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Developing resilience to natural disasters

How do those responding to the world’s growing number of natural disasters ensure that the affected communities have viable futures after the relief workers have gone home?

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How do those responding to the world’s growing number of natural disasters ensure that the affected communities have viable futures after the relief workers have gone home – and are more resilient to further disasters?

The distressing scenes from the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal were another reminder of the devastating consequences of natural disasters increasing in number over the last 50 years according to the EM-DAT – International Disaster Database.

park view pr BRE Group

“One of the challenges we face in the humanitarian sector,” says Graham Saunders, Head of Shelter and Settlements for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), “is that along with the desire to meet the immediate needs of disaster affected communities, we must also be thinking about the longer term from day one onwards and ensuring that our response to the disaster is sustainable, leading to resilient communities.”

A tool for the job

In 2010, IFRC approached BRE to help develop a tool that would deliver sustainability guidance and provide a method of assessment – including the means for agencies to score their interventions and measure progress. The aim was to draw on BRE’s experience of developing the BREEAM ( methodology for enhancing, assessing and rating the sustainability of buildings.

The outcome of this collaboration was the web-based tool called QSAND (Quantifying Sustainability in the Aftermath of Natural Disasters). QSAND is organised into eight categories within which issues relating to the reconstruction of a sustainable community are assessed. They are Shelter & community, Settlement, Material & waste, Energy, Water & sanitation, Natural environment, Communications and Cross-cutting issues such as Resilience and Participation.

Measuring the success of the long-term outcome

A unique feature of QSAND’s Core Assessment Tool is its ability to give the user an overall performance score at the end of the process, in order to quantify the sustainability of a project or programme. This will help governments, humanitarian agencies and funders to understand the impacts of their work in disaster zones, pinpoint which strategies are the most effective and establish benchmarks of sustainability success.

Who will use QSAND?

QSAND is design to be used by those who are:

Directly involved in the day to day development, implementation and oversight of relief and re-construction activities including field managers, practitioners and regulatory officials.

Desk based managers who include technical advisors, programme managers, and national or provincial government officials.

Overseeing or advising on the overall response and longer term development needs, including international organisations, donors, finance institutions and policy analysts.

“We now have QSAND out there as a tool,” says Graham Saunders. “It’s been piloted in Sri Lanka and the first step of rolling it out was taken in the Philippines, and we have been discussing its use in a number of different locations around the world. So we feel we can now discuss QSAND with other humanitarian agencies and mainstream its use.”

Information about using the tool, details of BRE Trust funded activities such as QSAND Practitioner Training, and how to be become a QSAND sponsor are available on the QSAND website. For more information visit