Improving capability assessments for disaster risk management

Abstract: There is an urgent need for society to find more effective ways to reduce the impact of disastrous events. One way is to proactively increase actors’ response capability. Capability assessments play an essential role in these disaster risk management efforts. Currently, capability is assessed using indicator and index methods that focus on available resources. Such methods may not provide the best guidance to decision-makers when selecting measures to increase capability. The reason for this is that they do not explicitly relate capability to the impact of disasters. Therefore, in an attempt to improve capability assessments, this research proposes a new definition and description of capability. The new definition is tested in several experimental studies, to investigate whether further work on the topic is warranted. The results suggest that the proposed approach provides better guidance to decision-makers who are seeking to proactively increase the response capability. These initial results suggest that additional research to extend this view of capability is warranted. Overall, this research provides a better understanding of the current use of capability assessments, and clarifies their potential role in disaster risk management. The proposed definition may be useful in this context, as current practice seems to encourage compliance and complacency among actors tasked with assessing capability. Such behaviour could hinder efforts that aim to reduce losses from disasters.