Types of Capacities


A combination of all the strengths and resources available within a community, society or organization that can reduce the level of risk, or the effects of a disaster. Capacity may include physical, institutional, social or economic means as well as skilled personal or collective attributes such as leadership and management. Capacity may also be described as capability. Some examples of capacity are: permanent houses, ownership of land, adequate food and income sources, family and community support in times of crisis, local knowledge, good leadership etc.

In disaster management, various capacities are crucial for effective response, recovery, and resilience-building. These capacities refer to the resources, abilities, and attributes that individuals, communities, and organizations possess to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. Here are the types of capacities in detail, along with examples:

Types of Capacities in Disaster Management

Disaster Management Capacity Types

1. Physical capacity

Physical capacity of a community or an area includes the equipment available, means of communication, infrastructure available in the area like bridges, roads, hospitals, schools, drainage etc. Availability of new water sources for drinking, irrigation and other purposes can also be counted in physical capacity. Indigenous engineering and construction skills to build and repair infrastructure are also a part of physical capacity. Physical capacity refers to the tangible resources, infrastructure, and systems that enable effective disaster management. This includes:

  • Infrastructure: The presence of well-built structures, such as hospitals, schools, roads, bridges, and evacuation centers, can enhance a community's ability to withstand and respond to disasters. For example, a region with robust flood control infrastructure, such as dams and levees, can reduce the impact of flooding.

  • Emergency Services: The availability and accessibility of emergency services like fire departments, paramedics, and search and rescue teams contribute to effective disaster response. These services are essential for timely rescue operations and medical assistance.

  • Communication Systems: Reliable communication systems, such as telecommunication networks, emergency broadcast systems, and community radio, facilitate the dissemination of warnings, coordination of response efforts, and communication between affected areas and response agencies.

Example: A coastal community equipped with early warning systems, evacuation routes, and well-equipped hospitals demonstrates strong physical capacity in disaster management.

2. Social Capacity

Social capacity includes the interpersonal and intrapersonal links in the community, relations and motivations among the people and the amount of interaction between people. During and after a disaster has struck in an area the ability of the local people to take action and guarantee the sustainability of the ongoing projects. In some areas communities have organized themselves on street-level or village level and have built small organizations for help in case of disasters or carrying our other welfare activities in the area on volunteering basis e.g. CSO, youth organizations, CBOs etc. Social capacity refers to the collective abilities, relationships, and networks within a community that support disaster management. It includes:

  • Community Networks: Strong social networks and community organizations enhance disaster resilience. These networks facilitate information sharing, cooperation, and mutual support during emergencies. For example, a neighborhood watch group can quickly mobilize resources and assist in evacuation efforts.

  • Social Cohesion: High levels of trust, cooperation, and solidarity within a community enhance its ability to respond collectively to disasters. Communities with established social cohesion are better equipped to share resources, support vulnerable members, and recover together.

  • Community Participation: Engaged and active community members who participate in decision-making processes and contribute to disaster planning and response efforts strengthen social capacity. Their involvement ensures that local knowledge, needs, and priorities are considered.

Example: A community that organizes regular disaster preparedness drills, conducts community meetings to discuss risk reduction measures, and has established volunteer networks showcases strong social capacity in disaster management.

3. Economic Capacity

Economics capacity comprises of the income of the community or an area, their savings, earnings, production, business activities and availability of jobs and livelihoods. This capacity also includes employable skills like mining, weaving, etc. GDP/ GNP of an area describes its economic capacity. Economic capacity refers to the financial resources, economic activities, and economic systems that support disaster management. It includes:

  • Financial Resources: Adequate financial resources at the community, organizational, and governmental levels enable investment in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. Access to emergency funds, insurance coverage, and contingency budgets can enhance the ability to allocate resources effectively.

  • Diverse Livelihoods: Communities with diverse and resilient economic activities are better positioned to recover from disasters. A mix of industries and employment opportunities can help absorb shocks and reduce the vulnerability of livelihoods.

  • Local Economic Systems: The existence of local markets, businesses, and supply chains plays a vital role in post-disaster recovery. These systems contribute to the availability of goods, services, and employment opportunities in the aftermath of a disaster.

Example: A region with a robust local economy, diverse industries, and a well-established contingency fund demonstrates strong economic capacity in disaster management.

4. Attitudinal Capacity

People fight and resist against plans and strategies that are not in line with their culture, ideology or religion and this can limit their capacity and increase their vulnerability to disasters. Having positive attitude towards involvement of women in community decision making, high awareness on social issues and high motivation for projects which are of mutual benefit for whole of the community can be regarded as an attitudinal capacity of a community e.g. if people have ‘We perception’ instead of ‘I perception’ this brings a feeling and attitude of collectivism as opposed to individualism in a society. Attitudinal capacity refers to the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that influence individual and collective actions in disaster management. It includes:

  • Awareness and Knowledge: Individuals and communities with awareness and understanding of disaster risks, preparedness measures, and response protocols are better equipped to respond effectively. Education and training programs play a crucial role in building attitudinal capacity.

  • Risk Perception and Preparedness: Recognizing and perceiving the risks, vulnerabilities, and potential impacts of disasters motivate individuals and communities to take proactive steps in preparedness. This includes developing emergency plans, assembling disaster supply kits, and participating in evacuation drills.

  • Adaptability and Resilience: The ability to adapt to changing circumstances, learn from past experiences, and recover quickly contributes to attitudinal capacity. Resilient attitudes and behaviors involve embracing innovation, accepting change, and being open to new ideas.

Example: Individuals who actively seek information about local hazards, participate in training programs on first aid and emergency response, and proactively prepare their households for disasters exhibit strong attitudinal capacity in disaster management.