Disaster Resilience 2015-2025: What will it look like in Cascadia?

Monica Gowan, Health Sciences Research, Mayo Clinic


The current blueprint for global disaster risk reduction (known as HFA, or the Hyogo Framework of Action 2005-2015, Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters) will be replaced with a new global framework (HFA2) at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, scheduled for 14-18 March 2015 in Sendai, Japan. What will this post-2015 framework look like? How will risks be managed and resilience boosted? What goals and objectives will be targeted?

The answers that emerge from Sendai will generate many provocative questions for the geosciences, such as: How might HFA2 change our discipline? What will be our role and our message? What progress are we making now towards disaster resilience for regions exposed to coastal hazards, flooding, and earthquakes? How will we contribute to the resilience of people, nations, and ecosystems facing the consequences of these and other natural hazards? Being ready to address these challenges gives merit to thinking now about potential opportunities and strategies for making a positive difference.

This real-world example examines the US-Canada Pacific Northwest ("Cascadia"), a geographic region with risk of high-consequence natural hazards including M9 earthquakes and tsunamis, and considers how emerging themes for the post-2015 (HFA2) framework might dovetail with regional efforts to reduce risk and promote disaster resilience. Students are introduced to two workgroups that are actively involved (among others) in research, practice, education, and planning for a future earthquake disaster along the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ). The University of Washington-based "M9 Project" is a new National Science Foundation-supported research initiative, focused on reducing the catastrophic potential of CSZ megathrust earthquakes, in part by improving probabilistic assessments and how they are integrated into hazards education. The Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup (CREW), is a non-profit public-private coalition "committed to making the Cascadia region more resilient to earthquakes and tsunamis."

A Cascadia Subduction Zone disaster will likely have not only regional and trans-Pacific physical and social impacts, but also global socio-economic impacts. The extent to which science, education, policy and practice are integrated in preparation for a CSZ disaster will likely play a strong and meaningful role in shaping the processes and outcomes of resilience that will transpire.

Individuals with expertise/responsibilities in the following areas have helped create the case study:
  • International (UN), National (Canada, USA), State (Washington and Oregon), Provincial (British Columbia), regional and local officials
  • Educators/Risk Communicators/Social Media experts/Media
  • Emergency managers/Medical, Public Health, and Social Services professionals/Planners
  • Engineers/Geologists/Research scientists
  • Public, private and non-profit stakeholders

Key teaching points:
  • All countries and all people are vulnerable to disaster, whether they live, do business, or holiday in a potentially-affected area or not.
  • The direct and indirect impacts and costs of disasters are rising.
  • New paradigms for managing risk and building resilience are emerging that will affect people globally.
  • People in disaster-affected areas who survive hazardous events will not only need resources to survive the immediate aftermath, but also the capacity and resources to process, manage, and transcend their disaster experience on a long-term and positive resilience trajectory.
  • The Cascadia Subduction Zone is at risk for a high-consequence megathrust earthquakes and tsunamis.
  • The geosciences have many important roles and responsibilities in addressing both HFA2 and CSZ concerns, including the conduct and translation of basic science, the transdisciplinary integration of foundational science with disaster risk and resilience science, and information transfer to the public. Participation in the development of resilience strategies and solutions will be crucial to the future of the geosciences.

How this example is used in the classroom:
Following the completion of their scientific literacy paper (see activity), students will have the opportunity to apply their new knowledge and integrate their insights on risk and resilience to an issue on today's global agenda. They will review documents and websites regarding HFA2 and CSZ projects; identify 'talking points' for how these initiatives might synergistically meet or transcend their individual aims; and engage in a mind-mapping exercise with their classmates to visualize how their shared ideas, processes, organizations, concepts, etc might be offered as a contribution to future discussions on creating disaster resilience in Cascadia and globally.


Recommending Readings on HFA and HFA2:

Recommended Readings on Cascadia Earthquake Risk and Resiliency: