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This content is taken from the Coventry University's online course, Disaster Risk Reduction: An Introduction. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds Burcak, Module leader: ‘The Great Lisbon Earthquake, 1755. An event that almost wiped Lisbon and it’s population off the face of the earth. The earthquake has been estimated at over 8.5 in magnitude. It caused devastation across Portugal, Morocco and Spain. The resulting tsunami was 30 meters high. It battered the East Atlantic coast and lapped at the shores of the Caribbean, over 5,000 kilometers away. Buildings collapsed. Fires raced through cities. 75,000 people died. It was the most destructive earthquake to hit Europe in recorded history.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds We’ve been recording the effects of disasters ever since but what is a disaster?’ ‘Disaster can affect anyone, at any time, in any place. Disaster can strike regardless of your location, background or personal circumstances. And disaster means different things to different people.’

Skip to 1 minute and 19 seconds Speaker 1: ‘Disaster for me means natural disaster. I’m from Japan and we had a huge earthquake in 2011.’

Skip to 1 minute and 27 seconds Speaker 2: ‘Natural disaster like earthquakes or humans, like wars or something like that.’

Skip to 1 minute and 34 seconds Speaker 3: ‘In particular, I think is like climate change, because that’s, like, on the horizon right now.’

Skip to 1 minute and 39 seconds Speaker 4: ‘It could be from something that literally ruins your day to something that ruins your life.’

Skip to 1 minute and 45 seconds Speaker 5: ‘Something traumatic like a fire in a house. Something like that could be, I think would be a disaster, definitely.’

Skip to 1 minute and 53 seconds Speaker 6: ‘If I had some kind of accident which rendered me disabled, that would be a disaster.’

Skip to 1 minute and 58 seconds Speaker 7: ‘The self confidence also could be a personal disaster if you lose it.’

Skip to 2 minutes and 5 seconds Speaker 8: ‘Disaster is something like that, you know when unexpected things as you are doing this interview.’

Skip to 2 minutes and 11 seconds Burcak, Module leader: ‘Whatever the causes are, disasters affect people, infrastructure, environment and economics. Without those, is it really a disaster?

Skip to 2 minutes and 23 seconds In this course we’re going to explore in detail what “disaster” means, and the terminology we use. We will discuss what we mean by “risk reduction” and “risk management” and how those concepts influence policy. We will explore how disaster risk reduction policies are developed. What they achieve, and how they link with sustainable development goals globally. And we’ll discuss how reducing risk saves lives and reduces costs and whose job it is to achieve those things. So let’s start the course. Please introduce yourself and share with us what you know about disaster risk reduction policies in your own locality.’

Introduction to the course

Now that you have discussed your thoughts on ‘disaster’, watch the introductory video to discover some different perspectives.

This course aims to develop your understanding of what a disaster is and how its risks can be minimised. You’ll be introduced to disaster terminology, phases of the disaster management cycle and disaster risk reduction.

You will also have the opportunity to explore how the idea of disaster management and risk reduction has evolved, as well as how global changes have impacted the sector.

This week

This week, you will have the chance to:

  • Develop an understanding of key disaster-related terminology
  • Examine how the causes of disaster can combine to produce complex risks
  • Explore how disaster risk reduction policy has developed

Meet the team

Photo of Dr Burcak Basbug Erkan

Your lead educator is Burcak Basbug Erkan. She has 20 years of international experience in disaster risk reduction, policy development, financial management of disaster losses, catastrophe insurance and statistics.

The course has been produced with help from Kevin Blanchland, a disaster management practitioner based in London. He has many years of experience in teaching and consulting, specialising in disaster humanitarian action worldwide.

Your course educator is Gareth Black, an associate lecturer at Coventry University Online and an emergency planning practitioner.

You can follow them by selecting the link to their FutureLearn profile page. That way, you’ll be able to see all the comments that they make.

Your task

Introduce yourself to the other learners in the comments.

Share why you decided to study this course, what you hope to learn and what you know about risk reduction policies in your own locality.

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This video is from the free online course:

Disaster Risk Reduction: An Introduction

Coventry University