Disaster Management


Disaster Management

Disaster is defined as an event or series of events, which gives rise to causalities and damage or loss of properties, infrastructures, environment, essential services or means of livelihood on such a scale which is beyond the normal capacity of the affected community to cope with. Disaster is also described as a ‘catastrophic situation in which the normal pattern of life or eco system has been disrupted  and extra ordinary emergency interventions are required to save and preserve lives and/or environment’.

Disasters are characterized by some or all of the following issues.

  • They are disruptive to individuals and communities.
  • They are not part of day to day experience and are outside normal life expectations.
  • They are unpredictable in occurrence and effects can be of sudden onset.
  • They require a response for which normal local resources may not be adequate.
  • They have a wide range of effects and impacts on the human and physical environment.

For reducing the impact of a disaster, a comprehensive disaster management programme is necessary in every organization which is aiming at the following activities.

  • Development of an efficient disaster management system which improves the effectiveness of the management of disasters.
  • Mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction in order to reduce the impact of disasters.
  • To ensure that effective disaster preparedness measures are in place in order to cope with the disasters when they occur.
  • There is an effective emergency response and recovery when disaster strikes

Disaster management cycle recognizes four major functional areas which are considered as necessary components of a comprehensive approach. These are (i) prevention and mitigation, (ii) preparation, (iii) response, and (iv) recovery. Further to these functional areas, the key responsibilities of agencies connected with the disaster management include the following.

  • Planning – The analysis of requirements and the development of strategies for resource utilization.
  • Preparedness – The establishment of structures and development of systems by the organization as well as testing and evaluation of the capacity of the structures and systems to perform the allotted roles.
  • Coordination – The bringing together of the organizational resources to ensure a comprehensive approach for prevention, preparation, response, and recovery.

Disaster management planning

Disaster management plan is a comprehensive plan, which optimally utilizes men, material and available resources to prevent loss to lives and minimizes loss to property in case of a disaster. It ensures fastest approach for rescue and rehabilitation. Disaster management plan guides the entire machinery engaged in relief operation and induces courage amongst the employees to face the eventuality boldly. The key objectives of a disaster management plan can be described as follows.

  • To identify vulnerable areas of disaster through risk assessment and vulnerability analysis.
  • To evolve a suitable mitigation strategy so as to minimize the impact of disaster in terms of men and material loss.
  • To give professional guidance to the relief machinery engaged in relief operations.
  • To create awareness amongst the employees to face the disaster in case of an eventuality.
  • To involve all the employees of the organization in awareness creation and in relief operations.
  • To enable quick restoration of the plant, equipment and services affected by the disaster.
  • To prevent the spread of post disaster effects on the morale and spirits of the employees.

Risk and vulnerability analysis (RVA) also known as Hazard analysis (HAZAN) is an essential tool for any disaster management plan. In a disaster management plan, RVA helps in identifying people, property and resources that are at risk of damage, injury or loss during disasters. Such information aids in prioritizing the precautionary measures. Hazard analysis involves mapping of areas, which are prone to disaster so as to develop a visual representation of the hazard. The analysis aims at identifying areas in which the potential impact of a disaster is higher. Based on the analysis, the vulnerable areas in the plant are identified.

This analysis aims at identifying the critical facilities in the plant like fire stations, first aid centres, telecom facilities and rescue stations etc.  These facilities play a central role in disaster response and recovery and, hence, it is important to protect these critical facilities to ensure that disruption of these services is minimized during the disaster.

A high level disaster management committee (DMC) is required to be formed under the chairmanship of very senior management personnel to evaluate the disaster preparedness for different type of likely disasters. This disaster management committee is to ensure the preparation of the required emergency procedures, training and retraining of the employees in these procedures, regular mock drills, frequently taking stock of the situation, monitoring of the routine preparedness and suggesting of improvement in the response mechanism. This is required to be done to ensure coordinated mitigation, preparedness and response measures whenever disaster strikes.

Disaster management strategy

Optimum strategy is to be followed in accordance with the comprehensive disaster management plan to combat the effects of the disaster and to minimize the loss of life and property. Different departments of the plant, employee’s groups, fire station, and first aids etc. are required to play a major role in disaster mitigation. Broadly disaster management strategy has been divided into three major strategies namely (i) pre disaster phase, (ii) impact phase, and (iii) post disaster phase.

Pre disaster phase

This consists of preparing the organization under the condition of ‘no disaster situation’. During this phase prevention, mitigation and preparedness activities are undertaken. The activities undertaken during this phase are as follows.

  • Formation of the disaster management committee.
  • Carrying out the risk assessment and vulnerability analysis.
  • Formulation of a practical disaster management plan.
  • Carrying out the resource inventory.
  • Allocation of responsibilities to individual employees, groups and departments.
  • Preparation of the required emergency procedures.
  • Training and retraining of the employees in the emergency procedures.
  • Continuous awareness/sensitization programmes for the employees and stakeholders.
  • Regular exercise of the mock drills.

 Impact phase

This phase includes measures taken immediately after the disaster. Immediately after disaster state of emergency is to be declared and the emergency procedures are to be immediately come into force. The key activities of this phase include the following.

  • Rescue operation/evacuation by teams (already identified) and providing basic infrastructure and movement to rescue centres.
  • Provision of immediate medical facilities to the injured person.
  • It is to be ensured that there is no crowding of the area of the disaster and only the people connected with the relief work are available.
  • Functioning of disaster control room (DCR) and departmental control rooms.
  • Regular coordination meeting of the disaster management committee at the disaster control room to take stock of the situation and take decisions.
  • Providing regular, proper and accurate communication to the employees and other stake holders to avoid spreading of the rumours.
  • Monitoring of the disaster management by ensuring an effective line of control.
  • Allocation of adequate resources and administration of relief measures.

Post disaster phase

 This phase consists of assessment of the damage, speedy bringing to the normalcy, quick restoration of the affected facilities and learning the lessons from the disaster, mitigation of the long term consequences and taking measures for the avoidance of similar disaster in future. The key activities of this phase include the following.

  • Carrying out of the morale building exercise for the employees and the stake holders.
  • Assessment and enumeration of damage.
  • Analyzing the cause of the disaster by a fact finding committee.
  • Developing a reconstruction and rehabilitation plan after taking into consideration th
  • Recommendations of the committee.
  • Removal and disposal of debris.
  • Restoration of communication network.
  • Restoration of infrastructure network.
  • Restoration of the facilities modified to avoid similar disaster in future.
  • Documentation of the entire event for record and for use as training aid.
  • Modification of the procedures and other documents based on the lessons learnt so as to avoid repetition of the disaster.
  • Training of the employees in the revised procedures.
  • Continual of mock drill to keep the disaster management team in oiled condition.

Fig 1 shows a typical disaster management cycle.

Disaster management cycle

Fig 1 A typical disaster management cycle