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Disaster phase terminology and community perspectives

Before exploring community preparedness, recovery and resilience we will first take a look at relevant terminology which is regularly used in the sectors of emergency planning, disaster management and humanitarian relief.

Disaster management theories, policies and tools have evolved over time. The sector realised there must be better ways of managing and preventing disasters than simply responding to events as they happen. Different phases of a ‘disaster management cycle’ were recognised which, despite the existence of several variations, generally include the phases of mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

The disaster management cycle, showing a circle with four arrows linked together – response to recovery to mitigation to preparedness and round again. A crisis is labelled prior to the response.

(Adapted from Alexander 2014)

The traditional circular cycle simplifies what is in reality a more complex sequencing of phases.

This second diagram shows a contrasting version of the ‘disaster cycle’ from a practitioner’s perspective. It better illustrates the multi-layered overlapping phases found in practice.

The disaster management cycle seen as a timeline showing how the four phases are not separate but overlap. (Adapted from Davis 2016: 74)

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) has produced a glossary to promote a common understanding of disaster management and risk reduction terminology, the glossary is available to view on PreventionWeb.net.

These terms will be used in this course and it is recommended you become familiar with some of them, if not already, and start to consider the implications of the definitions in relation to a community’s role and perspective.

In particular, take a look at the following terms:

Hazard Vulnerability Rehabilitation
Mitigation Disaster Risk Reduction Recovery
Disaster Reconstruction Resilience
Preparedness Capacity Response

Your task

Does the practitioner view of the phases of a disaster reflect how communities view disasters?


Alexander, D. (2014) Principles of Emergency Planning and Management. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Davis, I., and Alexander, D. (2016) Recovery from Disaster (Routledge Studies in Hazards, Disaster Risk, and Climate Change). London: Routledge

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This article is from the free online course:

Community Preparedness, Recovery and Resilience: An Introduction

Coventry University