University contributions to risk reduction following a disaster: A case study of reorienting natural hazards research efforts at San Vicente volcano, El Salvador

Document Type


Publication Date



© 2016 The Geological Society of America. All rights reserved. Disaster risk reduction efforts are lacking in many hazard-prone areas around the globe. Governmental initiatives in El Salvador sought to address challenges to disaster management that became evident following a series of disasters spanning 1998-2005. The region surrounding San Vicente volcano, El Salvador, has a history of disasters but, until recently, has received little attention toward hazard mitigation. The debrisfl ow disaster in November 2009, triggered by rains from Hurricane Ida, was the fi rst time new systems were tested, and an in-depth review of the evolution of these systems is the focus of this paper. Faculty at the Universidad de El Salvador-Facultad Multidisciplinaria Paracentral (UES-FMP), in San Vicente experienced the tragedy fi rsthand and perceived that chaotic project implementation, redundant objectives among various groups, and poor coordination hindered the effectiveness of postevent disaster risk reduction efforts. Poor potential-hazard awareness, no warning or monitoring systems, and unclear crisis-response responsibilities all contributed to > 200 deaths in the region. UES-FMP agricultural sciences faculty led a comprehensive effort to identify weaknesses and improve plans for the next catastrophe. Their approach encompassed conceiving and implementing new research, fi eld, and training activities for improving hazard understanding and communication in order to inform decision makers and the public. UES-FMP partnered with research and development groups to gather hydrometeorological data, model hazards, and train local stakeholders. UES-FMP encourages disaster risk reduction practitioners to focus on interdisciplinary methods to help guide project design. Experiences from San Vicente can be applied to improve disaster risk reduction and hazard research efforts in other areas.

Publication Title

Special Paper of the Geological Society of America