This article has been published in Enabling Education Review 5
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Disaster risk education: An important process in preparing for emergencies

Su Corcoran

An emergencies-focused edition of Enabling Education Review would not be complete without addressing the topic of disaster risk reduction (DRR) education. In this article, Su introduces the need for policies and strategies regarding prevention, preparation and appropriate responses to emergencies and disasters that include people with disabilities, and highlights some useful resources for those wishing to learn more.

What is disaster risk reduction?
Disasters strike at any time, affecting communities across the globe. An earthquake may be unpredictable, and climate change means large weather events, such as cyclones and flooding, are becoming stronger and more frequent. However, it is the response to such events that determines the size of the disaster.

Disasters affect a community’s vulnerability and their ability to cope with the situation. In most cases, the poorest and most vulnerable communities are affected the most. Through policy and programmes developed to build a community’s resilience, and prepare them for potential situations, it is possible to reduce the impact of disasters in the future.

DRR is based on three core areas: prevention, mitigation and preparedness. For example, landslides can be prevented by planting trees on hillsides. The risk of flooding can be reduced (mitigated) by engineering artificial flood management structures, like embankments along rivers. Education plays a key role in being prepared for a disaster: it involves the development of early warning systems, evacuation plans, and appropriate training for communities.

Making provision for people with disabilities
Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB) is working with partners in Indonesia and the Philippines. It promotes the inclusive development of policy and practical DRR solutions, through collaboration with governments, NGOs, academia, and disabled people’s organisations.1

In developing people’s resilience to disasters, inclusive solutions require those most at-risk to be able to participate actively and meaningfully.

For example, if we consider the scenario of a child who has difficulty walking, they will have difficulty evacuating independently from their school or home after an earthquake. To develop their resilience, it is important to ask:

  • How will you protect yourself during the earthquake?
  • How will you evacuate after the earthquake and before a potential tsunami?

Their answers will help inform a plan that considers, in advance, any assistance that will be needed.

ASB combines its understanding of the environment with an understanding of functioning, to consider the potential barriers an individual may face and develop a framework to guide its work. For example, a disaster disrupts the environment. From a DRR perspective, if this disruption further limits an individual’s functioning, it increases their disability, potentially putting them at a disproportionate risk. However, girls, boys, women and men with disabilities are no strangers to risk, and managing risk is often a part of everyday life. This means they have expertise and experiences that can inform and improve DRR, in schools and in the community. Effective consultation and participation is therefore vital.

Resources for inclusive disaster risk education
Once DRR solutions have been developed though participatory and collaborative ways, it is important to educate individuals and communities about them. Two videos developed by ASB, to raise awareness of DRR and disabilities, can be found in EENET’s online video catalogue: (

  • DRR and inclusive education: widening access for children with disabilities – This video provides an overview of the introduction of practical DRR to over 120 inclusive schools in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
  • Non-verbal communication for earthquake safety tips – This shows the use of non-verbal communication in earthquake preparedness by the Deaf Art Community.

1Information on and ASB guide to using the Washington group questions in DRR (