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International Recovery Platform


List of terms in recovery.



The restoration, and improvement where appropriate, of facilities, livelihoods and living conditions of disaster-affected communities, including efforts to reduce disaster risk factors.

The recovery task of rehabilitation and reconstruction begins soon after the emergency phase has ended, and should be based on pre-existing strategies and policies that facilitate clear institutional responsibilities for recovery action and enable public participation. Recovery programmes, coupled with the heightened public awareness and engagement after a disaster, afford a valuable opportunity to develop and implement disaster risk reduction measures and to apply the “build back better” principle.

Residual risk

The risk that remains in unmanaged form, even when effective disaster risk reduction measures are in place, and for which emergency response and recovery capacities must be maintained.

The presence of residual risk implies a continuing need to develop and support effective capacities for emergency services, preparedness, response and recovery together with socio-economic policies such as safety nets and risk transfer mechanisms.


The ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate to and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of its essential basic structures and functions.

Resilience means the ability to “resile from” or “spring back from” a shock. The resilience of a community in respect to potential hazard events is determined by the degree to which the community has the necessary resources and is capable of organizing itself both prior to and during times of need.


The provision of emergency services and public assistance during or immediately after a disaster in order to save lives, reduce health impacts, ensure public safety and meet the basic subsistence needs of the people affected.

Disaster response is predominantly focused on immediate and short-term needs and is sometimes called “disaster relief”. The division between this response stage and the subsequent recovery stage is not clear-cut. Some response actions, such as the supply of temporary housing and water supplies, may extend well into the recovery stage.

Retrofitting (or upgrading)

Reinforcement or upgrading of existing structures to become more resistant and resilient to the damaging effects of hazards.

Retrofitting requires consideration of the design and function of the structure, the stresses that the structure may be subject to from particular hazards or hazard scenarios, and the practicality and costs of different retrofitting options. Examples of retrofitting include adding bracing to stiffen walls, reinforcing pillars, adding steel ties between walls and roofs, installing shutters on windows, and improving the protection of important facilities and equipment.


The combination of the probability of an event and its negative consequences.

This definition closely follows the definition of the ISO/IEC Guide 73. The word “risk” has two distinctive connotations: in popular usage the emphasis is usually placed on the concept of chance or possibility, such as in “the risk of an accident”; whereas in technical settings the emphasis is usually placed on the consequences, in terms of “potential losses” for some particular cause, place and period. It can be noted that people do not necessarily share the same perceptions of the significance and underlying causes of different risks.

See other risk-related terms in the Terminology: Acceptable risk; Corrective disaster risk management; Disaster risk; Disaster risk management; Disaster risk reduction; Disaster risk reduction plans; Extensive risk; Intensive risk; Prospective disaster risk management; Residual risk; Risk assessment; Risk management; Risk transfer.

Risk assessment/analysis

A methodology to determine the nature and extent of risk by analysing potential hazards and evaluating existing conditions of vulnerability that together could potentially harm exposed people, property, services, livelihoods and the environment on which they depend.

Risk assessments (and associated risk mapping) include: a review of the technical characteristics of hazards such as their location, intensity, frequency and probability; the analysis of exposure and vulnerability including the physical social, health, economic and environmental dimensions; and the evaluation of the effectiveness of prevailing and alternative coping capacities in respect to likely risk scenarios. This series of activities is sometimes known as a risk analysis process.

Risk management

The systematic approach and practice of managing uncertainty to minimize potential harm and loss.

Risk management comprises risk assessment and analysis, and the implementation of strategies and specific actions to control, reduce and transfer risks. It is widely practiced by organizations to minimise risk in investment decisions and to address operational risks such as those of business disruption, production failure, environmental damage, social impacts and damage from fire and natural hazards. Risk management is a core issue for sectors such as water supply, energy and agriculture whose production is directly affected by extremes of weather and climate.

Risk transfer

The process of formally or informally shifting the financial consequences of particular risks from one party to another whereby a household, community, enterprise or state authority will obtain resources from the other party after a disaster occurs, in exchange for ongoing or compensatory social or financial benefits provided to that other party.

Insurance is a well-known form of risk transfer, where coverage of a risk is obtained from an insurer in exchange for ongoing premiums paid to the insurer. Risk transfer can occur informally within family and community networks where there are reciprocal expectations of mutual aid by means of gifts or credit, as well as formally where governments, insurers, multi-lateral banks and other large risk-bearing entities establish mechanisms to help cope with losses in major events. Such mechanisms include insurance and re-insurance contracts, catastrophe bonds, contingent credit facilities and reserve funds, where the costs are covered by premiums, investor contributions, interest rates and past savings, respectively.


Socio-natural hazard *

The phenomenon of increased occurrence of certain geophysical and hydrometeorological hazard events, such as landslides, flooding, land subsidence and drought, that arise from the interaction of natural hazards with overexploited or degraded land and environmental resources.

This term is used for the circumstances where human activity is increasing the occurrence of certain hazards beyond their natural probabilities. Evidence points to a growing disaster burden from such hazards. Socio-natural hazards can be reduced and avoided through wise management of land and environmental resources.

* Emerging new concepts that are not in widespread use but are of growing professional relevance; the definition of these terms remain to be widely consulted upon and may change in future.

Structural and non-structural measures

Structural measures: Any physical construction to reduce or avoid possible impacts of hazards, or application of engineering techniques to achieve hazard-resistance and resilience in structures or systems;
Non-structural measures: Any measure not involving physical construction that uses knowledge, practice or agreement to reduce risks and impacts, in particular through policies and laws, public awareness raising, training and education.

Common structural measures for disaster risk reduction include dams, flood levies, ocean wave barriers, earthquake-resistant construction, and evacuation shelters. Common non-structural measures include building codes, land use planning laws and their enforcement, research and assessment, information resources, and public awareness programmes. Note that in civil and structural engineering, the term “structural” is used in a more restricted sense to mean just the load-bearing structure, with other parts such as wall cladding and interior fittings being termed non-structural.

Sustainable development

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

This definition coined by the 1987 Brundtland Commission is very succinct but it leaves unanswered many questions regarding the meaning of the word development and the social, economic and environmental processes involved. Disaster risk is associated with unsustainable elements of development such as environmental degradation, while conversely disaster risk reduction can contribute to the achievement of sustainable development, through reduced losses and improved development practices.


Technological hazard

A hazard originating from technological or industrial conditions, including accidents, dangerous procedures, infrastructure failures or specific human activities, that may cause loss of life, injury, illness or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage.

Examples of technological hazards include industrial pollution, nuclear radiation, toxic wastes, dam failures, transport accidents, factory explosions, fires, and chemical spills. Technological hazards also may arise directly as a result of the impacts of a natural hazard event.


No terms matching the letter U. We welcome submissions.