‘ISLAND & ISLAND II: Inspiring Sri Lankan Renewal and Development,’ funded by RICS Education Trust, were a series of studies to develop key knowledge variables for post-disaster scenarios and platforms for creating and managing knowledge among major stakeholders, including government, industry and academia.

Frequency and extent of natural disasters are increasing on a global scale. Natural disasters claim many human lives and damage a great deal of property.

The urgent need to reduce disaster risk and develop a resilient community capable of recovering from disasters is of increasing concern in many countries. Knowledge management can play a vital role through ensuring the availability and accessibility of accurate and reliable disaster risk information when required and through effective lesson learning.

ISLAND aimed to increase the effectiveness of disaster management by facilitating the sharing of appropriate knowledge and good practices in land, property and construction. Due to the broad scope of disaster-management related activities, this initial research focused on creating a knowledge base on the post-tsunami response, with specific reference to case material in Sri Lanka. In this context, Sri Lanka provided a good base for data collection due to its experiences associated with the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004. The findings resulted in the production of several academic papers and presentations made at international conferences. As part of project findings, the need to concentrate on different phases of the disaster mitigation cycle was emphasised.

‘ISLAND-II’ (Inspiring Sri- LankAn reNewal and Development – Phase II) research project set out to identify key disaster knowledge factors pertaining to disaster management and incorporate appropriate knowledge and good practices relating to different types of disasters. The research was conducted according to four Work Packages (WPs): WP1- Test the Effectiveness of the Existing Knowledge Base; WP2- Identification of Key Knowledge Variables within the Disaster Management Cycle; WP3- Population and Expansion of Knowledge Base with more Case Studies; and WP4- Disseminate Research and Identify Future Research Directions. A review of existing literature, expert interviews and focus group discussions were used to deliver research outputs.

Disaster knowledge factors are classified into several categories based on their characteristics: Technological, Social, Environmental, Legal, Economical, Operational/Managerial, Institutional and Political. These factors are common for all types of disasters and across three phases of disaster cycle; mitigation/preparedness, relief/recovery and reconstruction/rehabilitation. Social factors have a very high influence level in managing disasters successfully.

Technological, operational/ managerial, economic, social, legal and environmental factors seem to have direct influence over the disaster management cycle, while the influence of institutional and political factors seemed indirect and it is through other factors identified. The mitigation/preparedness phase seemed influenced by almost all the disaster knowledge factors.

Among key challenges, the lack of detection and warning systems, the need for effective education, training and awareness raising programmes, the need for regular updating of disaster related laws, lack of funds for economic planning measures, poor planning, poor communication, poor leadership, and poor institutional arrangement were highlighted. Peoples’ attitudes and perceptions hinder their involvement in disaster management; hence, in order to manage disasters successfully it is important to overcome these attitudes and perceptions.

For further information about the project, please contact Dr Chaminda Pathirage. Email: