When the coronavirus disease pandemic brought the world to a halt in 2020, it affected every aspect of human life around the world and exemplified the scale and range of problems that disasters bring in their wake.
Its global impact highlights the urgency and importance of concerted planning and collective action to reduce disaster risk and build resilience.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the most disruptive disaster in living memory, but though it is unique in its scale and global impact, its nature is by no means unique. It was a stark reminder of the fact that when risks and hazards develop into disasters, they have the potential to disrupt multiple dimensions of human life. Global warming and the climate change associated with it is another obvious example. Its onset may not be as sudden, but it is becoming apparent that its impact will be as far-reaching and severe.
Even as the risks represented by global warming and climate change become apparent far sooner and with greater intensity than expected, never before has mankind faced such an array of risks which are intertwined with each other. Disasters continue to cause great disruption in ways which do not always follow expectations. We live in a world where the patterns of the past may no longer be an accurate guide to the future. In this scenario, it is critical to understand that risks are both interconnected and systemic; not only could one risk lead to others and as they snowball in unpredictable ways, they can affect all dimensions of our lives in an increasingly interconnected world.
Journalists play a crucial role in disseminating information before, during and after disasters of all types, ranging from disasters triggered by natural hazards to human-initiated ones. However, research also suggests that journalists are often unprepared to cover many types of disasters. Journalists must plan to increase their level of preparedness to cover disasters, just as governments and international bodies must plan to build resilience to disasters.
Journalists often specialize in areas such as economics, education or health. However, disaster risk reduction (DRR) or fostering disaster resilience is seldom considered a beat worthy of similar attention. This handbook addresses reporters and broadcasters who want to know more about those urgent, terrifying and all-too-often tragic moments when a populated built environment is challenged by the forces of nature or a man-made disaster. It draws upon the expertise of journalists, disaster experts and researchers to take a comprehensive and systemic approach. It emphasises the multidimensional and interconnected nature of the risks we face and puts forward a blend of practical information, professional approaches and underlying principles for the effective reporting of disasters.