Key terms

DRM, or Disaster Risk Management, aims to avoid the generation of new risks, improves resilience to the effects of extreme events and contributes to sustainable development.

What is a disaster?

A disaster arises when extreme natural events (such as storms, tsunamis, earthquakes, flooding or volcanic eruptions) but also technological, man-made or other hazards coincide with a vulnerable society. Whether an extreme event turns into a disaster depends on social, ecological, economic and political factors or processes in a society. In general, if individuals, households, municipalities, and countries have lower levels of coping and adaptive capacities, their vulnerability is higher.

What is risk?

In the context of DRM, risk is created from the interaction between an extreme event and a vulnerable population, ecosystem or infrastructure. Risk is determined as a function of hazard, exposure, vulnerability and capacity.

What is resilience?

DRM is considered an essential aspect of resilience, which refers to the capacity to withstand extreme events and cope with their consequences. However, resilience is a popular term, which finds an application in many fields and can therefore be defined quite differently. In the context of DRM and from the perspective of German Development Cooperation, the definition reads:

Resilience is the ability of people, institutions – whether individuals, households, local communities or states – to withstand acute shocks or chronic stress caused by fragile situations, crises, violent conflict, or extreme natural events, and to adapt and recover quickly without compromising their medium and longer-term prospects. (BMZ, 2013)

What is DRM?

Disaster risk management strives towards reducing the vulnerability of individuals, households and the society as a whole by strengthening the capabilities of a community to respond to hazards so that even if or when such an extreme event occurs, it will not become a disaster. Natural events can generally not be prevented – but their impact can be mitigated.

Thus, DRM can be defined as:

The process of planning, implementing, evaluating and adapting strategies, procedures and measures relating to the analysis, reduction and transfer of disaster risks, with the aim of reducing hazards and vulnerability and strengthening the coping and adaptation capacities of individuals, households, communities and state structures (BMZ, 2015).

DRM & Development


Check the UNDRR terminology to learn more about disaster risk management and related terms such as hazards, residual risks or capacity.

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