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Henry Dawson

GIS Consultant, ERM


Disasters are never ‘natural' - we need to understand the wider spatial impact of disasters which often have interconnected consequences​


I chose to study geography because of a lifelong passion around disaster risk management. Throughout my degree I studied a wide breadth of modules from wildland fires to coastal management, and modules around individuals’ and communities’ responses to risk. During my degree I spent some time in the British Virgin Islands with a charity who assisted with disaster recovery following the impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

I currently work for the environmental consultancy ERM as a GIS Consultant. My role involves analysing the environmental risk from infrastructure projects. Alongside this, I work with the DRM Professional Practice Group as the early careers’ representative.


What is the importance of location in the context of DRM?

Location, particularly in relation to accessibility and the availability of resources, is a key factor for being able to mount a response to a disaster and these factors need to be considered as an integral part of any risk assessment and management plan.


How do the spatial aspects interact with the other elements of DRM?

Disasters are never ‘natural,’ we need to understand the wider spatial impact of disasters which often have a set of interconnected consequences. For instance, the value of homes in uninsurable risk areas are often occupied by those who cannot afford to live elsewhere. This creates a concentration of vulnerable people: vulnerable due to increased risk, to the lack of insurance which can significantly impact recovery; and ultimately to further levels of deprivation.


How do you apply geography in your work?

As a GIS consultant my role is spatial at its heart. I have worked on a range of projects from analysing the proximity of vulnerable environments to hazards, to understanding the ability of communities to access facilities (education, healthcare etc.) by not only distance but by their travel time by private car or public transport.


How would you encourage geographers to work with DRM?

As disasters are a result of a web of numerous factors, geographers often have prime skill sets to contribute to disaster risk management. We study a breadth of knowledge and are able to offer an interdisciplinary approach to complex, real-world issues. In the impact of a disaster, the utilisation of knowledge across disciplines is critical to form considered, effective management strategies to deal with the consequences.