Module details for Success through Failure: How we learn from Disaster


This module will utilise the expertise of Abertay in the Natural and Built Environment. The students will learn about natural disaster such as landslides and flooding, structural disasters such as the Tay Rail Bridge and the system of critical infrastructure, part of built environment, such as road, rail, air and shipping transport networks, power grid, gas and water networks, health system, etc., constitutes the backbone of modern societies.


The review of causes requires students to develop their investigation skills and their critical thinking is developed through examining the impact of changes arising from the disasters.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  Understand the causes and consequences of different disaster scenarios

2.  Identify the role of reports and investigations that inform lessons to be learned from failure

Indicative Content

1 Overview of the scope and the content of concept of critical infrastructure failure during natural disasters and resilience against such failures

The consequences of geophysical, hydrological and meteorological disasters on critical infrastructure and critical infrastructure protection capabilities against natural disasters. Interdependencies of critical infrastructures during large disasters, presents a brief review of current research being done in this field, and presents a methodology to address interdependencies.

2 The identification of the vulnerabilities of the critical systems

The critical systems upon which modern society, economy, and polity depend. The identification of the vulnerabilities of these systems threats that might exploit these vulnerabilities. The effort to develop techniques to mitigate these vulnerabilities through improved design.

3 Flooding in Scotland

General overview of fluvial, pluvial and coastal flooding, the structural, economic and societal impact and responses to flooding. Resources will include historical examples, current policies and information (including SEPA flood maps). Case study (with virtual/actual field visit?) the Perth Floods of 1990 and 1993 and the Perth flood defence scheme*

4 Landslide origins, types and mitigations

General overview what landslides are, why they happen and what can be done to prevent them.

5 Structural Failure

e.g. why did the Tay Bridge fails and what did the failure mean for the Forth Rail Bridge

6 Reports and investigations

The role of reports in accident and disaster investigations in creating informative reports; case studies of accidents, disasters, learning from history, learning from case studies, learning from common law

7 Case studies

Power System Blackouts, Smart Grids and self-healing systems. Nuclear Plant Emergency How would the Public Respond?

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

For session 2020/21 the expectation is that the teaching and learning hours stated in this descriptor will form a mix of synchronous and asynchronous student/staff activity, with the majority of this being online. The exact pattern of this activity is likely to vary from the standard face-to-face hours listed below but the overall student effort remains the same. Up-to-date information on the delivery of the module can be found on the relevant module MLS site and on your student timetable.

Teaching and Learning Method Hours
Lecture 13
Tutorial/Seminar 27
Practical Activity 0
Assessment 80
Independent 80
Total 200

Guidance notes

SCQF Level - The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework provides an indication of the complexity of award qualifications and associated learning and operates on an ascending numeric scale from Levels 1-12 with SCQF Level 10 equating to a Scottish undergraduate Honours degree.

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2020/21 , and may be subject to change for future years.