Economics of Hazards & Disasters

Lorraine Motola, Emergency & Disaster Management
Metropolitan College of New York


This course, Economics of Hazards and Disasters, provides a comprehensive overview of the economic aspects of hazards and disasters through a review of the concepts, analytical tools and policies to aid emergency managers, before, during and after emergencies. Each student selects a hazard from from the Sub-committee on Disaster Reduction (SDR), and a related disaster, without a published damage assessment, then use Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data for the year prior to the disaster, year of and two subsequent years, to serve as a framework in writing their paper on the Economic Effects of the chosen disaster.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Lecture only

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, primarily masters programs

Course Context:

This is an introductory graduate-level course with no pre-requisites. It serves as a required course for students in the Disaster & Emergency Management, graduate program. Typically all of the students are enrolled in this major. The students favor the course approach of writing weekly components that serve as appendices to a report written at the end.

Course Content:

Each week a lecture and activity occur on the following topics:
  • Direct & Indirect Damage/Losses
  • Mitigation
  • Critical Infrastructure & Key Resources
  • Early Warning Systems
  • Insurance, Disaster Relief or CAT Bonds
  • Emergency Management Policies
  • Economic & Community Impact

Course Goals:

To have an understanding of hazards in relation to disasters and the importance of sustainable mitigation. The ability to analyze a disaster including the social, economic, and environmental impacts. Determine associated gaps and provide recommendations.

Course Features:

Each student must write about the Economic Effects of their chosen disaster. Weekly assignments relate to the class lecture and the write-up serves as an appendix to the final report or paper.

Course Philosophy:

The course design provides a Real World Experience and is fast paced. During activation it is not unusual that documents have to be written quickly and posted electronically. Similarly when on a Planning Team members may write only portions of the document and may need to use a template format. This course follows methods that give a Real World feel.


Primarily the assessment takes place by evaluating the weekly assignments, which determine if the weekly topic should be revisited.


References and Notes:

  • Natural Hazards Analysis Reducing the Impact of Disasters by John C. Pine
  • Natural Hazards UnNatural Disasters The Economics of Effective Prevention, The World Bank
  • Handbook for Estimating the Socio-economic and Environmental Effects of Disasters, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
  • Read more about using the Newtown Creek Superfund Site, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York as a teaching example