BSc International Disaster Management & Humanitarian Response / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Introduction to Disaster Management

Unit code HCRI11032
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Humanitarian Conflict Response Institute
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This is a core unit that will introduce students to key fundamental topics and concepts in disaster management and no prior knowledge is assumed. The causes of disasters are explored and the different approaches to address them are critically analysed through case studies and student led-workshops. The disaster risk management sector, including government, non-government organisations and local groups, is also investigated and students will be provided with a critical reflection on the effectiveness of this sector.  Students will also gain a clear understanding of the different types of disaster risks and how and why vulnerability to different hazards and lack of capacity and resilience varies across space and time, focusing on developed and developing contexts.


Year 1, semester 2: core on BSc International Disaster Management and Conflict Response


  • To introduce students to the key fundamental concepts that underpin disaster risk management and to foster critical perspective on these concepts
  • To understand why the disaster risk management is increasingly important
  • To explore the meanings and interpretation of a disaster
  • To critically analyse the evolution of disaster management
  • To identify some of the current challenges to effectiveness disaster risk management
  • To develop an informed perspective on the causes of disasters and how they can be addressed



Knowledge and understanding

Through this course the students will

  • Gain various interpretations of the meaning of the term ‘ disaster’ and why this is an essentially contested concept
  • Critically explore common elements as well as differences between disaster risk management and disaster risk reduction in terms of aims and objectives and its historical development
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the disaster risk management sector
  • Understand the causes of, disasters in terms of disaster risks, and how the complexity interaction with natural and anthropogenic hazards, vulnerability, capacity and resilience manifest into disasters
  • Thoroughly explore the concept of vulnerability in terms of its components, assessment and how it shapes disaster risk management programmes

Intellectual skills

  • Develop oral presentation skills
  • Develop critical analytical skills
  • Develop ability to synthesise literature from a wide range of sources. 
  • Navigate complex debates dealing with events, issues and concepts;
  • Articulate and defend one’s own position on the different concepts and ideas in disaster risk management

Practical skills

  • Understand how academic work relates to practice and interrogate the effectiveness of disaster risk management
  • Demonstrate analytical and debating skills with peers and tutors through tutorials and online discussions and forums
  • Show effective use of library resources drawing on relevant academic and grey literature, and seeking out information through the use of virtual sources to underpin learning and gathering information for written work.
  • Develop essay writing skills

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop communication skills for a variety of audiences
  • Work effectively in a team
  • Develop, plan and achieve individual research outcomes
  • Develop analytical skills and the ability to articulate ideas verbally and in writing
  • Develop confidence articulating ideas and opinions during group discussions

Employability skills

Group/team working
Recognising and identifying views of others and working constructively with them.
Able to take action unprompted and assume responsibility; able to be innovative and apply lateral thinking in problem solving and decision making.
Ability independently to gather, sift, synthesise and organise material from various sources (including library, electronic and online resources), and to critically evaluate its significance. Ability to plan and implement an effective research project.
Presentation ¿ capacity to make oral presentations, using appropriate media for a target audience. Negotiation - understand group dynamics and intercultural backgrounds in the use of negotiating skills to reach objectives. Time Management ¿ ability to schedule tasks in order of importance. Applying Subject Knowledge ¿ use of discipline specific knowledge in everyday situations. Improving own Learning ¿ ability to improve one's own learning through planning, monitoring, critical reflection, evaluate and adapt strategies for one's learning.

Assessment methods

Essay  70%
Review piece 30%
Group presentation 0%


Feedback methods

Written feedback on all written work and presentation


Informal verbal feedback during seminars and one on one meetings


Verbal feedback on student presentations



Recommended reading

Coppola, D. A. 2011. Introduction to International Disaster Management (2nd ed.). London: Butterworth-Heinemann. (eBook)

Cox Jr, L. A. 2008. Some Limitations of Risk = Threat x Vulnerability — Consequences• for Risk Analysis of Terrorist Attacks. Risk Analysis: An International Journal, 28, 1749-1761

Garrick, B. J. 2008. Quantifying and Controlling Catastrophic Risk. New York: Academic Press. (eBook)

O'Keefe, P., Westgate, K. & Wisner, B. 1976. Taking the naturalness out of natural disasters. Nature, 260, 566-567.

Quarantelli, E. L. 1998. What is a disaster?: perspectives on the question, London, Routledge.

Wamsler, C. (2014). Cities, disaster risk and adaptation. London, Routledge.

Wisner, B., Blaikie, P., Cannon, T. & Davis, I. 2004. At Risk: Natural Hazards, People's Vulnerability and Disasters. London, Routledge.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nathaniel O'Grady Unit coordinator

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