Skip to main content
HRD Understanding cascading disasters – Bath Spa University

A Framework for Understanding Cascading Disasters (and Compound, Interconnected and Interacting Risks)

Wednesday 2 March, 2022 – Wednesday 2 March, 2022
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM


Part of the Hazard, Risk and Disaster (HRD) Research Lecture Series 2021-22.

We live in a networked society and depend to a high degree upon critical infrastructure to sustain our lives and activities. Disruption of the networks and infrastructure can lead to cascading consequences. Indeed, most disasters in the modern world will be cascading events to a greater or lesser degree. In the cascades, there are likely to be escalation points, at which the interaction of different kinds of vulnerability creates secondary, renewed or enhanced impacts.

This presentation reviews the theory behind the concept of cascading disasters and judges its applicability to disaster problems in the field. It offers a framework for interpreting cascades and linking them to causal theories of disaster. Examples are used to illustrate the concepts presented. They include the Grenfell Tower fire of 2017 in London, the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear release of 2011 in Japan, and various aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic, an event that has many lessons to offer the field of disaster planning, management and response.

About the speaker

David Alexander is Professor of Risk and Disaster Reduction at UCL. He has taught emergency planning and management for 41 years. His books include "Natural Disasters", "Confronting Catastrophe", "Principles of Emergency Planning and Management", "Recovery from Disaster" (with Ian Davis) and "How to Write an Emergency Plan". He is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, and Vice-President of the Institute of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.

His research interests include natural hazards, earthquake disasters and emergency planning and management. He is working on a new book on emergency management, a companion to his recent emergency planning volume. David Alexander is currently specialist advisor to the UK House of Lords Select Committee on Risk Assessment and Risk Planning and member of the Working Group on Crisis Management for the EU Scientific Advice Mechanism.

Watch a recording of the seminar below

Edit section | Website feedback to