"Disaster -Management & Mitigation"

Disaster -Management & Mitigation

Highlights:

Causes of Disasters - Prevention - Management - Mitigation - NDMA - Response to Disasters - Training & Preparation of NDMF - Dealing with Media - Responsibility of NDMF and transition of site to local authorities - Necessary Policies.

Quotations for considerations:

  • “The fundamental causes of most disasters arise from human and organizational failures - inadequate safety protocols, corporate hierarchies, conflicting egos or plain laziness” - Robert Bea (Disaster Specialist).
  • “The impulse… to devote resources to predicting the next (Disaster) makes (one) more vulnerable to those not predicted. It is better to invest in preparedness, not in prediction…  One can have a clear idea of the consequences of an event, even if one does not know how likely or when it is likely to occur… Plan to mitigate the consequences” - Nicholas N. Taleb .
  • “Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.” - General George S. Patton

Key Concepts:

Natural phenomena may not always result in a Disaster, except when they affect people and their property and projects. Hence it is essential that we study such phenomena and plan to avoid such ill-effects.

To attempt to prevent disasters you need to have the discipline and foresight to make the necessary investments to attain to realistic and adequate safety and protection levels before getting into a situation where you then don’t have the resources to do so.

We tend to ignore warnings of catastrophes because we have short attention and memory spans of prior incidents and disasters. The real killer is our indolence. Don’t allow building in flood plains and low lying areas, specify appropriate regulations for building in seismic zones etc.

While we can’t always prevent a disaster but we can do things to mitigate the risks. If a project or building, etc needs to be done then we should be willing to bear the costs for doing so now in a responsible manner. Not doing so would definitely result in greater, even catastrophic, costs (even 100 or 1000 times more) in future.

But how safe is safe enough? In most cases be practical and realistic in assessing the level of safety determined to be desirable. However, when considering densely populated or intrinsically high risk projects (Nuclear Power, Chemical and Biological facilities etc) think about the ‘impossible’ happening and plan for the worst case as today the aviation industry does. If the cost is too high, then seek to avoid the situation. If it is unavoidable then the cost must be incurred.

  • Disaster Management starts with ensuring the determination and specification of effective preventive measures, arising out of a proper and realistic understanding of the acceptable level of risk to be catered for, in the execution and operation of any Project (Building, Infrastructure, or System).
  • Disaster Mitigation requires a clear understanding of the effects of each of the many types of Disasters, and the ability to respond immediately and appropriately to mitigate the

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Comments

A well thought out article on disaster mgt.To be more practical, I would suggest that we identify various types of disasters that we have either faced in the past or likely to face. We need to deal with each type of disaster in detail to include the organisation to be set up and be functional at the site within 12-24 hrs,the medical teams, the logistic part,evacuation and rehabilitation.Two most common disasters that we face in and out are earthquakes and floods. We need to be very specific for different kinds of terrain.An earthquake in a hill area will call for entirely different response compared to that in a plain area. Flood prone area in the country r generally well demarcated and each State is supposed to have flood control plans which generally are discussed in civil military coordination meetings prior to the monsoons. I have personally attended these meetings in the North East but my experience is rather disappointing. no one is really serious in the civil administration It is always left to the Army to handle the situation. The budget allotted for various precautionary measures is generally exhausted by showing things done on paper or at the most some token works undertaken. To give an example: lot of money is spent on construction of bunds to prevent water entering the town.Actually on ground only a part of this executed but shown as complete work done. As soon as the monsoon's first heavy rain washes out any part of the bund,it will be shown that most of the work done pre-monsoon has been washed out. As a result,fresh funds would be asked for in the budget. Having a college to impart training to various govt functionaries may just be a wasted effort. I say this because person nominated for such training would be those who are least wanted in an organisation and they would only be disinterested. I would suggest that voluntary groups could be created in each district who would meet regularly and prepare workable plans to respond to such disasters and try to rope in the local administration for maximum possible help. This is a subject where we can keep writing as much as we want but unless there is awareness in those who are responsible ,nothing much will come out.The civil administration will follow the easiest way out---requsition the army and let them handle the situation.

Dear Pawan, Thanks a lot for your comments. Much of what you have written is applicable today. The Aim of my Article was on how to organize the National Disaster Management Authority. Today the NDMA is being organized on GREF / Pioneer unit lines with a lot of administrative baggage and much less field engineering skills. I recommend that the organization needs to be leaner, better skilled and capable of a more rapid response to a Disaster, to assist during the first 48 to 72 hours and then hand over to the Civil Administration. I am not advocating the case for general training in this matter to state administrative personnel. The training institute would be for such personnel and on other response teams as may be deemed fit (fire fighters, urban building collapse etc) and not for the general administrative personnel on whom I agree the training would be wasted. As regards the other points you made about financial allocations, prior planning and specific preparation for different types of Disasters in different geographic locations and different seasons, you may please read the article again as I have covered that therein. Best Wishes… P. T. Choudhary

India is very poor in disaster management at many areas. There is no precautionary measures in public areas like vegetable markets, super markets, public meetings, parks and recreation centers. Everyone mad noise after an incidence happen including media.
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