Disasters are becoming more frequent and intense, as a result of climate change. Related impacts lead to high economic losses and affect the whole of society. To reduce the vulnerability of economy and society a “nexus” between science and decision-makers from the public and private sector is needed. The international conference Austrian Disaster Research Days 2019 (ADRD19), which took place at the Technical University of Graz, Austria, on 14-15 October 2019, was focused on disaster prevention and response by implementing findings from scientific research in disaster risk reduction (DRR). ADRD19 was held as the annual conference of the Disaster Competence Network Austria (DCNA), and was attended by nearly 200 participants across all sectors.
On the 1st day of the event, Harald Kainz (Chairman of DCNA and Rector of Technical University Graz), as well as Elmar Pichl (Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research), and Hermann Schützenhöfer (Governor of the state of Styria) welcomed the audience. In the opening session, keynote speaker Alexander Siegmund (European Science & Technology Advisory Group / E-STAG, of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction) highlighted the role of science and technology for DRR. Key issues in the plenary session, addressing state-of-the-art challenges of government authorities, were the EU Civil Protection Knowledge Network, how to increase societies’ crisis resilience, as well as challenges in managing disasters in urban areas such as the city of Graz.
Reflecting disaster risks in its various facets was the focus of several Breakout Sessions. One part of the afternoon’s 1st block of parallel sessions focussed on meteorological hazards, with presentations covering weather warning systems, flood forecasts and the influence of climate change on extreme weather events. The 2nd part addressed technological hazards, with talks on challenges in protection, safety analysis of critical infrastructure, and strategies how to prepare and how to act in crises.
In the 2nd block of parallel sessions, the main topics were systematic perspectives of disaster risks and hydrological hazards. Emphasis was on risks in the analogue and digital area, risk analysis in disaster management and public involvement in risk identification. The session on flooding addressed the risk of surface discharge and “fluviatile” solid processes, “now-casting” of floods, risk-zoning, and loss of inundation areas and its consequences. A banquet given by Governor of Styria complemented the 1st day.
The 2nd day of ADRD19 included scientific findings from a multi-disciplinary field of geophysical hazards, covering landslides, avalanches and earthquakes. Challenges for avalanche warning systems, geo-monitoring of landslides and numeric models as monitoring system were discussed. Particularly impressive was a report about the preparation for, survival and recovery from a recent disaster: hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas – a testimony. The day’s 2nd parallel session focused on industrial hazards and their impact due to natural hazards, cyber-attacks seen from the scientific point of view, and the experience with industry insurance.
A very diverse Closing Session included talks of all involved stakeholders, providing food for thoughts and further exchange. The role of public authorities in providing geo-services was highlighted, followed by gender and diversity-based DRR as well as the challenges of hybrid threats in the context of disaster response and the final on ways for closing the protection gap.
The ADRD19 conference was held as a contribution to the 2019 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (www.unisdr.org/disasterreductionday) - observed every year on 13th October - which in 2019 was focussed on Target (d) of the Sendai Framework: reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services.
Christian Resch, Silke-Silvia Drexler
Disaster Competence Network Austria (DCNA)
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* The next conference in the series - Disaster Research Days 2020 (DRD20) will be held at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, on 12-13 October 2020, and will focus on cross-border aspects and a European dimension.
* DRD20 will include an exhibition and call for abstracts (www.dcna.at), starting in January 2020.
* Visit the DRD20 web-site for more details: www.dcna.at/index.php/disaster-research-days.html
CAPTION FOR FIGURE: [ Photo from ADRD19 (from left to right): Albert Kern (President of the Austrian Fire Brigade Association / ÖBFV), Hubert Hasenauer (Rector of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences / BOKU, Vienna), Harald Kainz (Rector of TU Graz), Hermann Schützenhöfer (Styrian Governor), Elmar Pichl (Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research / BMBWF), and Stefan Haberler (city of Graz). (c) DCNA. ]