The interaction and the couple effects that may occur as induced and indirect consequences of any triggering hazard in metropolitan areas is one of the most important problems to be tackled during disasters, as the Kobe earthquake in 1995 showed very clearly. The analysis of direct, secondary and indirect effects of the Kobe earthquake suggests to substitute the concept of chain of losses and failures to the simple couple hazardous event-damages which is currently used. Not only parameters related to physical weakness or strength of the built environment should be considered by scientists, experts and decision-makers. Organisational, social, and systemic factors are equally crucial to understand the magnified dimension of disasters at increasing levels of exposed systems vulnerability. Linking failures due to different kinds of vulnerability one to the other permits to reconstruct complete event scenarios, where social and organisational elements are not simply added to the 'hard' components of cities, but contribute to explain why failures and losses occurred and why it took so long to repair them. Lifeline damage assessment provides a good example to show how physical, organisational and systemic vulnerabilities are intimately connected one to the other. The point of view from which governance problems related to prevention and emergency preparedness will be looked at is that of an urban and regional planner. When planners look for design solutions suitable for a specific town or region, they must constantly bridge between hard technical matters and social and economical concerns. Furthermore, they are forced to consider in their projects spatial and geographic dimensions. Those two typical features of planners' approach to problem solving can be interesting for scholars in the field of risk assessment and mitigation research. Copyright © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V.
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