The Post Event Review Capability (PERC) is a methodology used to review and learn from disasters in order to build resilience against future events. The PERC was developed by the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance in 2013 and has since been applied to disasters around the globe. In the process of conducting these PERCs we have learned and adapted the methodology based on which we have now published an updated manual.
An award winning approach to resilience building
Learning why something has manifested in the way it has is fundamental to improving how we do things — learning allows us to recognize what worked well and what didn’t and adapt accordingly. This is why disaster forensics is so important and a key emerging field.
This recognition is the foundation of the Post Event Review Capability. PERC was developed by the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance and provides a process and framework for reviewing and analysing disasters, focusing on how a hazard event became a disasters, and how this can be avoided in the future.
It is amazing to see how much progress the PERC approach has made since we started in 2013. Who would have thought then that what started as a small idea within the broader Zurich Flood Resilience Program would turn into what it has become today: a multiple award-winning concept spanning five continents; a tangible approach that supports disaster risk reduction programming on the ground; a set of strong, recurring insights that help advocate for doing better from the local to global scale; and a grounded methodology with results supporting peer reviewed articles and book contributions.
But why: achieving a deeper understanding for researcher and interviewee
There are various stages of learning. My own involvement in many of the post-event reviews has shown me that we can always go deeper, beyond just picking up the easy or obvious pieces of deterministic information lying on the surface.
A PERC researcher is a bit like a child asking “But why…” in response to any answer received. I find that taking this approach – listening to what others have to say, learning from their experience, encouraging them to think a bit differently and look a bit deeper – and then combining the individual puzzle pieces you’re given until a bigger picture emerges is key to the unique value proposition that PERC brings.
It’s rewarding to see interviewees discover additional perspectives and thinking about different solutions solely by probing and asking open-ended questions. It’s equally rewarding when the final range of products comes together to present not just the findings, but why we discover those findings, and what can be done to address them.
All disasters can be learned from, and none of them are natural
PERC’s systematic, credible foundation has allowed us to expand the method from its “home base” in the flood context to other natural hazards. This, in turn, has allowed us to build an ever-growing stock of insights and recommendations on the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance Knowledge Portal which detail what action to take so that large events don’t necessarily turn into humanitarian disasters.
This work helps us maintain the drumbeat that disasters are not natural, that risk reduction and resilience building can make a big difference and, if done at the right time and place, reducing risk and avoiding harm is both cost-effective and eminently achievable. We simply need the knowledge and the motivation to act.
What’s next for the Post Event Review Capability?
We didn’t know at the outset what our small team working on PERC would get themselves into – and with every new post-event review, we still don’t know. Jumping into the unknown and learning from what we find there is part of the task, often challenging, never boring.
I want to thank all individuals, teams, and organizations who have tirelessly worked with us and supported us along the PERC journey this far, and who have been integral contributors to the awards we have received – the Outstanding Achievement Award from the 2019 US National Hurricane Conference, and the 2019 Business Insurance Innovation Award.
I believe our work shows how vital the provision of learning is in order to improve the functioning of our society, and we must make every effort to keep learning open-access, easy and free to obtain. Both our flood resilience portal and the PERC are here to be shared with all of you, and this is why I am happy to launch a new, updated version of the PERC Manual.