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The definition of disaster risk

2018-09-06  |   Editor : houguangbing  

The Chinese character “fengxian” in English is the word “risk”, which comes from the ancient Italian "Riscare", meaning "To dare". Actually, it refers to risk taking, which is the initiative behavior of stakeholders. The term modern "risk" has no meaning of "adventure". The discussion on risk in the West was first seen in the late nineteenth Century's economic research. Even in 1895, the American scholar J. Haynes, in his book “Risk as an Economic Factor”, states that risk means the possibility of damage.

What is the risk of natural disasters? There are different understandings in different academic backgrounds or different research perspectives, and these understandings are not likely to be fully unified, as stated in the American Risk Society (1981). The Webster's dictionary (1989) defines risk as the possibility of injury or loss; the insurance industry defines it as the possibility of harm or loss; the environmentalism regards it as the degree of adverse effects on human society in the future; Wilson (1987) believes that the nature of the risk is uncertainty and the risk is defined as the expected value; the United Nations Humanitarian Affairs Bureau, in the book ““Reducing Natural Disasters: Phenomena, Effects, and Options” in 1991, mentioned the natural disaster risk is the expected loss of casualties, property damage, and disruption of economic activities caused by disasters in a given area at a specific time.

Although there is no strict definition of "risk" at present, the basic meanings of all the above definitions are the same or similar, which all contain similar keywords: "the possibility of loss" (expected value). Actually, risk assessment is to estimate the possible losses caused by disasters, or a possible impact of disasters on human society. We use the definition of risk in the vocabulary published by Swiss Re (2005): “A state of possibility of loss in the real world”. It is a state of possibility, not a situation that actually occurs. Due to differences in human disaster prevention capabilities and the implementation of disaster prevention measures, the state of the possibility may not occur or partially occur. So the loss may be an expected value, or it could be a partial or even no loss.

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