What is disaster risk reduction (or DRR)? There are various definitions in the technical literature, but it is broadly understood to mean the development and application of policies, strategies, and practices to reduce vulnerabilities and disaster risks throughout society. The term ‘disaster risk management (DRM) is often used in the same context, referring to a systematic approach to identifying, assessing, and reducing risks. DRM is more focused on the practical implementation of initiatives to achieve DRR goals, but there is some overlap between the two terms and in practice, they are sometimes used quite loosely or flexibly, with very similar meanings. In this book, the term DRR is applied in the broader sense to cover policy, strategic, institutional, and operational issues (reflecting the wide scope of the book itself), whilst the term DRM is used more specifically to refer to aspects of operational practice. But a key point about both terms is that they describe a very broad-based approach to the causes of disasters and dealing with their consequences.
The basic principle underlying this is that disaster programming should adopt a risk management approach – i.e. a systematic approach to identifying, assessing, and reducing risks associated with hazards and human activities. Risk management should be an integral part of the way organizations do their work: not an add-on or a one-off action but a process of constant improvement. The risk management approach recognizes that there is a wide range of geological, meteorological, environmental, technological, socio-economic, and political threats to society. Risks are located at the point where hazards, communities, and environments interact, and so effective risk management must address all of these aspects. Disasters are seen not as one-off events to be responded to, but as deep-rooted and longer-term problems that must be planned for. Effective risk management generally involves a variety of different but related actions. Such integrated approaches work best when they are informed by specific local conditions and targeted towards local needs.