Paper No. 16-12
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM
UNIVERSITY CONTRIBUTIONS TO RISK REDUCTION IN A POST-DISASTER CONTEXT: A CASE STUDY OF REORIENTING RESEARCH EFFORTS AT SAN VICENTE VOLCANO, EL SALVADOR
El Salvador’s San Vicente region has a long history of natural hazards (earthquakes, lahars, and flooding). After the Federal Government of El Salvador formed the Servicio Nacional de Estudios Territoriales in 2001 and the Protección Civil agency in 2005, the communication network and overall management evolved to prepare and respond to future geological and meteorological crises. Hurricane Ida (November 2009) was the first disaster to occur after creation of this new system. This study’s data showed that the immediate response helped many residents cope with their property losses. The long-term recovery, with the goal of reducing risk to future disasters, proved to be more complicated. Many institutions implemented disaster risk reduction (DRR) projects without a full understanding of geographical, sociological, and cultural considerations. Several communities living in high-risk zones remain vulnerable to debris-flow and flooding hazards. Following the assessment of the response to the 2009 lahars, the Universidad de El Salvador—Facultad Multidisciplinaria Paracentral (UES-FMP) developed an approach to address the knowledge gap pertaining to geologic hazards and social vulnerability by directing faculty and student research to collect hazard and risk data. Since little baseline data for the region exists, UES-FMP has developed projects to monitor watersheds to better understand the area’s hydrology as it relates to flooding, diagnose the social and economic factors that contribute to the vulnerability of the local population, formed a multi-institutional committee to inform and educate local groups, and participated in slope-stability studies. UES-FMP and its research partners contribute to DRR efforts by encouraging practitioners to focus less on rapid project development/implementation and more on the importance of using background information to guide quality project design. In the last two years, UES-FMP has assumed a leading role in strengthening relationships between organizations that previously worked largely in isolation. UES-FMP brings these groups together to discuss results so that institutions can make educated decisions based on hydrological and social data gathered in the region. This collaborative strategy avoids project duplication and better unifies DRR efforts.