DEFINITIONS: CRISIS VS. DISASTER VS. HAZARD
Many authors have tried to understand crises and disasters by initially defining them. Although “a universally accepted definition of what constitutes a crisis has not yet been developed” (Keown-McMullan, 1997, cited in Ritchie, 2009, p.4), scientists seem to agree that crises “are internal and thus the organisation has some power or influence over a crisis. Another common theme expressed in the definitions is that the scale of damage appears to be a key differentiating factor. If an incident or event can or does impact upon survival, viability or foundation of an organisation, then it may be considered a crisis. The urgency and speed of dealing with an incident is also a key point in many of the definitions and suggests that crises may be surprises, which is why a proactive approach to crisis planning and management is important” (Ritchie, 2009, p.4).
Faulkner (2001 in Ritchie, 2009, p.6) notes that “many of the features attributed to crises are equally applicable to disasters, and so confusion between their distinctions occurs with common overlaps between the two, where a crisis may occur as a direct result of a disaster.” Faulkner believes that “the principal distinction between what can be termed a ‘crisis’ and a ‘disaster’ is (…) the extent to which the situation is attributable to the organisation itself, or can be described as originating from outside the organisation. Thus, a ‘crisis’ describes a situation ‘where the root cause of an event is, to some extent, self-inflicted through such problems as inept management structures and practices or a failure to adapt to change’,” while a disaster is a situation in which “a tourism destination is confronted with sudden, unpredictable, catastrophic changes over which it has little control” (Faulkner & Russell, 2000, cited in Beirman, 2003, p.4). Faulkner (2001, cited in Ritchie, 2009, p.6) concludes that “crises are able, to some degree, to be controlled and within the influence of managers whereas disasters are often external and more unpredictable.”
Prideaux et al. (2003, cited in Ritchie, 2009, p.6) believe that “disasters can be described as unpredictable catastrophic change that can normally only be responded to after the event, either by deploying contingency plans already in place or through reactive response”. The UN ISDR (2004, cited in Ritchie, 2009, p.7) defines disaster as “a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society causing widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses which exceed the ability of the affected community/society to cope using its own resources. A disaster is a function of the risk process. It results from the combination of hazards, conditions of vulnerability and insufficient capacity or measures to reduce the potential negative consequences of risk”. According to Ritchie (2009, p.28, Table 2.1), characteristics of a natural or physical disaster are “when an organisation or destination is damaged as a result of the weather, ‘acts of God’, human influence or the combination of the above. Examples include earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, avalanches, fires, bad storms or biosecurity threats or technological hazards. It may be as a result of natural processes such as climate change or the result of human processes or action such as deforestation, forest burning, pollution”.
While Pelling (2003, cited in Ritchie, 2009, p.7) labels natural disasters as “humanitarian disasters with a natural trigger”, Twigg (ISDR, 2004, cited in Ritchie, 2009, p.7) states that “there are no such things as natural disasters, but there are natural hazards. A disaster is the result of a hazard’s impact on the society. So the effects of a disaster are determined by the extent of a community’s vulnerability to the hazard (or conversely, its ability, or capacity to cope with it). This vulnerability is not natural, but the result of an entire range of constantly changing physical, social, economic, cultural, political, and even psychological factors that shape people’s lives and create the environments in which they live. ‘Natural’ disasters are nature’s judgment on what humans have wrought”.
VULNERABILITY, RISK REDUCTION & PREPAREDNESS
Ritchie (2009, p.8) points out that disasters are related to the concepts of vulnerability and risk. He is concerned that “the tourism environment in some destinations may become even more hazardous due to global environmental change and climate change.” Gössling and Hall (2006, cited in Ritchie, 2009, p.14) agree that “global environmental change threatens the foundations of tourism through reductions in biodiversity, climate change, land alteration, loss of non-renewable resources and unsustainable use of renewable resources.” Santana (2003, cited in Ritchie, 2009, p.14) notes that “many tourism destinations are economically dependent on tourism and vulnerable to natural disasters due to their location”, while Ritchie & Crouch (2003, cited in Ritchie, 2009, p.14) identified crisis management as “an important part of overall tourism destination competitiveness”.
Smith (1995, cited in Ritchie, 2009, p.43) states that “natural hazards are extreme natural events that can cause death or damage to humans. He elaborates that “a severe earthquake that occurs in a remote part of the world would be considered an extreme natural event but not a natural hazard. Therefore, it is the location of people or humans and their property that creates a hazard through either risk taking or vulnerability.” Alexander defines risk as “the probability or likelihood of a certain level of loss due to a hazard impact, while vulnerability is the potential for losses or other adverse impacts” (2000, cited in Ritchie, 2009, p.43). According to Alexander, the two are interrelated “as vulnerability in the light of known hazard produces a risk, while taking a risk creates vulnerability to a hazard.” McEntire (2001, cited in Ritchie, 2009, p.14) assumes that “a number of interrelated factors (caused by the development process and changing values, attitudes and practices) are creating increased vulnerability and risks for society and business (see Factors Which Could Augment Vulnerability as modified by Ritchie, 2009)”.
Le De (2011, p.23) points out that Small Island Developing States share some characteristics that make them especially vulnerable: “Academics and experts list a range of factors of vulnerability intrinsic to SIDS, such as their small size and remoteness, limited natural resources, loss of traditional coping mechanism (Benson and Clay, 2000), level of unemployment, poor hazard forecasting abilities, small economies, high sensibility to external market changes, high import content (Briguglio, 1995; Pelling and Uitto, 2001; Mimura et al., 2007) and their dependence on international aid for development (Bettencourt et al., 2006)”.