Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e dell'Ambiente - Guida degli insegnamenti (Syllabus)


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Seat Scienze
A.A. 2016/2017
Credits 7
Hours 56
Period 1^ semestre
Language ENG
U-gov code SM03 W000021


Knowledge of extreme natural phenomena, natural hazards, vulnerability and risk. Knowledge of basic principles and methodologies of emergency planning. Notions of environmental and civil protection legislation.

Development of the course

The course consists of frontal lectures (about 3/5) and critical reading activities of scientific articles on disaster risk reduction. The course also includes a few seminars and supplementary modules, taught by professionals from the field. These extra activities are aimed at providing students an applied perspective on the theoretical topics covered in class. Finally, the course includes a 2 or 3 day field trip (depending on financial availability) to either visit places hit by past disasters or vulnerable to future impacts, or to attend civil protection exercises. Students are also requires to develop an independent study on the subject of vulnerability and resilience to disasters. The strong interactive nature of this course (critical thinking, seminars and independent studies) requires students to be highly proactive in class, therefore attendance and participation in classroom activities is very important.

Learning outcomes

The course provide students a multifaceted perspective on hazard and risk. The main objective is to help students develop their capacity to identify the unsustainable uses of the Earth that create risk and vulnerability. The awareness that the source of risk and disaster lies in the interaction between natural and anthropogenic processes is achieved by students through the synthesis of their knowledge of environmental processes and new socio-anthropological perspectives provided in the course. Disaster risk reduction is obtained lowering on the one hand the conditions of vulnerability, while improving on the other human adaptation to natural processes, namely increasing societal resilience to natural hazards.

Ability to apply the knowledge:
The critical readings and classroom discussions will compel students to develop both analytical and communication skills. The monographic research to be presented in class at the end of the course is also designed to help the individual to synthesize and take advantage of the personal characteristics and the knowledge acquired on the subject of sustainable development and disaster risk reduction of risk. Following are some of the skills that the course seeks to nurture in students: acquire and effectively interpret information, interpersonal, intercultural, social and civic competence, problem solving, pinpoint links and correlations. Ultimately, the course aims at providing both the technical and scientific understanding on the concepts of risk, vulnerability and resilience, and to stimulate the individual to imagine and propose alternative development and land use models. The goal is to prepare students to face future professional challenges, giving them capacity of synthesis and interdisciplinary dialogue, pivotal skill to addressed environmental planning and management issues.

Soft skills:
Understanding the surrounding environment and learn how to survive and adapt to it requires skills deriving from the various spheres of theoretical knowledge and practical experience. Reducing risk conditions means among many other things, being able to integrate multidisciplinary information and distill new knowledge exploring the interface of traditional disciplines. It also requires the ability to maximize teamwork and make the most out of the available resources. Students of this course will develop the ability to proficiently communicate and exchange knowledge with the different professional cultures composing the realm of civil protection and disaster risk reductions.


The course covers methods and techniques of disaster risk reduction including the fundamentals of emergency planning. Starting with the discussion of the historical evolution of emergency management and civil protection, lectures will move to the political and cultural dimensions of risks and disasters (political ecology). The complementarity relationship of risk and safety is explored along with approaches and strategies to build disaster resilient communities. Following is a list of the principal topics discussed in class. Basic principles of emergency planning. Design of an emergency plan and its activation within the regulatory and organizational references of the national civil protection systems. Available cartographic and analytical methods. Principles of disaster mitigation and prevention through the analysis and systematic management of the causal factors of risk (e.g. reducing exposure and vulnerability of people and property, sustainable land use and management, or developing adaptive capacity to extreme natural events of local communities). Different needs and strategies in the different time phases of the disaster cycle. Models and scenarios for emergency simulation. Early warning and evacuation protocols. Search and rescue procedures. Recovery and reconstruction approaches. Special attention will be given to emergency communications and the role of information technology in civil protection. The course finishes discussing the growing issue of emerging risks and complex emergencies.

Development of the examination

Methods for assessing learning outcomes:
The final examination is oral and there are no written tests. However, during class activities, students are asked to critically discuss readings and other scientific material. An active participation of the student in these class discussions is among the learning evaluation methods. Similarly, the presentation in class of a monographic study helps the learning assessment and contribute to the course final grade.

Criteria for assessing learning outcomes: 
During the oral exam the student must demonstrate knowledge of the topics of disaster risk reduction. The exam questions will cover the various thematic areas discussed in class by the teacher, those contained in the readings assigned for the classroom discussions, and presented in the seminars and additional course modules. Questions can cover also address the subjects learned and directly experienced in the field trips. Student must demonstrate that they have achieved the ability to apply the knowledge gained with this course in terms of both critical analysis and capacity to formulate of comprehensive strategies for disaster risk reduction. 

Criteria for measuring learning outcomes:
The course final grade is expressed in thirtieth with a threshold of 18/30. Students showing thorough preparation and insightful analysis will be awarded the highest grade with honors (30 cum laude).

Criteria for conferring final mark:
The final grade is computed by adding the evaluation of the answers to the questions posed during the oral exam, the degree of participation in the reading and critical discussion activities, and the quality of the independent study presented in class at the end of the course. Honors (30 cum laude) will awarded to the students who demonstrates to have fully mastered the subject and shows the ability to apply the acquired knowledge in different policy scenarios.

Recommended reading

Notes and teaching materials provided in class and made available online.
Alexander, D. E., 2000. Confronting Catastrophe: new perspectives on natural disasters. Oxford University Press, 282 pp.
Alexander, D. E., 2002. Principles of Emergency Planning and Management. Oxford University Press, 340 pp.
Blaikie, P., Cannon, T., Davis, I. and Wisner, B., 2014. At risk: natural hazards, people's vulnerability and disasters. Routledge, 496 pp.

  • Sostenibilit√† ambientale e protezione civile

Università Politecnica delle Marche
P.zza Roma 22, 60121 Ancona
Tel (+39) 071.220.1, Fax (+39) 071.220.2324
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