We spoke to geographers working in disaster risk management (DRM) about the importance of geography and geographical skills to managing disaster risk.
Whether it relates to the hazard or the elements at risk, location is paramount in disaster risk management.
I studied geography at Durham University, which is where my interest in DRM began. During my third year I spent several months in Nepal on an internship with a NGO that focuses on building earthquake safe communities.
I moved onto a PhD and several research associate positions, with my time in academia centred on geomorphic hazards, including the April 2015 Gorkha earthquake in Nepal.
Moving into the insurance industry allowed me to practice DRM in a fast-paced environment. I began working at a large re/insurance broker, where my role involved quantifying the risk to corporations’ properties. I then moved to Risk Management Solutions (RMS), where I now work in the consulting team.
Whether it relates to the hazard or the elements at risk, location is paramount in disaster risk management. More broadly, understanding how processes vary in space and time, and the mechanisms that drive patterns in these processes, is a core attribute of geography that extends to disaster risk management.
Today, the response of perils to climate change, and demographic changes make accurately measuring and recording location more important than ever.
Beyond property damage, the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the interconnectedness and fragility of global supply chains – the interconnectedness of many seemingly disparate locations poses a number of challenges for risk assessment and management.
My current role sees me work with geospatial data almost daily, coding within a range of languages. If coding is not part of your current skillset and you think it may be useful, there is a wealth of free software and online introductions to get you started.
A career in disaster risk provides an opportunity to make a difference. A background in geography gives a valuable understanding of the intersection between physical hazards and population as well as the skillset to help manage this.
I would recommend seeking opportunities such as internships wherever possible. DRM is a huge field, and internships provide a chance to broaden your knowledge beyond the content of your university’s degree course.
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