An urgent challenge confronting society today is the vulnerability of urban areas to “eXtreme” Events (XEs) (Mileti, 1999; CWR, 2002; Godschalk, 2003). These hazardous situations include natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods, as well as accidental and intentional disasters such as fires and terrorist attacks. At the global level, a total of 608 million people were affected by these disasters in 2002, out of which 24,500 died (IFRC, 2003). The economic damages to property and the environment were estimated at $27 billion dollars (IFRC, 2003). From January to October 2005, the number of people killed in disasters globally was estimated at 97,490 and the economical losses were approximately U.S. $159 billion (WHO, 2006). These significant human and economic costs emphasize the urgent need to reduce the vulnerability of urban areas to XEs (Mileti, 1999; CWR, 2002; Godschalk, 2003), improve the impact of relief team actions in these situations (NRC, 1999; NSTC, 2003), and the decision making process (Stewart, 2002; Mendonca, 2007).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Critical Response: This process involves multiple organizations and must be executed within the first 12 hours after the event occurrence.
Disaster Relief: The disaster relief process is composed of three phases: (a) the preparedness of first response plans for disasters, (b) the response process to reduce the impact of extreme events, and (c) the recovery of the affected areas.
First Responders: First responders are typically firefighters, police officers, and medical personnel who initially work mitigating an extreme event.
Local Emergency Decision Making: The local decision making (or improvisation) is typical of large relief efforts and it is mainly carried out in the work field.
Extreme Events: Hazardous situations including natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods, as well as accidental and intentional disasters such as fires and terrorist attacks.