The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), in collaboration with the Global Risk Identification Programme (GRIP), is currently involved in an activity focusing on the development of guidelines, standards and training material for disaster databases. One of the main objectives within this activity is to establish standardized human and economic disaster loss definitions, in order to increase data reliability, quality control and interoperability of global and national disaster databases. Since the quality of disaster databases depends on the quality of the data sources, international efforts are needed to establish commonly agreed loss definitions.
An Expert Working Group (EWG) was created to work together to address these issues with members including: MünichRe, SwissRe, La Red, UNDP and CRED.
In 2006, CRED undertook an analytical review of selected data set on natural disasters and impacts. The objective was to provide a comprehensive overview of current global disaster database initiatives to better identify gaps or differences in information and strengths in individual interpretations. The paper highlights the strengths and weaknesses of all those efforts that have taken place to better document the impacts of disasters and draws attention to the problems and the areas in which management of disaster information could improve. Some of the areas identified include:
Disaster definition: Differences and lack of standardization of the terminology complicate comparisons of data
Disaster typology/classification: Databases have to cope with disaster (sub)type classifications as well as their primary and secondary effects. Without standardized terminology, databases continue to face a decreased accuracy in reporting disaster related impact.
As a result of this assessment, the “Disaster Category Classification and peril Terminology for Operational Purposes” paper was produced in 2009 by CRED and MunichRE with the contribution of GRIP.
The International Workshop on Geocoding in Global Databases, hosted by MunichRE in February 2010, (attended by: Munich Re, University of Georgia, USA/ITOS/GIST, GRIP, GDACS, CRED, SwissRE) was an occasion to perform a comprehensive evaluation of the current geocoding situation in databases such as NatCatSERVICE (Munich RE) and the GDACS database to assess challenges and possible future geocoding procedures in databases. As a result of the workshop, a “Best practice of Geocoding in Global Natural Disaster Databases” was developed for EM-DAT;
The Expert Working Group review meeting on human and economic impact characterization, held in Geneva in October 2011, included the following participants: EWG (represented by the databases holders: MünichRe, SwissRe, La Red, UNDP and CRED), together with IFRC, ISDR, HEWSweb, OCHA and GDACS.
The objective of this meeting was to undertake a critical review of the current situation and present the different definitions and a list of loss terms which need to be defined. A comprehensive list of agreed-upon terms on human impact was developed, as a result.