Prof. David Alexander – What can we do about earthquakes?

What can we do about earthquakes? Taking a systematic approach to seismic risk mitigation

Prof. David Alexander

Chief Senior Scientist, Global Risk Forum in Davos, Switzerland

April 2012


David will discuss the possible means of achieving risk reduction and resilience against earthquake disasters. He will outline the evolving nature of the resilience concept, which has at its root the concepts of participatory governance and livelihood protection. It then discusses the potential for saving human lives by greater utilisation of the evidence base derived from studies of earthquake epidemiology.  He will follow with a discussion of the particular seismic vulnerability of critical infrastructure, hospitals and schools, and the means of reducing it by planning and well-calculated intervention. Seismic risk management needs to be comprehensive and often neglects some important factors. Next he will discuss: the plight of minorities, the protection of cultural heritage, and the management of veterinary emergencies.  David will also discuss the requirements for viable recovery from earthquake disasters. These include the need to make reconstruction, risk reduction and emergency intervention sustainable in their own right and part of the general sustainability against all of the major risks that society faces.  He will conclude with some brief reflections on the processes of learning lessons, as seen in the light of organisational learning theory.


David Alexander is the Chief Senior Scientist at the Global Risk Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He is formerly the Ministerial Contract Professor at CESPRO, Centre for the Study of Civil Protection and Risk Conditions, at the University of Florence in Italy (2005-9) and Professor of Geography at the University of Massachusetts (1981-2002). He is the author of several books, including “Natural Disasters”, “Confronting Catastrophe” and “Principles of Emergency Planning and Management”. He is co-editor of the international journal ‘Disasters’ and is a Founding Fellow of the Institute of Civil Protection and Emergency Management. David Alexander teaches emergency planning and management and has research interests in this field. He has recently been the administrative head of multi-national European projects on vulnerability assessment for natural hazard management and on earthquake epidemiology.

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