New textbook examines natural disaster and risk management in Canada

Disaster and emergency management Professor Nirupama Agrawal’s new book, Natural Disasters and Risk Management in Canada (2018), offers wide-ranging information on a variety of hazards, including both the scientific and social aspects.

Professor Nirupama Agrawal at the caldera of the largest active volcano in Japan, Mount Aso. The volcano last erupted
in October 2016 launching volcanic ash 11km into the sky.

The book, designed for students, researchers and practitioners, covers both natural and technological disasters, as well as where the two intersect. Large, medium and small-scale hazards are examined, while case studies provide working examples of theoretical concepts.

“Disaster risks have long been underestimated and undermanaged due to lack of awareness and understanding of their devastating consequences on people, infrastructure, and the environment,” says Agrawal, who teaches in York University’s School of Administrative Studies. “When I started teaching disaster risk management at York, I was convinced that if we invested the appropriate time and resources into conducting research and filling in the long-standing knowledge gaps and, perhaps more importantly, that if we improved awareness through education and the involvement of communities in the management of their own risks, we could take large steps forward in mitigating disaster impacts worldwide.”

In Agrawal’s quest to accomplish these goals, she was inspired by and looked to guidance from the famous American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, who said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Natural Disasters and Risk Management in Canada is Agrawal’s way of motivating her peers and students to continually aim for excellence in their field.

Readers can expect to learn about early warning systems and the best practices to deal with permanent hazards, such as tides, wind waves, coastal erosion and climate change; evanescent hazards, including droughts, sea level rise, and coastal subsidence; and episodic hazards, for example hurricanes, winter storms, tsunamis and river floods.

Readers will also gain knowledge of theoretical and practical concepts of risk evaluation, a better understanding of disaster dynamics, and the necessary skills to quantify disaster risk and vulnerability.

Agrawal outlines how risk reduction and capacity building initiatives, that take into account the participation and perception of stakeholders, can help build communities and cities that are resilient to disasters.