Capacity:  A combination of all the strengths and resources available within a community, society or organization that can reduce the level of risk, or the effects of a disaster.

Disaster:  A serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society causing widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses which exceed the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources.

Disaster Risk Management:  The systematic process of using administrative decisions, organization, operational skills and capacities to implement policies, strategies, and coping capacities of the society and communities to lessen the impacts of natural hazards and related environmental and technological disasters.  This comprises all forms of activities, including structural and non-structural measures to avoid (prevention) or to limit (mitigation and preparedness) adverse effects of hazards.

Disaster Risk Reduction (Disaster Reduction):  The conceptual framework of elements considered with the possibilities of minimizing vulnerabilities and disaster risks throughout a society, to avoid (prevention) or to limit (mitigation and preparedness) the adverse impacts of hazards, within the broad context of sustainable development.

Early Warning:  The provision of timely and effective information, through identified institutions and processes, that allows individuals exposed to a hazard to take action to avoid or reduce their risk and prepare for effective response. 

Hazard:  A potentially damaging physical event, phenomenon or human activity that may cause the loss of life or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation.  Hazards can include latent conditions that may represent future threats and can have different origins: natural (geological, hydrometeorological and biological) or induced by human processes (environmental degradation and technological hazards).

Mitigation:  Structural and non-structural measures undertaken to limit the adverse impact of natural hazards, environmental degradation and technological hazards.

Preparedness:  Activities and measures taken in advance to ensure effective response to the impact of hazards, including the issuance of timely and effective early warnings and the temporary evacuation of people and property from threatened locations. 

Prevention:  Activities to provide outright avoidance of the adverse impact of hazards and means to minimize related environmental, technological and biological disasters.

Radiative forcing: is a measure of the influence that a factor has in altering the balance of incoming and outgoing energy in the Earth-atmosphere system and is an index of the importance of the factor as a potential climate change mechanism, Positive forcing tends to warm the surface while negative forcing tends to cool it [from the IPCC WGI Fourth Assessment Report]

Resilience/Resilient:  The capacity of a system, community or society potentially exposed to hazards to adapt, by resisting or changing in order to reach and maintain an acceptable level of functioning and structure.  This is determined by the degree to which the social system is capable of organizing itself to increase this capacity for learning from past disasters for better future protection and to improve risk reduction measures.


[1] All definitions are taken from the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) publication, “Living with Risk: A Global Review of Disaster Reduction Initiatives.”  2004 Version





This page was last updated on Wednesday September 29, 2010.