Managing hazards

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Managing hazards

Despite their apparent unpredictable nature, attempts have been made to control and influence the amount of damage a hazard causes. Success varies due to issues such as development, frequency and perception.

There is a general belief that often individuals do not perceive themselves to be living in a hazardous area (take Los Angeles, for example), and that it takes experience of a hazard to appreciate the danger. This then subsides as the time since the hazard increases. In some cases, the advantages of an area may far outweigh the potential disadvantages of the hazard (good fertile soils, favourable climate) and in the case of technologically advanced countries the population may believe they have the technology to manage the hazard.

Obviously this varies depending on the scale, frequency and vulnerability of the population. It is closely tied to wealth, education, health, population and technological advances. (See earlier work on impacts of hazards.)

This is highly complicated and its usefulness is the subject of debate. The main areas covered include forecasting and warning in an attempt to minimise the impact. In the USA hurricane warning systems exist, satellite monitoring equipment, as do posters TV and radio broadcasts informing people of action to take in the event of a hurricane. Seismographs monitor tectonic activity in an attempt to find clues to a large quake.

Managing hazards

Most work regard reducing the impacts of hazards is concentrated in this area as it is considered the most direct and cost effective. The aim is to reduce the potential impact of hazards by ensuring people are fully prepared should they occur. Hazard prevention exists in a number of ways:

Training and Education: This is often cited as the best and most effective way of reducing the impact of hazards. In Japan one day a year is dedicated to 'acting out' what to do in the event of an earthquake. Citizens of The USA and New Zealand know what steps to take in an earthquake as public awareness has been raised via brochures and such like. In the Philippines the first week in July is now dedicated as 'National Disaster Consciousness Week'.

Building Restrictions and Land Use planning: This is far more commonplace in MEDC's where there is a lower density of population and the money available to enforce such codes. Buildings can be restricted in height, have to conform to a certain design to ensure they have the greatest chance of remaining intact in the event of a hazard. For example on the North Shore of Hawaii residents on the coast are not allowed to live on the ground floor of their homes to reduce the impact of tsunami. Problems exist in LEDC's such as the Philippines where housing is vulnerable, due to material being salvaged from homes destroyed in a typhoon in order to rebuild others. There is currently a move towards educating the public on low-cost typhoon resistant housing.

Aid: Often the most contentious issues regards preventing hazards. LEDC's are eager to limit short-term handouts, such as clothes, money, food, and focus on long-term measures that they believe can help a country become more self-dependant and learn to cope with the impacts of hazards for themselves.