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Filed under: Disaster response

“We cannot eliminate disasters, but we can mitigate risk. We can reduce damage and we can save more lives.”

Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General

Every $1 invested in disaster prevention saves $7 in response.

But to know where to invest, we need to know where disasters are likely to occur.

Although no two disasters are alike, it is possible to identify patterns and make educated predictions about future disasters.

How can we do this? With a database that provides us with the information we need to gain a better understanding of disaster trends and their impacts.

Based on the information such a database can provide, effective prevention, mitigation and preparedness measures can be planned.

DesInventar, a free, open-source disaster information management system, is one of the very few proven tools for building such a database, and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDP and the Sector for Emergency Management of the Ministry of Interior are piloting it right here in Serbia, along with just four other countries in Europe.

DesInventar collects, analyzes and graphically represents a wide range of information on disaster occurrences and the losses that are suffered.

After six months of data collection and two months of extensive research, the project research team managed to collect information on 1,485 disaster events that took place in Serbia over the past 27 years, with very detailed information provided for events over the past four years.

The database serves the general public, local municipalities, academia and all parties interested in exploring disaster risk patterns in more depth.

It provides critical insight into the relationship between risk and development and legitimizes demands for greater accountability by the responsible institutions.

A map of Serbia showing the historical risk patterns when it comes to flood

DesInventar shows the risks of flood in the various districts of Serbia

Fortunately, we found that many institutions have kept very thorough records of a number of the parameters necessary for a diligent and systematic analysis of disaster risk reduction, including the Red Cross of Serbia, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, the public utility company Srbijavode, and the Ministry of Natural Resources, Mining and Spatial Planning.

With respect to information flow, we found that there are several disconnects within Serbia’s disaster risk reduction system, with certain institutions not exchanging data or feeding all available data to the Sector for Emergency Management, which is critical to the success of effective disaster risk reduction.

The project ran so smoothly in part due to the expertise and efficiency of the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia. We would like to acknowledge and thank them for their efforts.

The first steps we have taken to encourage improved disaster risk reduction are very encouraging. As the Sector for Emergency Management, established only in 2010, continues to grow, the body of information it manages will also grow and will be used to shape the policies and management decisions governing disaster risk reduction across the country.