Volume 18 Issue 2, 2003

Reframing risk, hazards, disasters, and daily life: A report of research into local1 appreciation of risks and threats

Philip Buckle, Graham Marsh, Sydney Smale

Peer-reviewed Article

Archived Article


This paper introduces a series of research projects in which we have been engaged examining a number of issues related to contemporary disaster management since 1999 (Marsh, Smale, and Buckle 1999; Buckle, Marsh, and Smale 2001a, 2001b, 2002). These research projects, supported by our own agencies and Emergency Management Australia, have at their core an examination of the concepts of community, localness, risk, hazard, vulnerability, and resilience and everyday life.3 The results of completed research projects are available either from the authors, from the Department of Human Services (DHS) or from Emergency Management Australia (EMA). All documents are available on request by email to P.D.Buckle@rmcs.cranfield.ac.uk. However, acknowledging the centrality of these concepts, there are two caveats. First, while there is agreement on how these terms are defined, there is often not a good understanding of the internal structure, mechanisms, and dynamics of these concepts. For example, there is agreement that community is a core disaster management (DM) concept, but whether in practice this refers to issues such as community as locality, community as interest group, or community as demographic group (gender or age, for example) is often not clear. Second, the linkages and interactions between these core concepts are not well understood, either. How do communities (however defined) define and deal with risk?; how does risk translate to vulnerability (or vice versa)?; and, how are resilience and vulnerability linked or dependent (if they are)? In the first research project (Marsh et al. 1999), for the Department of Human Services, we worked to identify which groups in the community were especially vulnerable.4 In our second research project, conducted for EMA, we talked with local people across Victoria about the perception and understanding of disaster, hazard, risk, and vulnerability among agencies and communities. In our third project, also for EMA, we asked the question of local agencies and municipalities, why they frequently did not use the documents, guidelines, and resources used to encourage, support, and direct risk, vulnerability and resilience assessments. In our current project, also for EMA, we are trying to identify and describe any linkages that may exist at municipal and local levels between community capacity building and DM capability. This last project is being managed using a comparative method using case studies in Australia and the United Kingdom.