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Rudolf Agricola School for Sustainable Development
Bringing sustainability science forward

Cascading Disasters

An emerging challenge to societal resilience is caused by cascading disasters: extreme events in which cascading effects increase in progression over time and generate unexpected secondary events of strong impact (Pescaroli, Alexander, 2015; Cutter, 2017).

These disasters trigger social cascades that deeply affect the social fabric and interconnectedness of communities, organizations and institutions.

Example of a cascading disaster

What if the major earthquake that struck L’Aquila (Italy) in 2009 would have happened in April 2020, during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, when the government issued a complete lockdown and the standard risk prevention measures - like evacuees gathering in safe areas - were neither applicable nor safe because of the ongoing pandemic? How multiple organizations with different goals and priorities could have coordinated?

Risk management

Cascading disasters require modular, flexible, and proactive responses from many interconnected actors, operating at different levels in different roles and embedded in different contexts.

Effectively tackling this challenge requires to move from a reactive approach to risk management, based on predefined responses resulting from past events, to a proactive one based on the concepts of ' living with uncertainty' and 'envisioning the future.'

For more information about Cascading Disasters please contact:

  • Francesca Giardini: f.giardini

  • Sarah Feron (Campus Fryslan), s.c.feron

  • Raul Cordero Carrasco (Campus Fryslan), r.r.cordero.carrasco

Last modified:12 March 2024 12.19 p.m.
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