuring that the development opportunities of disasters are fulfilled include:

  • Adherence to agreed international standards such as the Sphere standards, which are the international project standards guiding humanitarian response to disasters;

  • Greater involvement of communities in deciding, planning and building their own future and assessing, managing and monitoring their assets; and

  • More intelligent and strategic use of professional and technical support at the local level.

Within and beyond the recovery effort, there is a huge demand for building the capacity of local government and civil society to plan for, and mitigate the risks of, natural disasters in vulnerable zones. It will be necessary to get the building codes and planning regulations governing the design, location and layout of buildings and settlements both right and enforced.

Table 2: From relief to reconstruction: the added value of inputs from property and construction professionals

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