Skip to main content

The impact of small-scale disaster events: an exploration of disaster related losses, extensive risk management and learning at the institutional and community level in Italy

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SMALLDIS (The impact of small-scale disaster events: an exploration of disaster related losses, extensive risk management and learning at the institutional and community level in Italy)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-08-31

The European Commission (EC) estimates that between 2002 and 2014 the European Union suffered over 80,000 deaths and more than €100 billion in economic losses as a consequence of natural hazard disasters. These numbers underpin decision-making and provide guidance for EU policies on future risk reduction but only represent direct economic costs generated by extreme events and do not contain sufficient information on social, environmental, or indirect economic losses. The discounting of less extreme events and hard to quantify values such as indirect losses, distorts the real cost of impacts associated with disasters and has subsequent repercussions for regional and national strategies for risk reduction and climate adaptation. The UNISDR Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction estimates that if economic losses from small-scale disasters were projected into existing calculations, real direct economic losses would be 60 percent higher than currently reported in leading databases. The SMALLDIS project explores conceptual frameworks and methodologies for improving the inclusion of high frequency, low impact disaster events in disaster impact calculations. At a policy level, it examines the relevance of the Sendai Indicators in capturing extensive forms of risk for national and local contexts. It investigates institutional and community responses to high frequency, low impact disasters in the case study areas as a means of understanding risk perception and risk management for more extensive (minor but recurrent) forms of risk.
The project engaged in an analysis of how definitions and selection criterion affect data accuracy for measuring extensive risk, and the development of a conceptual framework for capturing data on small-scale disaster losses in disaster databases. A focus on international and regional disaster risk reduction platforms such as the Sendai Framework and European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction, as well as sector specific impacts of extensive risk hazards in international migration and displacement were adopted in order to advance research on alternative indicators and sources for improving the inclusion of economic, social and environmental losses associated with small-scale disasters in loss recording systems. Employing a regional case study in Italy, the research covered new ground in highlighting how disaster management institutions and communities respond to small scale and recurrent disasters, and if such events trigger changes in risk perception, disaster management, and learning at both institutional and community levels. This new case study was combined with existing literature on extensive risk to provide an original analysis of the differences in actual and perceived impacts of disaster events, both in a quantitative and qualitative manner, using the case studies to draw comparisons between frames for social learning and adaptive behaviour in the context of differing institutional regimes, hazard contexts, and cultural norms for confronting risk and vulnerability.
The achievements of the SMALLDIS project are demonstrated in published research papers in leading academic journals in disaster studies. The fellow made direct contributions to the formulation of international policy guidance for data collection for the Sendai Monitor, and was invited to act as Rapporteur for the United Nations Open-ended Intergovernmental Expert Working Group on Indicators and Terminology Related to Disaster Risk Reduction (OIEWG) meeting for the development of Technical Guidance Notes for Sendai Indicators. The research outcomes of SMALLDIS were also utilized to produce a section on the impact of extensive risk hazards on displacement risk in the annual Global Report on Internal Displacement of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC). In recognition of the ground-breaking research carried out under SMALLDIS, the fellow was invited to contribute the findings of the project at several international policy and research innovation forums, including the UNISDR Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (2017) and the Frontier Development Lab at the European Space Agency (2018). Overall, project outcomes have pushed forward policy dialogue on the importance on small-scale disasters in loss accounting systems, and contributed positively to academic discussions of extensive risk hazards on a European and international level.