As we reflect on the disaster caused by the Nepal earthquake, seismically triggered landslides and avalanches, and extend our sympathy and offer assistance to the people affected, we must recognise that the inevitability of such an event was well understood by scientists (see the research of Roger Bilham for instance), even if they didn’t know the timing. Following the UNISDR World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai in March, science, technology and health research will have far greater prominence, globally, in preparing for disasters. But we must be wary of science scare stories such as “climate-change earthquake triggers” (yes, half the UK’s small earthquakes do result from rebound of the Earth’s crust following the ice age). They detract from the analysis of the tectonic drivers of major earthquakes that has transformed earthquake science in the last decade. While the well-known statement that “earthquakes don't kill people, buildings do” is true, it is also not the full truth. We can see in Nepal the destruction caused by landslides, the blocking of communication lines, the potential for outburst floods and the damage to water supplies and sanitation, with their attendant health issues. It is now recognised that there is a need for natural scientists, social scientists, engineers, communities at risk and policy-makers to come together to address disaster risk reduction and disaster response and reconstruction. The UK has long-standing engagement with research in Nepal through the NERC-ESRC Earthquakes without Frontiers natural/social science consortium, in earthquake engineering and with the UCL Institute for Global Health which works on mother-child health. At UCL, just before the Nepal earthquake and with the Ebola crisis still fresh in our minds, it had already been agreed that there should be a discussion, within the remit of the UCL Grand Challenges, on how we should respond across the whole institution. To this end the IRDR will be convening a forum over the summer. So if you wish to be involved, please get in touch.
The 2015 UCL IRDR Fifth Annual Conference, on Thursday 25th June, will have a strong science theme, with a keynote address by the Government Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Sir Mark Walport, FRS on “Communicating Risk and Hazard to Policy Makers”. The Annual Conference again promises to be a lively mix of discussions around contentious issues and new developments, including an “in conversation” interview on the Ebola crisis. For the poster session, we welcome contributions on the theme of calculating, portraying, understanding and reducing risk. The Annual Conference is a public forum, open to the UCL community, our collaborators and associates, and researchers and practioners from industry, NGOs, and government and the general public.
The UCL IRDR Third Academic Summit will be held on Wednesday 24th June on Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience: Strengthening the Links between Academics and Practitioners. The summit, which is co-sponsored by the Institute for Civil Protection and Emergency Management (ICPEM), is an opportunity for academics and practitioners to get together and share information, knowledge and expertise. Its main purpose is to debate the most important issues that academics face as they collaborate in order to make disaster risk reduction and resilience a thriving discipline that serves the needs of users and society. Students will play a key role as they inaugurate a pan-European student network.
Both events will be held at UCL and are free and open to all, but registration is required (see event listings column to the right)
New appointments: We are delighted to announce that Stephen Kirby, eminent emeritus scientist at the US Geological Survey, including as a member of their Strategic Planning Team for Natural Hazards, has been appointed as UCL Honorary professor. Steve will engage both with experimental research in the IRDR and the Department of Earth Sciences, and more broadly in disaster risk reduction strategy. Omar Velazquez and Linghui (Ivy) Zhou (both jointly with Civil Engineering) and Justine Uyimleshi have recently started PhDs in the IRDR.
Director, UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction