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Urban Hazard Mitigation: Creating Resilient Cities


In the article by David Godschalk (2003), the author calls for advance planning and actions to mitigate the risks of terrorism and natural hazards that modern cities are exposed to by developing resilient cities. He puts forward some policy recommendations that can replace the current hazard mitigation policies, practices, and knowledge, which have failed to address the distinctive features of cities that expose them to stresses.

Key arguments

Godschalk argues that cities are exposed to risks of terrorism and natural hazards, as their desirable features are what actually put them at risks of terror attacks, hurricanes, earthquakes and floods. Therefore, he recommends significant resilient cities initiatives, such as a need to expand research on urban systems, increased levels of training and education, and a greater level of collaboration among specialised interest groups responsible for building of cities and integration of hazard mitigation strategies.

Key concepts used

Godschalk identifies and describes several terms and concepts that he uses to develop his arguments. The key concepts include Hazard mitigation, urban hazard mitigation, resilient city, and physical systems. Godschalk defines hazard mitigation as consisting of the actions pursued to minimise or completely remove long-term risks that individual and properties are exposed to. He further defines urban hazard mitigation as a division in hazard mitigation practice whose principal objective is developing resilient cities. He also defines the concept of ‘resilient city’ as describing a sustainable network of systems in their physical forms and communities of people. According to Godschalk, physical systems refer to natural environmental features that form a component of a city.

The most significant connections between the paper discussed, and the second paper set for reading this week.

Personal understanding of resilience or disaster resilience in cities

I have learnt that rapid urban growth, while being a positive indicator of economic growth and development, may expose cities to risks of disasters if not well managed. To mitigate such risks, it has become clear to me that ‘resilience’ of these cities is crucial. Resilience, as I now understand it, can address the problems of urban hazards. It increases a city’s capacity to carry on regardless of any emergency and to continue operating and realising its core mission in spite of the overwhelming challenges. Therefore, it extends beyond integrating disaster preparedness. For these reasons, resilience is significant, as the vulnerabilities of the built environmental and social communities remain virtually unpredictable. As a result, it enables city planners to address such uncertainties by designing cities that can contend with contingencies.

However, I wish to criticise the paper for lacking a research methodology section. This creates an assumption that Godschalk’s review was not based on a scientific measure. It also makes his conclusions less credible empirically. However, there is a clear connection between his ideas regarding urban hazard mitigation and resilient cities, which make his arguments coherent. Again, by using statistical evidences on the extent of damages by less resilient cities, Godschalk does make his arguments credible.


Godschalk, D 2003, «Urban Hazard Mitigation: Creating Resilient Cities,» Natural Hazards Review, vol 4 no3, pp.136-143