The event, the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR), is organized by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and brings together a broad team of experts from civil society, government and humanitarian organizations in the search for best practice to strengthen the resilience of nations and communities.
For this is a matter of urgency. With economic losses from disasters now averaging USD 250 billion to USD 300 billion annually – according to the UNISDR’s Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction – building a more resilient world is increasingly being seen as a global priority.
These are striking figures indeed, which are unlikely to fall unless we take action. In fact, the report predicts that factors such as overconsumption of natural resources, rapid urbanization and global inequality threaten to drive risk into dangerous levels.
“We are playing with fire,” warns UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “There is a very real possibility that disaster risk, fuelled by climate change, will reach a tipping point beyond which the effort and resources necessary to reduce it will exceed the capacity of future generations.”
The search for solutions
Solutions and best practice that help communities reduce disaster losses are clearly needed, which is why ISO is active in a number of new areas related to emergency response and crisis management.
For example, work is currently underway on the crisis management of water utilities. Due for publication later this year, this set of standards will provide useful tools for anyone managing a water supply, helping them prepare for disaster and successfully respond to a crisis.
Other emergency management projects include guidance for monitoring facilities with identified hazards, such as power plants and other industrial facilities, guidelines for colour-coded alerts in emergencies, and a series of documents focusing on the operation of public transport systems during emergencies and disasters.
Recently published work includes a number of standards related to business continuity management. ISO 22301, Societal security – Business continuity management systems – Requirements, gets businesses ready to handle disruptions of any kind, helping to minimize the ensuing economic costs.
Newly created security committee
ISO's work related to emergency management and disaster risk reduction is being led by the newly-created TC 292: Security, led by ISO's member for Sweden SIS, whose first meeting was timed to be held in Japan adjacent to the WCDRR conference. The meeting, hosted by ISO's member for Japan JISC, was held in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, which was most directly affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011.
"We decided to time our meeting with the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction to take advantage of the international expertise that it brings. Many of our experts will be participating in the event and the exchanges it will bring are invaluable. As noted several times during the conference already, International Standards have an important role to play in the building of a more resilient society and we look forward to a positive contribution over the next few days" said Ms Åsa Kyrk-Gere, Chair of ISO TC 292.
The Sendai meeting takes place from 14 to 18 March 2015 and hopes to adopt a new global agreement on disaster risk reduction. For more details, check out the event Website.
If you would like to get involved in standards development work in this area, please contact your national member.