The University of Copenhagen has created the Copenhagen Center for Disaster Research (COPE), a hub of multidisciplinary expertise designed to improve management of natural disasters.

One of COPE's main initiatives is a Disaster Situation Room – a place where both researchers and specialists with first-hand experience in disaster relief can meet to brainstorm and provide advice during disasters. A key aspect of the center’s ethos is to bring analytical skills into disaster management. This includes factoring in, for instance, cultural aspects of the populations affected, which provide clues on how to proceed more effectively. The center will collect data from each case to build a knowledge bank by monitoring relief aid activities, media coverage and political agendas.

The media will be a main focus of the center’s work, since media coverage influences how relief work is carried out and what it achieves. Despite its role in creating awareness of disasters, media focus often can do more harm than good. Peter Kjær Mackie Jensen, head of the research center, cites as an example the relief efforts after the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. While people were dying in the streets, financial resources were going mainly towards digging survivors out of the rubble because the latter made for more dramatic TV.

The idea for the center was inspired by the handling of the 2004 tsunami in Asia. At the time, hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives and faced with a tragedy of unprecedented scale, relief operations lacked coordination and there was less collaboration between different fields of expertise than there could have been.

Other organizations involved in COPE are the Copenhagen Business School and the Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA). Besides the center, the University of Copenhagen also offers a Master of Disaster Management.

Source: University of Copenhagen