Reflecting on experience: Lessons learnt and key messages from the EDUCEN project

Marta Rica (ICATALIST) and CS and WP leaders contributions

In this chapter, some reflections from EDUCEN Case Study cities are presented, with the aim to provide practice and policy advice on how to do better next time, to enable learning and replicability from the EDUCEN experience.

Better comprehending how soft and hard infrastructures interact in order to make the whole urban system more resilient in case of disaster. Lessons from L ´Aquila case study

The involvement of emergency managers helped developing the awareness on the need for an innovative approach to infrastructural resilience, moving beyond the traditional technical one. The approach based on SDM was thus highly useful to provide a formalization of the interconnections among such different dimensions concurring to resilience, and to integrate a complex set of variables.

Main conclusions drawn by emergency managers are summarized in the following:

Physical infrastructures provide a vital support to communities during emergency and recovery phases after a disaster.

On the one hand, the uninterrupted availability of critical services is a requirement to guarantee the safety and the well-being of a population when a disaster occurs and speeds up the recovery: in this direction, the technical performances of the whole infrastructural system are a key asset to deal effectively with emergencies and contribute to community resilience. On the other hand, the resilience of a community affects the level of service provided by the hard infrastructural system as well: the behaviors of the users (e.g. good practices, flexibility, …), their level of knowledge along with the skills of the authorities managing the emergency and driving decision-making – in a word, their culture - have a direct influence on the response of the hard infrastructural system.

Infrastructural systems must directly match the needs of a community, and thus should firstly reflect the spatial distribution of the served population.

Secondly, the performances of infrastructural systems should be flexible enough to evolve with time, in the aftermath of a disaster and in the recovery phase as well, since the needs of the whole system change according to the specific path of recovery determined by the specific strategies implemented.

Complex systems exposed to extreme events significantly change their state and conditions over time.

Dynamic approaches are therefore needed to analyze their evolution, since they allow describing the change of system conditions through the different phases, taking explicitly into account the impact of strategies and decisions to cope with emergency conditions (through scenario analysis).

The main outcomes discussed with practitioners are summarized in the following:

  • Classical approaches to infrastructural reliability or performance level may be limited in describing the complexity of real systems. The resilience assessment of engineering systems, such as infrastructures requires a comprehensive approach moving beyond the merely technical dimension. The ‘culture’ (of both organizations and communities) is a key asset to describe resilience. The CS allowed to broaden the perspective with specific reference to more traditional approaches to resilience, going beyond the mere analysis of the structural (or ‘technical’) dimension. The operational dimension takes into account the preparedness of the authorities to cope with emergency situation, their resourcefulness, their rapidity, the internal skills and flexibility. The social dimension is strictly connected with the capability that the community (and its sub-groups) show in dealing with emergency conditions. The economic dimension of resilience is a key driver too, either accelerating or stopping the processes related to emergency management and recovery.
  • The SDM model allows the definition of scenarios, which can be used to perform a ‘what-if’ analysis. The ‘what-if’ analysis support measuring how changes in a set of independent variables might influence dependent variables in a simulation model, to anticipate the potential evolutions of the system. This analysis is highly relevant to identify the impacts of the implementation (or absence) of specific strategies to enhance system’s resilience in all its dimensions.

Main outcomes for the local community

Finally, the analysis of the activities carried out in the L’Aquila CS allowed to identify important outcomes for the community. The discussion that took place during the participatory exercise, and the debate supported by the results of the EDUCEN analysis, make the local community aware of their role as emergency responders. Specifically, they become aware of the importance of the dense connection among different actors at local level to be used as an alternative channel to make the emergency information flowing as fast as possible. Moreover, the role of the community leaders (i.e. representative of the citizens’ associations, etc.) as crucial interface between the institutional system and the other members of the community. >That is, they could facilitate the flow of information and support the local authorities in translating technical information into understandable and actionable information for the community.

Citizens are generally the first responders when a disaster strikes, and thus represent a key ‘backup’ resource in emergency conditions with respect to official ones, supporting the operation of critical services. The existing connections within a community, and the main features of the community itself, represent a fundamental asset to deal with disasters. Referring to infrastructural systems, the behaviors of people and users of critical services are highly influential on the performance path of an infrastructural systems, either hampering or fostering the processes of recovery, and contributing to determine the entity of impacts. The available knowledge, particularly related to the memory of previous disasters, is a key issue as well, since support the citizens in developing a better awareness and in the implementation of the most suitable behaviors.

Do you want to know more? Read more about soft/hard infrastructures.

Flow of information- development of an app for citizens. Lessons from Lorca case study

Under the Educen project framework, CHS tried to improve access, especially in people with minor resources (cultural and economically) How?

  • Ways to access, minor data: Easy access, all the people know some of these data. More accesible than GIS
  • App (Smartphone) and Explanation in web. If i am walking on the field i can know exactly and in 10 seconds if i am in a hazard place.

How to analyse the network of interaction among different emergency responders and affected groups? Lessons from L’Aquila and Lorca case studies

The methodology allowed the CS to map the complexity of the interactions and, through the selection of a set of graph theory measures, to better comprehend the interaction mechanisms influencing the effectiveness of the cooperative emergency response. Training material has been developped under Educen. The objective is to enable the creation of a community of practice, composed by experts in emergency management capable to support emergency managers in better comprehending the complexity of the interaction networks.

Go to the Toolkit

The involvement of the Municipal branch of the Civil Protection Agency in the EDUCEN project allowed to establish a fruitful debate with the other institutions involved in the emergency management at urban level. The bilateral meetings and the workshops organized during the implementation of the CS activities allowed us to better comprehend the diversity of the intervention procedures for the different institutional actors. The EDUCEN activities shed a light on the complexity of the coordination activities in case of emergency, when different actors need to collaborate in order to develop a common ground of information for the implementation of the different emergency actions.

Another crucial lesson learned during the implementation of the EDUCEN project concerns the difficulties in transferring important information to the community during the different phases of the emergency.

Specifically, the meetings organized in L’Aquila CS allowed us to questioning the institutional information flow channels. The narratives collected during the CS implementation demonstrated that coupling the formal information flow channels with the existing informal networks could lead to an increase of the rapidity and effectiveness of the information sharing process.
One of the main results of the L’Aquila CS concerns the replicability of the methodologies and tools developed and/or implemented in the CS. During the implementation of EDUCEN project, two “follower” case studies were interested in implementing the methodologies for the analysis of the complexity of emergency interaction networks, i.e. Lorca (Spain – flash flood) and Valladolid (Spain – flood). Specifically, the Lorca CS allowed us to start the structuring of the training materials, whose main scope is to enable the transferability of the methodologies and tools to other contexts.

Chapter 4.3: Networks of responders

How to adapt a training model for disability inclusive disaster risk reduction? Lessons from Istanbul case study

Conveying information to people with disabilities, even in accessible formats, do not make a training program inclusive per se.

Genuine inclusiveness happens when people with disabilities can take part in any section and/or any phase of the program by their own choice and assume any role offered to other volunteers.

In other words, the host organization itself has to become inclusive. For an ONG like AKUT, this would require a significant effort at different levels, starting by the improvement of physical accessibility to the association´s premises, to the modification of the recruitment and orientation process (use of online learning tools for people with reduced mobility or sign-language translation for people with hearing impairments).

  • Inclusion is a goal that requires commitment on behalf of the organization aiming it. Unfulfilled promises and impertinence are causes of frustration for persons with disabilities, who would also be discouraged from participating to other actions in the future because of such negative experiences.
  • The tendency to see inclusion as an empathetic process is quite common. Nevertheless, inclusion is not about empathy, which can be described as the drive and the effort to understand another. This capacity is certainly relevant in the context of inclusiveness, yet the issue of DiDRM cannot stand on an individual capacity (that people might not have developed enough, also). Inclusion is based on the principle of equality between human beings and the associated human rights. People with disabilities have right to receive whatever services AKUT offers, just as they have the right to participate to any activity of the association they consider appropriate.
  • A possible pitfall in developing DiDRM actions is to design an action from which the relevant disability groups can actually benefit in isolation. The idea of designing dedicated disaster preparedness modules for different disability groups is a typical example. Such an approach would allow participants with disabilities to access to the disaster-related information and knowledge but would also separate them from the non-disabled ones, which is unacceptable and against the very concept of inclusiveness. DiDRM strategies and solutions should also aim for social cohesion and integrity in all stages of the DiDRM by emphasizing coexistence of persons with disabilities and those without.
  • Inclusion also relies on accessibility solutions. Accessibility has several dimensions and forms depending on the context and the type of disability. There is no single generic accessibility solution. Making a printed booklet accessible for people with total hearing impairments and making a training hall accessible for people with reduced mobility require different approaches, techniques and instruments. Persons with disabilities as end-users are the best guides on which tool to use. It is critical to take their suggestions into account. Members of the Istanbul Case Study team, for example, have realized that most of their ideas about accessibility tools and options were based on false assumptions.
  • Regarding the accessibility issue, people with disabilities attitude is generally realistic, as they limit their expectations depending on the context. They appreciate their non-disabled partners´ efforts for ensuring accessibility. They also tolerate, even compensate for deficiencies, provided that they consider the partner´s efforts as sincere. As for the accessibility of training materials, the most efficient strategy is to seek for usefulness. For example, a visual element does not have to be orally described for people with sight impairments if it does not have informational value.
  • DiDRM also requires commitment from people with disabilities, in the sense that their systematic presence in the DiDRM programs incite the non-disabled individuals to change their perspective on disability. People with disabilities are not necessarily dependent on others during disasters, and many are perfectly capable of assuming various roles in the DRM actions. Yet, their is need for demonstration of this capacity, which requires continuous, active participation by people with disabilities.
  • DiDRM is about mutual learning as well. No matter how efficient an organization is in the disaster preparedness and response, it needs the life-knowledge (and support) of people with disabilities to become inclusive. This is only possible through integration and dialogue.

Read more about Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk reduction

How to operationalize culture as an asset for DRR? Lessons from Volos case study

Past disasters are fast forgotten especially in the face of new risks and developmental challenges. When present generations have no disaster experience, cultural memory can become a key tool for DRR.

If revealed and operationalized, cultural memory of disasters is a valuable asset in rising disaster risk up in the hierarchy of perceived risks, especially in times when every day socioeconomic risks prevail. Commemoration of past disasters and shedding light to tangible and intangible marks they left in society and in the city is a path towards engaging cultural memory in DRR.

The identification of marks of cultural memory in society and in the city takes much effort especially for non-locals; it is the locals who should lead the way in investigating how past crises and disasters were embedded in history and how cultural memory is registered in the various pieces of the mosaic comprising the city.

The DRR community should recognise the potential role of museums (and especially of city museums and history museums) in preserving cultural memory of past crisis and disasters and make efforts to reach joint win-win solutions towards utilising cultural memory for DRR. A mediator (a wiling and knowledgeable external agent) may facilitate bypassing the separation between the two fields.

Cultural memory of disasters and crises is grounded on historic facts and local knowledge and manifests itself tangibly and intangibly. In addition, various communities, social groups, places hold different memories of disasters. Therefore one should not expect one-size-fits-all solutions towards enabling cultural memory for disaster reduction and disaster management.

Determining urban cultures and communities to improve communication regarding DRR. Lessons from Dordrecht case study

The main vulnerabilities of Dordrecht are its location within the delta and the fact that it is an island. Due to these factors in combination with the short prediction time of extreme storm events (1-2 days in advance) and dangerous weather conditions during storms, preventive evacuation of inhabitants of the island of Dordrecht is very limited

The main vulnerabilities of Dordrecht are its location within the delta and the fact that it is an island. Due to these factors in combination with the short prediction time of extreme storm events (1-2 days in advance) and dangerous weather conditions during storms, preventive evacuation of inhabitants of the island of Dordrecht is very limited. It is estimated that preventive evacuation is possible for 12% of the population. There is a realistic chance that the evacuation would lead to traffic jams on the island, due to the fact that the neighboring municipalities are also threatened in such a situation and road capacity towards the safer areas is limited.

Actively transmitting cultural memory of disasters to next generations remains a large challenge in Dordrecht with regard to flood experiences. The municipality has explored the experiences of elderly with regard to the 1953 event and how these experiences shape their current attitudes and perceptions of flood risk management.

The next step is to apply the knowledge and awareness of elderly people to increase flood risk awareness among other populations in Dordrecht, particularly to youngsters. Youths present an valuable target group for several reasons. First, they do not seem aware of water related risks in the city. Second, they are relatively easy to reach through schools or sports, and third, it is expected that they can transmit their knowledge to their parents and families, ensuring a considerable reach.

Educen partners developed a game inspired in Dordrecht. This game uses memory on disaster and risk already present in the city to enhance disaster risk awareness among all residents via young people. Games are very well suited for transferring knowledge. Games have a positive contribution to the learning process because they are experimental, the players can experience complex situations and test new strategies without having to deal with the real consequences of their decisions. Serious games furthermore create a fun environment which facilitates debate between people who are not otherwise not brought together. For these reasons, serious gaming as a learning approach can be particularly relevant in cultural memory.

How to co-develop methods to assess post-flood damage? Lessons from Umbria case study

The Umbria Region case study is the only one within EDUCEN that deals with a region and not with a city. If from a geographic and territorial perspective, the case is a relevant an example of a tiny net of villages and towns connected by a dense network of regional, municipal and secondary roads, from a political and administrative standpoint it shares with all other regions in Italy the same functionality and the same types of administrative structures.

The main objective of the work carried out in the case study has been the joint development of tools and methods to collect, store, structure post-flood damage data and then analyse such data in order to obtain a comprehensive representation of the damage, including as far as possible also indication regarding indirect damage.

One of the Key messages from the Umbria Case Study is Better damage and loss data are important to support a number of policies, from international, such as the indicators of the Sendai Framework for DRR, to European, to national. At the latter and at regional levels better damage data are not useful only for accounting purposes, but to support a more resilient recovery and reconstruction as the case of the Central Italy earthquake clearly shows in our own reconstruction of the event for the Umbria Region. Enhanced damage data are fundamental for evidence based decisions regarding mitigation measures, to better understand damage mechanisms so as to reduce pre-event vulnerabilities and also for improving risk assessments that need to be more contextualized fully acknowledging the characteristics of the built environment and of urban and regional fabric.

Read the Umbria case study

How to understand organizational culture and roles during mega events? Lessons from Milan case study

Hosting a mega-event brings a major challenge to meet resilience targets due to the >increased exposure of the population, including both inhabitants of the city and tourists/visitors coming to the event. That tremendous increase of exposed population from different cultures does not necessarily add new risks, but concentrates the current risks in the city in one place

The overall purpose of the Milan Expo case study is to have a clear understanding of the role of organizations in relation to the technical systems they operate and the reaction of users coming from different cultures to any kind of disruption in the system. The case study includes stakeholders and experts who have been involved in the Milan Expo activity. Having meetings with these actors has helped us to understand the differences between the conceptual frameworks and maps that have been prepared following normative patterns (rules, roles, actions), and the actual situation during EXPO that was encountered. Indeed, the findings of the case study suggest several courses of action for decision makers and emergency planners. Exploring the following as future strategies can facilitate the attainment of resilience.

Mega-events such as EXPO and the Olympic Games require the involvement of several stakeholders working together for the same overall purpose, with the responsibility of the diverse target groups with different resources. If the mega-events are handled well politically, organizationally and structurally, they provide great advantages for social, structural and economic challenges. Such events also help promote international programs, especially an EXPO about nutrition and sustainability, which helps to make effective development strategies and establish networks in the environmental field. Networks will likely take on an increasingly significant role for DRR, including CCA, because of their capacity to bring stakeholders together to share experiences and increase the knowledge base, and thus facilitate improved decision-making by stakeholders in policy and practice.

Lessons learnt from the Zombie game in Valladolid.

This game revealed the importance of the availability of information about the risk you are exposed to, in order to have a correct preparation and response; The importance of drills so that people are trained on how to act; The importance of trust in people with disabilities; The importance of the perception of authority with signals (uniforms, public address) to get people to collaborate. In addition, it was concluded that aspects of cultural taboos and disabilities are not currently resolved in Civil Protection and is an aspect to be improved.

Lessons Learnt from the Flood game in Valladolid.

The game revealed the importance of the collaboration and negotiation of all agents. It highlighted the difficulty to maintain a high level of well-being and for making individual decisions regarding the use of economic resources to increase the level of protection that guarantees well-being. It also showed how collaboration and collective decision-making lead to better solutions and a higher level of protection compared to individual decisions. Finally, it was concluded that collective decisions between citizens and administrations led to more efficient solutions and increased welfare.

Key messages from Educen main themes

  • The EDUCEN work package on Culture & Memory highlights that communities learn from their disaster history and adapt their behavior and building techniques, thereby shaping disaster ‘subcultures’. Memories serve as a knowledge repository which provides communities with crucial information on potential hazards in their area and hazard mitigation. Moreover, memories disaster provides people with an explanation, -supernatural, religious, or scientific-, enabling people to mitigate trauma and stimulating acceptance of the event.
  • The Work Package stipulates that memories from previous disaster play an important role in determining the way people engage in disaster management practices and accept disaster relief in an emergency situation. It is therefore vital that response agencies become aware of, and accept the different logics and rationalities that people rely on when faced with disaster.
  • We found that memories from previous disaster manifest itself in different forms. They can be found in the form of museums, monuments, architectural adaptations, or high water marks, but they may also be found in stories, songs, myths, or theatre shows.
  • Having disaster risk management informed by cultural memory and its potential impact may help to reduce misunderstandings and inefficiencies and improve communication and interaction between disaster managers and local communities.
  • The Work Package stipulates that memories can be used a positive force in reducing disaster risk. Disaster risk managers may for example build on them to improve disaster risk awareness among populations in hazard prone areas. We identified several ways to use memories of previous disaster as an asset in disaster risk reduction: through linking up with museums, by organizing a walking tour exploring cultural memory, and by playing a serious game on cultural memory. The methods have been tested in the EDUCEN case studies of Dordrecht, the Netherlands, and Volos, Greece.
  • Cultural heritage plays an important role in societies and community wellbeing. The loss and deterioration of heritage can seriously affect local and national communities as it has important symbolic and material importance for community identity, often has strong economic value for cities, and may serve as a source of resilience to communities.
  • Disasters therefore not only cause material damage to heritage sites but they may also severely affect the livelihoods linked to cultural heritage and the incomes generated through tourism.
  • The Work Package on Culture and Memory also dealt with civil-military interaction in domestic disaster. Research was conducted in L’Aquila, Italy and in Marken, the Netherlands. It was found that challenges arise regarding the sharing of key information and that collaborating organizations are not always aware of the technical details of each other’s material. Moreover, communication problems (jargon) and issues regarding task division and responsibility may arise.
  • An important way to resolve such problems is the organization of exercises. As the organization of large scale exercises is expensive, however, sharing information between civilian and military organizations could therefore also be done in a more cost effective way: by sharing a scripted event and discussing how the respective organizations would deal with the event, what material and/or machines they would use, and when they would be able to be at the scene. This allows organizations to get to know each other but also enables them to identify when and where they could supplement one another in the case of a disastrous event.
  • The activities regarding civil military interaction in domestic disaster also revealed the importance of having local responders present at the disaster scene. They are often trusted, and speak the same dialect. Local responders therefore may provide a sense of comfort and understanding to the affected people. Collaboration between such local responder organizations, whose members often work on a voluntary basis, and outside responders may play an important role in comforting victims and has also proven to be very functional. Local responders in L’Aquila for example helped outside responders finding their way in and around the city.

Over-reliance on biophysical data and inadequate appreciation of the diversity of ways decisions are made at all levels of society can often lead to policy failures. This applies also to the field of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), as using relevant science and technology to support local communities at risk is not fully effective without understanding the social and cultural contexts at the community level.

When that understanding is present, achieved through participatory knowledge exchange with these communities, the accessibility, usability and legitimacy of disaster risk information improves dramatically. However, high costs of gathering data related to how various members of society actually think and decide can often hamper the efforts to work within such an approach. This raises the question: Can we lower the costs of understanding disaster risk socio-cultural contexts through experience? Tools like policy exercises and serious games emerged to fill this gap.

Policy exercises and games can help the experts understand the cultural factors behind decisions of community members. They can also be used to train the communities to make them prepared for disasters. Games can be adapted to address diverse attitudes, perceptions, behavior and cultural values and beliefs within the various communities. Empathy training is not something that can be done passively. The best way to understand somebody’s emotions, decisions and motivations is to put oneself into this someone’s shoes.

Games offer an opportunity for the experts or the local stakeholders to experience the specific situation from different points of view than their own. The range of how this approach can be used is very wide: from a simple game that allows evacuation experts to experience the evacuation efforts from a disabled person’s side, to a policy exercise that confronts e.g. the local community members with dilemmas faced by the immigrants with no knowledge of local language. This direct experience provided by games, followed by reflection, may lead to a change of attitudes and the emergence of new perspectives.

Cities have never been just sets of buildings and infrastructure only; cities are the sum of individual components, consisting of services, residential dwellings, production sites and people. All throughout history, cities have always been among the most complex institutions created by humanity.

The urban fabric is the result of a specific spatial organization of buildings, assets, open spaces and infrastructures. It corresponds not only to a predefined design, but also to subsequent adaptation to emerging needs, to the way people use buildings and places and, finally, to the features of the natural environment of a city, including the density of buildings, the prevailing typology of the road network, i.e. ring, grid or linear, and the width of the streets in comparison with the height of the buildings, and how these affect the emergency response procedure.

Social factors relate to how the social groups in the city that increasingly pertain so to multiple cultural origins, interact. Social factors are also important to explain how cities are managed, not only with respect to risks, but in all aspects of contemporary life. Besides, social factors influence social vulnerability to disasters.

Economic Factors: Cities were initially mainly a market place, but have become in the modern times a place of production, and more recently a place of services ranging from basic to high level, such as educational and innovation centers. In today’s context, some cities have become very specialized, such as trade cities, port cities, finance cities, political and administrative nodes, religious destinations, etc. Such specialization entails a different city culture, with important consequences as to how cities interact with each other and in the way they interact with “nature”.

The natural environment: More neglected has been the relationship between the natural and the man-made environments of cities, but it is rather evident that nature has constrained and still does constrain urban morphology. Furthermore, the link that has been established between natural and man-made environments has led towards sustainable development and less exposure and vulnerability to natural hazards.

Spatial and temporal multi-scalar features of todays’ cities: Contemporary cities need to be comprehended as nodes acting on multiple scales in space and time, depending on their connections with their surroundings. We cannot limit the consideration to “local” aspects, because nowadays local, regional, national and global levels are interconnected, though in different ways for metropolitan and central areas and for small-medium towns and marginal and non-central areas.

Mega-events and cities: Mega-events are marketing tools for cities to make them globally significant and attract national and international interest from all over the world. Mega-events are also engines for the structural development of cities, as economic resources gained by mega-events are used to activate urban development. Mega-events include the notion of culture in terms of two perspectives; organizational culture and culture in hard infrastructure. The former is about the cooperation of several national and international organizations to achieve a successful mega-event. The latter is about improving the structural condition of a city, as to obtain a mega-event, a well-maintained infrastructure system is a must. However, having good quality infrastructure is not sufficient for being a part of this worldwide competition and hosting a mega-event. Providing resilience against disruption to infrastructure and services is also imperative to ensure the competitive advantage of cities, as well as the safety and security of infrastructures.

Resilient cities: bridging between urban policies for security, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. In this regard, in addition to the EU Directives, other important political processes at higher levels can be included here; for example, Sendai Framework, the Resilient Cities Campaign or the Hyogo Framework of Action that dictate important trajectories for making cities and communities better equipped to face and cope with crises. On the other hand, security, safety and adaptation concerns cannot be underestimated in ordinary city management and urban planning.

  • The WP on culture and learning has highlighted that formal policy processes limited to the public sector are not sufficient to improve and strengthen current disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategies. Civil society and local entrepreneurs are important actors to engage in the development of strategies as well as during the disaster response and recovery.
  • There is a need to better integrate the knowledges and activities of different communities of science, policy, and practice across sectors, with stronger focus on the needs and priorities of the people at risk. On-the-ground learning needs to better inform decision-making by translating tacit knowledge into policy and practice. This could be facilitated through increased civil society participation or public-private partnerships. Additionally, networks of experts, like EDUCEN, provide important ‘safe spaces’ for people from different groups and sectors to share their experiences and, this way, bridge different organizational and social cultures.
  • In order to incorporate culture into DRR, there is a need to better understand how local culture affects the vulnerability and resilience of people at risk. We also need to better understand how different organizational cultures within organizations engaged in DRR shape the formulation of problems, strategies, policies, and interventions to reduce risk.
  • DRR needs to be more inclusive and incorporate a broader spectrum of civil society actors. WP4 identified the role of gatekeepers and volunteers as crucial for establishing trust and improving risk communication and management.
    • By involving gatekeepers or local leaders, a more inclusive DRR process is likely to improve authorities’ engagement with groups that might otherwise be difficult to reach.
    • Increased contact with gatekeepers can improve awareness raising campaigns and make them more effective because of increased trust in and ownership of the risk management process and because campaigns can be better tailored to the needs of different social groups at risk.
    • Engaging volunteers in DRR efforts through locally-relevant policy and practice, more comprehensive training for volunteers, better systems and databases that allow for better coordination, and by building relations between volunteer organizations and local communities can help harmonize disaster relief efforts and create more local acceptable for volunteers’ role during the emergency phase.
  • There are stark contextual (Northern – Southern Europe) contrasts in disaster risk governance that to a large extent are influenced by places’ cultural memory of risk. This includes values and perceptions towards the role and type of government; and traditions, attitudes and values towards civil society involvement in DRR. While this could pose challenges for operationalizing global frameworks like the Sendai Framework for DRR, the insights from WP4 identified considerable opportunities for cross-case learning and exchange of experiences on ways of utilizing culture for improved DRR.
  • Cooperation between the public-private sectors is increasingly necessary to facilitate knowledge transfer. For example, improved cooperation of government agencies with insurance companies could provide better data on levels of vulnerability and resilience; cooperation with consultancy firms and the IT sector could enable a transfer of technologies for improved awareness rising through social media and mobile and other applications; stronger cooperation with research centers and universities could provide authorities with a complementary resource to generate necessary knowledge or technologies (e.g. through doctoral or master students) and additionally provide a much needed link between research and practice.

The analysis of the 2009 experiences allows to draw some preliminary conclusions concerning the main issues that need to be addressed in order to enhance the management of the different phases of the disaster risk reduction:

  • The main characteristics of the socio-cultural networks – i.e. trust, obligations, norms, etc. – affect the effectiveness of the risk information and warning dissemination strategies, and, thus, the capability of the different actors to react in time and properly to the emergency, reducing the disaster impacts;
  • Formal and informal interaction networks co-exist during an emergency. The 2009 earthquake experiences demonstrate how the official information sharing strategies and interaction protocol could fail or, simply, have a limited effectiveness. Nevertheless, informal interaction mechanisms were activated by both institutional and non-institutional actors, allowing the flow of information and the cooperative emergency management;
  • L’Aquila experience supports the understanding of the dynamic nature of the socio-cultural networks, and the impacts of stress – i.e. a disaster – on their characteristics. The social structure is created through cross-scale relationships between people and organizations and encompasses interactions with information/knowledge and social learning processing.
  • A strong connection exists between soft and hard infrastructures: the reliability of physical infrastructures during the emergency management contributed to mobilize the social capital through the social network. Similarly, the resilience of the community conditioned the level of service provided by the infrastructure.

Community and social networks

The restoration of social networks in disaster impacted areas depends on obtaining goods and capitals, and on governmental policies; however, the characteristics of the community in which the business is located, may significantly condition recovery process and related strategies.

Disasters thus cause short- and long-term effects on social structures as well. Establishing causal relationships in social network formation and dynamics is difficult because of the complexity of engineering social relations in a controlled environment. The negative consequences people experience in any disaster are conditioned by their perceptions of risk and their vulnerability, and how these factors influence their ability to make and carry out decisions.

Among the emerging lessons in the immediate and long-term aftermath of disasters is the role that community organizations and community-based networks play in all stages of disaster preparedness and recovery. Community responses demonstrate the importance of local knowledge, resources, and cooperative strategies in determining their survival and recovery. Recovery processes are also closely coupled with preexisting conditions of community and social networks.