Monday, June 30, 2008

Disaster Preparedness: need of the hour

Disaster is a situation or event which overwhelms local capacity, necessitating a request to a national or international level for external assistance. It always strikes when least expected. Hence the response of the system needs to be automatic, coordinated and needs to be based on pre established drilled/ rehearsed protocols. This obviously involves coordination between the various agencies.(eg:home/fire/paramilitary/homeguards/ communication/ transport / finance / NGO etc)
Natural calamities, of one description or the other, affect nations all over the world. Because of the large geographical size of the country, India often faces natural calamities like floods, cyclones landslides and earthquakes. Manmade disasters too affect us in the form of railway accidents, building collapse, industrial disasters including radiation and hazardous chemicals and finally acts of terror including bio terror and proxy wars.
Consequences of these calamities are loss of lives, injury to the survivors, epidemics, loss of housing, crops, damage to infrastructure, disruption of communication, panic, looting, break down of social order, short term or permanent migration, loss of industrial production.
Disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness and relief are four elements which contribute to and gain, from the implementation of the sustainable development policies. These elements along with environmental protection and sustainable development, are closely inter related. Disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness are better than disaster response in achieving the goals and objectives of vulnerability reduction. Disaster response alone is not sufficient as it yields only temporary results at a very high cost. Prevention and mitigation contribute to lasting improvement in safety and are essential to integrated disaster management.
Hospital preparedness is crucial to any disaster response system. Karnataka is in the forefront of medical education. This also has helped to identify Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences Karnataka, as the lead national resource institution for disaster response related curriculum development.
Other measures include flood preparedness and response, earthquake risk mitigation and disaster risk management programme.
Awareness generation
Awareness generation campaigns are necessary to sensitize all the stakeholders on the need for disaster preparedness and mitigation measures. Elected representatives and officials are to be trained in disaster management under the programme. Awareness about vulnerabilities is a good tool for inducing a mindset of disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness. This includes use of the mass media, introduction of relevant content in school curriculum etc.,
Need for audit:
Man always learns from his or others past experience. Experts in the field of Disaster management, should document and publish the past experience. In this regard there is also a need for having a regional and national registry on disaster related activities.
I am sure, such exchange of ideas through scientific communication would enrich our knowledge.
Let us all benefit from such shared wisdom to make this world, a safe one!

(excerpts from the guest lecture delivered in "Safe World 2008, Bangalore")

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