A Disaster Technology Continuum:
Technology Ecosystems for Disaster Risk Reduction

Hari Srinivas
Policy Analysis Series E-197. July 2023.
A wide variety of technologies are needed for disaster risk reduction, developed for/by households, neighbourhoods, cities, and government agencies. These can range from preparedness technologies and preventive technologies to response technologies and restorative technologies.

Laying out these technologies on a continuum will help us understand the "big picture" of who has to do what, and the role that technologies play in disaster risk reduction, particularly in risk prevention and ecosystem restoration.

disaster risk reduction, technology solutions, disaster cycle, technology ecosystems.


echnology ecosystems for disaster risk reduction refer to the network of technologies, organizations, and individuals involved in managing and reducing the risk of disasters. This ecosystem includes everything from early warning systems and disaster response technologies to data management and communication tools.

Effective disaster risk reduction requires the integration of various technologies and stakeholders into a cohesive ecosystem. This means creating a network of interconnected systems that can work together to identify and mitigate risks, respond to disasters, and support recovery efforts.

One of the key components of a technology ecosystem for disaster risk reduction is the use of data to inform decision-making. By collecting and analyzing data on weather patterns, infrastructure, and demographics, stakeholders can identify areas that are at high risk for disasters and develop targeted strategies for prevention and response. This data can also be used to monitor the effectiveness of disaster management efforts and adjust strategies as needed.

Additionally, communication technologies play a crucial role in facilitating coordination and information-sharing between stakeholders in a disaster situation. This includes everything from radio and satellite phones to social media and messaging platforms. By leveraging these technologies, stakeholders can communicate effectively and coordinate response efforts in real-time.

1. A Broader Meaning of “TechnologyE/strong>

Figure 1: We need to take a broader meaning of ‘technologyEas ‘ways of doing thingsEand include both hard and soft issues and aspects related to the environment.

When we think of technology, we often associate it with physical devices such as computers, machinery, and equipment. However, in the context of disaster risk reduction, technology takes on a broader meaning that encompasses more than just hardware. Instead, it includes "ways of doing things" that can include both hard and soft issues and aspects related to the environment.

This broader definition of technology includes a range of tools and approaches that can be used to mitigate and manage disaster risks. Techniques such as hazard mapping and risk assessments can help to identify areas that are at high risk for disasters, while skills and training programs can help to build capacity among stakeholders to effectively manage and respond to disasters.

Information management systems and decision support systems are also important components of a technology ecosystem for disaster risk reduction. These systems can help stakeholders to collect and analyze data on hazards, vulnerabilities, and capacities, and use that information to make informed decisions about disaster prevention, mitigation, and response.

Policies and strategies are also critical components of a technology ecosystem for disaster risk reduction. Governments and organizations can develop policies and strategies that promote disaster risk reduction and ensure that resources are allocated appropriately to manage disaster risks. These policies can range from building codes and land-use regulations to disaster response plans and financial mechanisms for recovery and reconstruction.

The environment itself is an important consideration in the development of technology for disaster risk reduction. This can include the use of green infrastructure and nature-based solutions to mitigate risks and enhance resilience, as well as the development of technologies that minimize environmental impacts during disaster response and recovery efforts.

By taking a broad view of technology and including a range of tools and approaches in a technology ecosystem for disaster risk reduction, stakeholders can effectively manage and reduce disaster risks, protect communities, and promote sustainable development.

2. Technology Ecosystems

Figure 2: A wide variety of stakeholders undertaking different roles and responsibilities need to come together to develop and deploy appropriate technologies for disaster risk reduction.

A technology ecosystem refers to the interconnected network of technology-based organizations, individuals, and other entities that interact with each other to create, develop, distribute, and use technology products and services.

It is a complex and dynamic environment in which different technology companies, developers, users, and other stakeholders collaborate, compete, and interact to create and maintain innovative technological solutions, in this case for disaster risk reduction.

The technology ecosystem includes various components such as hardware, software, networks, and data, as well as the social and economic factors that influence the development and adoption of new technologies.

3. The Three Aims of Disaster Technologies

Figure 3: There are essentially three aims of technologies for disaster management. These look at the human and environmental dimensions, and the overlapping area of sustainable development.

Disaster technologies can play a crucial role in reducing loss of human lives, preserving the environment, and promoting sustainable development in several ways:

Early Warning Systems: Disaster technologies can be used to develop early warning systems that can alert people about potential disasters, such as floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, and hurricanes. This can help people evacuate the affected areas and reduce the loss of human lives.

Disaster Management and Response: Disaster technologies can be used to manage and respond to disasters, such as search and rescue missions, by providing access to real-time data and information. This can help to save lives and minimize the impact of disasters.

Disaster Recovery: Disaster technologies can also be used to facilitate disaster recovery efforts by providing access to communication networks, power grids, and other essential infrastructure. This can help to restore essential services and promote sustainable development.

Sustainable Disaster Preparedness: Disaster technologies can be used to promote sustainable disaster preparedness by developing innovative solutions that use renewable energy sources, reduce waste, and promote sustainable development.

Data Collection and Analysis: Disaster technologies can be used to collect and analyze data related to disasters, such as weather patterns, water levels, and seismic activity. This can help to improve the accuracy of early warning systems, disaster management and response, and disaster recovery efforts. Overall, disaster technologies aim to achieve three goals: (1) reduce loss of human lives, (2) preserve the environment, and (3) promote sustainable development by providing innovative solutions for disaster preparedness, management, and recovery.

4. Technologies and the Disaster Cycle

Figure 4: For each stage of the disaster cycle, the cause-effect issues to be taken into consideration that include both human lifestyle issues and environmental aspects.

The disaster cycle typically consists of four stages: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Each stage has its own set of human causes and environmental impacts, as described below:

Mitigation Stage: This stage involves activities that reduce the likelihood or severity of a disaster. Human causes of disasters during this stage can include lack of investment in hazard-resistant infrastructure, land use practices that increase vulnerability to hazards, and lack of zoning and building codes. Environmental impacts during this stage can include deforestation, erosion, and loss of biodiversity due to land use changes.

Preparedness Stage: This stage involves activities that prepare communities and organizations to respond to disasters. Human causes of disasters during this stage can include lack of awareness and education, inadequate planning and resources, and limited access to early warning systems. Environmental impacts during this stage can include water and air pollution from the use of emergency generators and the disposal of hazardous waste.

Response Stage: This stage involves activities that are carried out during and immediately after a disaster to save lives and reduce suffering. Human causes of disasters during this stage can include inadequate emergency response planning, communication breakdowns, and delays in mobilizing resources. Environmental impacts during this stage can include soil and water contamination from hazardous materials, and destruction of ecosystems due to debris and waste.

Recovery Stage: This stage involves activities that aim to restore normalcy to communities affected by a disaster. Human causes of disasters during this stage can include insufficient funding and resources, inadequate planning and coordination, and unequal distribution of resources. Environmental impacts during this stage can include land degradation, soil erosion, and loss of biodiversity due to reconstruction activities.

Each stage of the disaster cycle has its own set of human causes and environmental impacts, which highlight the importance of comprehensive disaster risk reduction strategies that address the root causes of disasters and promote sustainable development. Disaster technologies will have to address these root causes to reduce risk.

5. Examples of Disaster Technology Categories

Figure 5: Environmental technologies can cover a number of issues and sub-issues, including infrastructure, information, assessment, preparedness etc. They cover both the natural environment as well as the built environments

Urban Infrastructure:
The key issue for urban infrastructure is cost: Many advanced technologies for disaster management can be expensive to implement, particularly in low-income communities. Related to this is that of equity: There may be unequal access to advanced infrastructure technologies, leaving some communities more vulnerable to disasters than others. Affecting both cost and equity is the availability of technical expertise, since implementing and maintaining advanced infrastructure technologies requires specialized technical expertise, which may be lacking in some areas.

  • Smart building technologies, such as sensors and monitoring systems, can help detect and respond to disasters in real-time by providing data on building conditions and occupancy.
  • Advanced transportation systems, such as intelligent traffic management systems, can help evacuate people during emergencies and reduce congestion on roads.
  • Earthquake-resistant building materials and design can minimize damage and loss of life in areas prone to seismic activity.
Information Management:
A key issue in information management for disaster risk reduction is that of appropriate and timely data collection and management. Collecting and managing data on disasters and their impacts can be challenging, particularly in low-resource settings or in areas with limited infrastructure. Even with good data and information, interoperability can be an issue, with different systems and platforms being used for disaster management may not be compatible, hindering coordination and communication between response teams. Data privacy and security is also a policy priority, to ensurw the privacy and security of sensitive disaster-related data, which can be challenging, particularly in the context of open data initiatives.
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can help collect and analyze data on disasters, such as the location and severity of hazards, population density, and infrastructure.
  • Social media platforms can help disseminate real-time information and updates to the public during disasters.
  • Emergency communication systems, such as satellite phones and radio networks, can help ensure communication and coordination between response teams and affected communities.
Water Resources Management:
Sustainability of water resources and their proper management is important since some technologies for water management, such as desalination and groundwater extraction, may also have negative environmental impacts or be unsustainable in the long term. Water management is often governed by complex regulatory frameworks, which can hinder the adoption of new technologies and approaches. In some areas, water scarcity is a chronic problem, which may require a combination of technologies and approaches to address the problem, particularly during disaster recovery phases.
  • Flood modeling and prediction systems can help anticipate and prepare for floods by providing data on river levels and rainfall patterns.
  • Water quality monitoring technologies can detect and respond to contamination events, such as chemical spills or algal blooms.
  • Rainwater harvesting and storage technologies can help communities prepare for droughts and other water scarcity events.
Forest Management:
Many technologies for forest management, such as remote sensing and GIS, need core funding as they could be expensive to implement and maintain, particularly in large or remote areas. Addressing the root causes of forest degradation and deforestation requires collaboration between different stakeholders, including governments, communities, and the private sector. At the same time, indigenous knowledge and practices related to forest management may be undervalued or ignored in the development of technologies.
  • Remote sensing technologies, such as satellite imagery and LiDAR, can help detect and monitor forest fires and other environmental hazards.
  • GIS can also be used to map and monitor forest ecosystems, as well as identify areas at risk of deforestation and degradation.
  • Forest fire prevention and suppression technologies, such as fire-resistant building materials and fire-retardant chemicals, can help reduce the impact of forest fires on communities and ecosystems.
Other Aspects:
Disaster management technologies and approaches may need to be adapted to local cultural and social contexts to be effective. The adoption and implementation of new technologies for disaster management may require changes in policy and governance frameworks, and ultimately, technologies for disaster management should not only aim to reduce disaster risks but also to promote resilience and sustainable development.
  • Disaster-resistant agriculture practices, such as conservation agriculture and crop diversification, can help increase food security and resilience to disasters.
  • Emergency power systems, such as solar panels and battery storage, can help ensure access to electricity during and after disasters.
  • Emergency medical technologies, such as portable diagnostic tools and telemedicine, can help save lives and reduce the impact of disasters on healthcare systems.

6. A Framework for Disaster Technologies

Figure 6: In understanding the role of environmental technologies available for disaster management, we can look at it as a framework of hard and soft technologies, for pre-disaster (prevention and preparedness) and post-disaster (response, rehabilitation and reconstruction) phases.

Pre-disaster technologies are technologies that are used before a disaster occurs to prevent or reduce its impact. These technologies can include early warning systems, hazard mapping, land-use planning, and structural reinforcement of buildings and infrastructure. The goal of pre-disaster technologies is to reduce the risk of disasters and build resilience in communities.

Examples include:

  • Early warning systems - These can include weather forecasting tools, seismic sensors, and flood prediction models that provide advance notice of potential disasters.
  • Hazard mapping - This involves mapping out areas that are at high risk for disasters, such as flood-prone areas or earthquake zones.
  • Structural reinforcement - This includes building codes that require earthquake-resistant construction, retrofitting existing buildings to make them more resilient, and reinforcing infrastructure such as bridges and dams.
  • Urban planning - This involves designing cities and communities with disaster risk reduction in mind, such as avoiding development in floodplains and using green infrastructure to absorb rainfall.
  • Education and awareness campaigns - These include efforts to educate communities about disaster risks and how to prepare for them, as well as encouraging individuals to develop personal preparedness plans.
Post-disaster technologies, on the other hand, are technologies that are used after a disaster occurs to mitigate its impact and support recovery efforts. These technologies can include search and rescue equipment, temporary housing, water filtration systems, and communication tools. The goal of post-disaster technologies is to provide rapid and effective response to disasters and to support communities in their recovery efforts.

Examples include:

  • Search and rescue equipment - This includes tools such as drones, thermal imaging cameras, and sonar detectors that can help locate and rescue people trapped in rubble or water.
  • Temporary housing - This can include pre-fabricated shelters, tents, and mobile homes that can be quickly set up to provide shelter for displaced people.
  • Water filtration systems - After a disaster, access to clean water can be compromised. Water filtration systems can help provide clean drinking water to affected communities.
  • Communication tools - This includes satellite phones, mobile charging stations, and internet connectivity tools that can help people communicate with each other and with first responders.
  • Disaster recovery and management software - This includes digital tools such as GIS mapping, data analytics, and supply chain management software that can help coordinate disaster recovery efforts and manage resources effectively.
Both pre-disaster and post-disaster technologies are important components of disaster management. By using pre-disaster technologies to reduce disaster risks and post-disaster technologies to support recovery efforts, communities can become more resilient and better able to withstand and recover from disasters.

7. Stakeholders for Technology Development

Figure 7: Developing technologies for disaster risk reduction requires us to understand who uses the technologies and at what level Efrom single households and communities to city wards, local governments and national governments.

Developing technologies for disaster risk reduction requires us to have a deep understanding of the various stakeholders involved and their different needs. It is important to identify the specific groups of people who will be using the technologies and at what level, whether it is at the household, community, city ward, local government or national government level. Each of these groups has different needs, capacities and resources, and technologies need to be designed and implemented in a way that takes these differences into account.

For example, technologies that are designed for households and communities may need to be low-cost and easy to use, while technologies designed for local governments may need to be more complex and capable of handling large amounts of data. Similarly, technologies designed for national governments may need to be scalable and interoperable with other systems.

Additionally, different stakeholders may have different levels of access to technology and different levels of technical proficiency, so it is important to ensure that technologies are designed with accessibility and usability in mind. This requires working closely with stakeholders to understand their needs and requirements, and involving them in the design and implementation process.

By understanding the needs of different stakeholders and designing technologies that meet those needs, we can ensure that disaster risk reduction technologies are effective, accessible, and widely adopted. This can ultimately help to reduce disaster risk and build resilience in communities.

Figure 8: The kind of technology needed changes as along the stakeholder s Efrom preparedness and preventive technologies to response and restorative technologies

The type of technology required in the disaster management cycle can vary depending on the needs of different stakeholders. This includes everything from preparedness and preventive technologies to response and restorative technologies.

Preparedness and preventive technologies are designed to reduce the likelihood of a disaster occurring and to minimize its impact if it does occur. For example, early warning systems can alert communities to the approach of a natural disaster, while hazard mapping can identify areas that are at high risk for specific types of disasters. Structural reinforcement of buildings and infrastructure can also help to reduce the risk of damage and loss of life in the event of a disaster.

Response technologies, on the other hand, are designed to address the immediate aftermath of a disaster. This can include search and rescue equipment, temporary housing, and medical supplies. Communication tools such as satellite phones and mobile charging stations can also help to facilitate coordination between first responders and affected communities.

Restorative technologies are used to support long-term recovery efforts after a disaster has occurred. This can include water filtration systems to provide clean drinking water, as well as tools for rebuilding infrastructure and homes that have been damaged or destroyed. Disaster recovery and management software can also help to coordinate recovery efforts and manage resources effectively.

It is important to note that different stakeholders may require different types of technology at different stages of the disaster management cycle. For example, households and communities may need more emphasis on preparedness and preventive technologies, while local governments may require more advanced response and recovery technologies. National governments may require a combination of all three types of technologies to effectively manage large-scale disasters.

By understanding the needs of different stakeholders and tailoring technologies to those needs, we can improve the effectiveness of disaster management efforts and reduce the impact of disasters on communities.

7.1 Preparedness Technologies

Technologies and techniques
(both products and skills to use
those products) that help us
prepare for a disaster

Preparedness technologies are designed to help individuals and communities prepare for disasters before they occur. These technologies can include early warning systems, emergency communication systems, and disaster response plans. They enable people to be informed and ready to act in case of a disaster.

Preparedness technologies also help in organizing emergency supplies and services, such as medical equipment and shelters.

Examples of technologies for disaster preparedness (developed by private companies in Japan1):

  • Strong Wind Warning System along railway lines, developed by Japan Railways
  • Vibration sensors for rockfalls, landslides, earthquakes etc. by Fujikura Co.
  • ICT tools on smartphone for disaster preparedness by Fujitsu Corp.
  • High Fidility smart radio (“PASOLINKE by NEC Corp.
  • Emergency mobile radio network, by NEC Corp.
7.2 Preventive Technologies

Technologies and techniques
that help us prevent damage
before, during or after a disaster

Preventive technologies aim to reduce the likelihood of disasters from occurring or mitigating their impact. They can include structural measures such as building codes, reinforced concrete, and flood barriers.

Non-structural preventive technologies can also include land-use planning, deforestation management, and effective waste management. These technologies help minimize the risks of disasters and prevent them from escalating into major catastrophes.

Examples of technologies for disaster prevention (developed by private companies in Japan):

  • Construction methods using smart DuPont Kevlar fabric, by DuPont-Tory Corp.
  • Integrated flood model simulation for river networks, by IBM Japan
  • QCAST consumer terminals for early warning systems, by Meisei Electric
  • Sensors for sewerage systems to prevent damage , by Nippon Koei
  • Storm surge and tsunami analysis model (NKSTAM), by Nippon Koei
  • Technologies for landslide, debris flowand rockfall sensing, by Nippom Koei
7.3 Response Technologies:

Technologies and techniques
that help us respond to
disaster events

Response technologies refer to the tools and systems used to respond to disasters as they unfold. They are designed to help reduce the impact of the disaster and save lives. Examples of response technologies include search and rescue equipment, medical supplies, and disaster response teams.

Communication equipment such as radios, satellite phones, and GPS tracking devices are also crucial response technologies.

Examples of technologies for disaster response (developed by private companies in Japan):

  • Radiation monirtoring systems, by Fuji Electric
  • Integrated disaster information management system, by IBM Japan
  • Portable mobile data center, by IBM Japan
  • New congestion estimation system, by NEC Corp.
  • Crowd behavior analysis technology, by NEC Corp.
  • Imaging technologies for search and rescue operations, by NEC Corp.
7.4 Restorative Technologies:

Technologies and techniques
that help us restore neghbourhoods
and local environments after a disaster

Restorative technologies are used to help communities recover after a disaster has occurred. They can include infrastructure restoration, rebuilding homes, and restoring essential services such as power and water supplies.

Restorative technologies also support the rehabilitation of affected people by providing mental health services and other social support mechanisms. These technologies help communities get back on their feet after a disaster and ensure a quick recovery.

Examples of technologies for restoration after disasters (developed by private companies in Japan):

  • Reinforcement of slopes and revetments for landslides/earthquake, by Nippon Kooei
  • PP Reinforced PP Net lining metho, by Nishimatsu Corp.
  • Sheerreinforcing method for existing buildings and structures, by Nishimatsu Corp.
  • Integrated traffic control system in disaster-hit areas, by Sumitomo Electric
  • In-situ retrofitting for liquified soils, Taisei Corp.
  • TOMSY ETotal Utility Mapping System, by Tokyo Gas
  • District-level sensors for gas supply disruption and restoration, by Tokyo Gas
  • Smart/intelligent gas meters detecting abnormal gas flow/Eqs, by Tokyo Gas

Grandmother Dillema
A grandmother's wrap
Not a mobile app
But a total solution
To ensure her protection
Ultimately, it will not be one technology that will reduce disaster risks, but a combination of technologies that addresses different aspects and stages of the disaster cycle. These technologies are developed by different stakeholders in the private sector and academic and research institutions and deployed by local government and other public institutions as well as marketed directly to customers.

It is this totality of solutions (the “ecosystemEof technology development and management) that need to be put in place which is important for the “Grandmother dilemmaEEessentially ensuring that community organizations, local institutions, and ordinary citizens utilize the appropriate technologies to reduce risk

Appropriate disaster technologies can play a critical role in disaster management and response, and its effective use can improve disaster preparedness, enhance emergency response, and facilitate post-disaster recovery efforts. The use of innovative technologies to support disaster management, can help to save lives, protect property, and reduce the overall impact of disasters.

However, the successful implementation of such technologies requires careful planning, effective coordination, and continuous training and support. Governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders must work together to develop and implement disaster technology strategies that are tailored to local contexts and aligned with broader disaster risk reduction goals.

  1. The list of technology examples illustrated above were taken from a survey carried out by Keidanren, Japan’s federation of economic organizations, on disaster prevention and mitigation technologies developed in Japan.
  2. This document is based on the work done by the author at the International Environmental Technology Center, in collaboration with the Global Environment Center.
  3. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the online International Symposium on "Ecosystem Restoration and Multihazard Resilience", organized by UNESCO and Amrita University, from 5 to 9 June 2021.

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