In today’s highly volatile environment, disasters can happen in an instant. Often without warning and catching us off guard, these disasters are naturally home wreckers, business crumblers, and more often than not, life takers. It doesn’t matter where you live because when disasters strike, they strike relentlessly.
What is and what’s not
When we talk about disasters, it is often a phenomenon that is well beyond our control. It can be classified either as man-made or just the result of Mother Nature’s fury. Whatever is thought about disasters, it almost always spells big trouble to human life and activity.
Disaster management is an approach to effectively avoiding the risks associated with such disasters and dealing with these disasters head-on. It is a multifaceted approach to managing all types of disasters in order to minimize both infrastructure damage and losses in life and includes the following
· Preparation of the community before disaster occurs
· Mobilization of disaster response teams in times of disasters
· Supports efforts to restore and rebuild society after natural and man-made disasters
· Disaster response activities can include evacuation, quarantine, and mass decontamination, among others.
Disaster management is a cyclical and ever-continuing process of planning, application, evaluation, and modification so that the community can continually adjust to changing global dynamics. Furthermore, the business of disaster management planning should involve all stakeholders from individuals to groups, to whole communities. This is done to prevent or ameliorate the impact of disasters resulting from the threats or hazards.
Phases of the Disaster Management Process
Since definitive actions depend on the perceptions of threats of the vulnerable groups in the community, it is important to integrate thoroughly the principles of disaster management planning across all members of the community, both government and non-government entities.
Since the nature of disaster management also depend on local economic and social conditions, key result areas of the plan should include long-term work on infrastructure, public awareness, and human justice issues. Preparing for the process is a very tedious task but, once fully functional, it will be all worth it.
In the mitigation phase of the disaster management process, activities and projects are carefully laid out focusing on the reduction and or elimination of threats over the long term. These actions either attempt to prevent threats from developing into disasters altogether or to minimize the effects of disasters when they do occur.
Mitigation efforts can include structural and non-structural measures. Structural measures often involve technological solutions such as flood dikes and levees. Nonstructural measures can include legislation, insurance, and land use planning.
Before any mitigation plans can be implemented, however, it is necessary that the disaster management council identify first the risks involved.
During the preparedness stage, disaster management personnel design specific programs of action that will be implemented when disaster does strike. Communication plans are developed in order to facilitate ease of understanding disaster related terminology and methods. This way, too, the effective transfer of valuable information during the disaster is observed and miscommunication minimized.
During this stage, disaster planners develop training programs and conduct proper maintenance schedules for the various resources to be used during the disaster. Community disaster response teams are given appropriate training and resources for eventual use. Organizing trained volunteer organizations is also essential by this time.
Disaster population warning methods are also developed and tried during this time to iron out perceived flaws in the system. Emergency shelters as well as evacuation plans are also developed. The community also begins efforts to stockpile, inventory, and maintain disaster relief supplies and equipment.
In the response phase of disaster management, search and rescue may commence at any time. However, the principal activity during this time will be the provision of fundamental humanitarian needs. By this time, too, individual families will be fending off for themselves, staying in shelters or evacuating to a designated safe place. It is during this time that all the month- and year-long preparations will be put to its ultimate test.
When disaster has begun to subside, the recovery phase can then begin. During this phase, reconstruction and restoration efforts are underway. It is often the most difficult phase in the whole disaster management process because not only will you be dealing with the emotional turmoil of affected lives but also the extent of the damage.
Metropolitan cities are large and often highly industrialized geographic entities that are often characterized by diversity and commercialism. When we talk about a metropolis we talk about huge buildings, massive skyscrapers, awesome infrastructures, and a population that is highly diverse in culture, beliefs, traditions, and orientation.
These are highly complex social environments where its management will require a totally different approach compared to other geopolitical entities. Although majority of modern metropolises have their own fully autonomous local government unit, some of the essential services are premised on the developmental framework provided for by a higher form of government – the national government.
As such, when it comes to allocation of resources, most especially financial resources, these metropolitan areas receive the biggest share and are, perhaps, entitled to more privileges and or benefits than other entities.
Small rural towns, on the other hand, are the direct opposite of a metropolitan city. The picture of a small town is often painted as a laid-back community with a few to several homes whose owners are known by each and everyone. In most sociology books, a small town will be characterized by a much closely-knit social system where everyone else knows everybody else. Most of these homes will be located in prairies, grasslands, and other similarly ‘close-to-Mother Nature-type of environment’.
Technically, the people living in small towns are leading very simple lives with very simple needs and requirements. Although their inherent wishes may hold some parallelism to those held by people in large cities, they often find contentment in the simple things around them. Governance therefore, is not a matter of management capacity but rather whether the person can lead the whole community.
Disaster Management Planning: Large City versus Small Town
Now that we have an idea about the differences, and similarities, of the two geopolitical entities, we shall now examine their differences in planning for disaster management.
In the mitigation phase of disaster management, planners in a big metropolitan city will be hard-pressed at developing truly unique and workable plans to meet the need for both prevention and control of disaster. Since the city is often described as crowded and with tall structures, the risk involved will be greater. There will be more potential losses in life and more extensive damage to property and infrastructure. Furthermore, the cost of a disaster will be a lot greater.
These considerations, together with the cultural mix of the people living in the city, should be taken in the light of developing both structural and non-structural measures. Although the city will, no doubt, be able to finance big structural projects to curb the impact of disaster threats, this is as far as they can go. Legislation and insurance policy making can also help although the exact value of land-use planning as a nonstructural measure will remain questionable. This is for the simple reason that there are simply very minimal public lands in a highly urbanized city.
On the other hand, mitigation services in a small town will almost always be focused on the nonstructural measures. Because people know each other by heart, legislation efforts can make the necessary directives for a unified output. Furthermore, since the town can have sufficiently large areas of public lands, land-use planning initiatives will be a great measure.
The different preparedness activities in a city will greatly vary from those in a small town. For one, the highly populous city will require the organization, training, equipping, and fielding of more volunteer organizations as well as disaster response teams. Although communications technology will be a prime consideration, cultural diversity will often preclude the effective management of disasters in a city.
Small towns, however, will have a much easier time organizing its disaster response teams and volunteers. Training will come at a minimal cost and so is the provision of necessary equipment and supplies.
Depending on the gravity, nature, and extent of the disaster, emergency response teams in a city may find more difficulty conducting search and rescue. Since buildings may collapse and other infrastructure fails, the toll on human life may be unprecedented. Furthermore, the massive debris brought about by ravaged structures present an entirely different kind of obstacle.
In small towns, one major source of obstacle during the response phase will be natural calamities such as landslides, volcanic eruptions, rockslides, and the like. Although the loss on life will be minimal compared to a metropolitan strike, it will be grieved by everyone.
The rebuilding of a small town will be a lot faster than that of a major metropolitan city, notwithstanding the cost and energy needed to effect such activity. Although aid in various forms from various sources will be made immediately available to a disaster-stricken city, the process of rebuilding and reconstructing will be long and difficult.
Disaster management planning has become an important activity in the life of a community. Whether you live in a big city or in a small rural town, do your share and help in the process of planning to steer away from disasters and what to do when it does strike town.