David Eugene Schaad (Duke University)


From 15:00
to 16:30
From 15:00
to 16:30

Course description
Hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, wildfires, droughts, and monsoons are all “natural” phenomena. What makes them “disasters” is the economic and personal toll on human populations. In this class students will focus on the phases of a disaster: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. In the first part of the class, discussions will focus on the physical, scientific, and causal reasons for a variety of natural events: floods and monsoons, earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes, droughts, pandemics, and wildfires. The next phase of the class will focus on how we respond to these disasters: physical response, logistical deployments, and how disasters impact different populations differently. In the final section of the class students will focus on mitigation strategies to address the broader underpinning of these issues. What are the technical responses, the policy responses, the economic responses, and the long-term societal responses? How do we plan for a future world that looks very different than the world we live in today? With over 50% of the population living in urban centers in the very near future, questions posed to the students will include: how do we make cities and urban centers more resilient? How do we as a society create the world in which we want to live? How do we encourage personal responsibility and independent action, while recognizing the need to act collectively and in the common interest? Ethical and philosophical discussions will intersect with the technological and scientific understanding of the identified issues. In addition to regular lecture and discussion-based learning, students will participate in field trips to local mitigation strategies like the Venice lagoon flood gates.

Learning Outcomes
1. Understand the science and underlying technical principles of how “disasters” happen
2. Understand how we have historically responded to disasters
3. Understand and analyze the impact of disasters on marginalized populations
4. Address ethical questions related to how different groups are impacted by disasters, and the disproportionate impact to marginalized groups
5. Understand what mitigation and long-term planning strategies will make our urban centers more resilient to future disasters

Teaching Methods
Instruction will be lecture-based, but students will engage in active learning, problem solving, field trips, and other experiential learning activities. Problem-solving tasks and innovation challenges will be woven throughout the course to allow students to address open-ended problems and conceptualize and recommend creative empowering solutions.

Course Requirements
Students will be expected to complete the assigned work and actively participate in class discussions. Collaborative learning will be encouraged. Additional assistance outside of class for assignments will be provided as needed.


Evaluation Methods
5% - Science of Disaster - Reflection/Paper
10% - Science of Disasters – Group Project/Presentation
10% - Science of Disasters – Quiz
5% - Preparation and Response – Reflection/Paper
10% - Preparation and Response – Group Project/Presentation
10% - Preparation and Response – Quiz
5% - Recovery and Mitigation – Reflection/Paper
10% - Recovery and Mitigation – Group Project/Presentation
10% - Recovery and Mitigation – Quiz
25% - Final Exam


Schedule of Covered Topics

Week of September 18
_Introduction to the Course and Motivation for Resilience
_Introduction to Science Behind Disasters

Week of September 25
_Floods and Hurricanes/Cyclones
_Earthquakes and Tectonic Motion (Paper/Reflection Due)

Week of October 2
_Droughts, Water Scarcity and Wildfires
_Science of Disasters Group Presentation

Week of October 9
_Pandemics and Disease Outbreaks
_Science of Disasters Quiz

Week of October 16
_Phases of Disasters
_How do Societies Prepare for Disasters?

Week of October 23
_How does Societies Respond to Disasters?
_Who is Impacted by Disasters? (Paper/Reflection Due)

Week of October 30
Midterm Break – NO CLASS

Week of November 6
_Moral Hazards and Adverse Selection
_Preparation and Response Group Presentation

Week of November 13
_Policy and Economic Interventions
_Preparation and Response Quiz

Week of November 20
_Resilience and a Sustainable Future
_How do Societies Recover?

Week of November 27
_Mitigation Strategies
_How do Societies Remember? (Paper/Reflection Due)

Week of December 4
_Urbanization and the Future of Development
_Recovery and Mitigation Group Presentation
FRIDAY – Field Trip to Lagoon Flood Protection (tbc)

Week of December 11
_Ethics of Resilience
_Recovery and Mitigation Quiz

Week of December 18


Science of Disasters:


Hurricanes and Typhoons:

Earthquakes and Tectonic Motion:



Responding to Disasters:




Last updated: July 18, 2023


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30133 Venice,

phone: +39 041 2719511
fax:+39 041 2719510

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