Vulnerability refers to the possibility of a unit, person, or a system to experience harm or damage as a result of exposure to stresses or perturbations. The term may also refer to an inability to defy the challenges resulting from hostility in the environment. Harm results when enough time has elapsed to cause the reduction or compromise to the defensive measures that has been put in place. With regard to disasters and hazards, the term vulnerability is used to refer to the relationships that individuals have with environmental and social forces. In this regard, vulnerability gives an impression of multidimensionality of catastrophes as it focuses its attention on the integrality of relationships that define a social situation and environmental forces that constitutes conditions which result in disasters.
Hazard is a threat of perturbation or stress to people, environment, and property. In most instances, hazards remains dormant, and in such a state, the risk associated with this hazard is only theoretical. However, once it combined with vulnerability, the hazard becomes active, and this gives rise to an emergency situation. As indicated by the following equation, the interaction between vulnerability and hazard results in the creation of a risk. A risk is defined as the conditional magnitude of harm upon the exposure to stress or perturbation (Wisner & Ian, 2004).
As explained above, risk refers to the probability of a hazard turning disastrous. In their individual capacity, hazards and vulnerabilities are harmless. For instance, vulnerability to earthquakes does not become disastrous before it takes place. In this regard, the Haitian earthquake would not have been considered to be a risk before it had occurred. They become risky when they come together, as incorporating them may result in a disaster. Effective management practices facilitate the mitigation and prevention of risks. Such prevention commences with knowing the hazards and risks in the community. After getting the knowledge of risks and hazards, it is imperative to plan on how to reduce the risks in a manner that is easy to follow.
Protection from Hazard and Disasters in relation to Human Rights
Traditionally, responding to disasters has been regarded as a purely compassionate act towards the people in need. Although compassion ought to remain as the most important drive to humanitarian activities, it is becoming increasingly necessary to associate disasters and human rights. Incorporating the human right perspective to disasters affirms the dignity as well as the rights of vulnerable persons. In fact, such a strategy may facilitate the reduction of conflicts and disagreements in the aftermath of a disaster (Wisner & Ian, 2004).
Hazards and disasters are consequences of phenomena that overwhelm the response capacity of the afflicted individuals. For instance, if the victims of such disasters as the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the Haitian earthquake were left at the mercy of compassion, a high number the unfortunate individuals would suffer. Viewing protection from hazards and disasters from a human rights perspective prompts broadens the support, and in this regard, the victims are accorded help in an efficient manner.
The Impact of Social Class on Vulnerability to Disaster
In recent years, there have been a couple of disasters including tsunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Upon the evaluation of the havoc that has resulted from these disasters, it has become clear that they all share some aspects. The first amongst them is that they overwhelm women, elderly, children, the disadvantaged, and the disabled to a greater extent as compared to the capable members of the society. These categories of individuals are the most vulnerable as their social and economic status in the society reduces their capacity to move around. Such pieces of evidence have demonstrated that the social structure causes differential impacts on the manner in which the effects of a disaster are felt (Bohle & Watts, 1994).
With regard to social vulnerability to disasters, it is important for the society to examine cultural, social, geographical, and historical conditions that categorizes individuals before, during, as well as after the disaster. This would help the vulnerable groups to cope with hazardous situations in an enhanced manner. There should be a proper and community based mitigation strategy so as to engage the populations that are at high risk. This ought to begin with recognizing the vulnerable social groups as it would facilitate the creation of an enhanced level of mitigation, preparedness, and response.
Key elements between Dominant View and the Social Vulnerability of Disasters
With regard to the domain view, disasters are attributable to the nature. There is, however, the conviction that the society can address the disaster in an effective manner. the domain view of disasters is matter that, in most instances, is regarded as a public policy, and it is supported by advanced managerial, geotechnical, and geophysical capacities. In fact, several social scientists have argued that, normally, human activity worsens the vulnerability to disasters by default. The problem structure appears to depend on the ratio between the force of nature and the technical and institutional counterforce. Among the main constituents of the domain view of disasters are that they emphasize on natural causes and treat people individually and not as social groups.
The dominant view of disasters is understood by the technocrats, media, as well as the scientists as unexpected and unpredictable occurrences that happen naturally. Since they appear to be uninfluenced by the dairy interactions of human beings with the environment, these events are presumed to be uninfluenced by morality or culture. The dominant view considers disasters to be phenomena that are caused by nature where man has limited control. Additionally, this view does not consider disasters to be acts of God; and, therefore, it is argued that no individual can undertake actions which could result into personal harm.
Responsiveness to the Specific Needs of the Elderly and Children
Organizations in disaster planning and emergency management may enhance their responsiveness by identifying individuals who require special attention. These individuals include the elderly as well as the children. There ought to be a preparation for specialized rescue and transportation techniques so as to cater for the post-disaster needs of these needy members of the society. Indeed, it is imperative to have plans that facilitate the meeting of their needs even after the disaster has ceased.
Although most of the needs that the elderly and the children face during emergencies bear similarity with those of the general population, there are situations that require emergency managers to approach their situations with specialized attention. In this regard, meeting the needs of these specialized groups ought to address such issues as the ability of the concerned persons to interpret alarms as well as the emergency measures that have been implemented in their dwelling places. Access to information ought to be optimized as this is the only way that the children and the elderly may be accorded timely assistance in case of emergency (Gallopín & Gilberto, 2006).