Natural disasters


Vulnerability and Resilience



Gerhard Chroust, Institute for Telecooperation, Johannes Kepler University Linz
Marianne Penker, Institute for Sustainable Economic Development, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna


Natural disasters seemingly have become increasingly more frequent and devastating during the last decades, endangering a growing number of people and areas in various ways. Disasters results from unpredictable events which bring a system into an unacceptable state, from which the system has difficulties to recover on its own. The concepts of resilience and vulnerability address the fundamental unpredictability of disasters. Rather, than seeking optimal solutions, these concepts emphasize the need to enable the adaptability and transformability of systems.

Despite diverging definitions, resilience is usually understood as the ability of a system to withstand disasters and to remain or re-transform in an acceptable state on its own. The overlapping, albeit diverging concept of vulnerability is usually defined as a function of exposure (towards a disaster), sensitivity (towards a disaster, e.g. the number of people, businesses affected) and adaptive capacity (as the ability of a system to react on the effects of a disaster).

The analysis of a system’s vulnerabilities in relation to potential hazards is essential both for establishing resilience and for preventing/mitigating potential disasters. It allows to plan/execute emergency reactions to and restoration after a disaster and to plan future countermeasures, thus strengthening the resilience of a system. This analysis must include chains of potential secondary hazards (‘domino effect’) triggered by the primary hazard and must include all levels of stakeholders from individual victims to the society at large.

Today’s information and communication technologies (ICT) can support and improve above activities, sometimes in ways not anticipated before due to speedy aggregation and presentation of data and information supported by effective communications and co-ordination of various organizations and stakeholders involved, offering improved systemic interpretation, assessment and decision making in disaster situations. At the same time the ICT-systems themselves are an added vulnerability in our modern society.

Target groups

This track intends to trigger an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas by including persons with different viewpoints and experience like practitioners, system scientists, ICT-specialists, planners and human factor specialists.

Subjects and scope

Potential topics (not excluding others) are:

  • Identification of primary and secondary hazards and their impact. Identification of chains of potential hazards and resulting interacting disasters
  • Analysis of the exposure, sensitivity and/or adaptive capacity of different systems (countries, regions, cities, organizations) towards disasters
  • Analysis of resilience in relation to potential disasters, their origins, interactions and effects causing wide-area system challenges,
  • ICT support to support prediction, tactical and strategic planning for improved adaptive capacities (victim detection, tracking of stake holders, transport logistics, …),
  • Psychological and cultural aspects of disaster management,
  • Analysis of deficiencies and improvement of organizational structures on all levels,
  • Warning and protection systems for all involved persons and First Responders,
  • Current Disaster Management Research Programs in the EU and its national members.


The track will consist of presentations and ample time for discussion of the presentations.


Important Dates

Submission deadline: 27 February 2015
Notification of acceptance: 20 March 2015