We are able to use the satellite images, study the weather patterns, analyze the data and accurately predict the exact location of the cyclone HudHud’s landfall. But we are not able to manage the disaster recovery and relief efforts on the ground.
While our weather departments have done exceedingly well, our disaster management departments haven’t.
The Current day disaster management:
1)Victims are often ill treated and exploited.
2)Disasters are often sought as money making opportunities.
3)Safety and sanitation are not focussed upon.
4)Compensation to the victims is never a priority, in most of the cases it becomes a never ending fight.
5)The list is long but this is no time to find fault but rather try and focus on what could be done.
I’m no disaster management expert but I learnt a thing or two from my multiple volunteering efforts at the sandy storm relief and recovery. May be some of these are already in place, but if not, then these are worth considering implementing now or at least in the near future. There could be more and better ways but the below is what I learnt and they seem common sense to me.
1) have a centralized location for all the relief material – this could obviously be customized based on the geographic region that needs to be covered.
2) the relief material should be sorted and arranged in such a way that they can be easily accessed instead of one big pile of everything.
3) there needs to be proper inventory of these things
1) Multiple distribution centers need to be set up. If it’s a big area that needs to be covered then these centers must be strategically placed such that people can easily access such locations
2) these centers can be schools, universities, public offices and if no such physical structure exists then make shift tents must be set up for the same.
3) proper crowd management measures must be taken such as maintaining proper lines, labeling, taking care of women with children, differently abled, old etc
4) communicate the locations of these centers through social media, local media, public announcements
5) information centers must be set up – again these can be make shift
1) base camps need to be set up. No matter how small or big it doesn’t matter but this is where the volunteers must report.
2) Volunteer efforts must be well coordinated. Using simple color coded wrist bands can be a good start and multiple teams can be formed. Assigning team captains (any volunteer who understands the ground situation well enough can assume this role) so that he or she can guide the new volunteers can be easily done.
3) having walkie talkies are effective ways of communication. All team captains must be equipped with this or worst case all distribution centers must have a few
4) keeping track of which team is doing what is really important, so the team at the base camp must be in charged of this, so depending on the availability and the need they can divert the resources accordingly
5) volunteer teams must be formed in advance of the disaster. Volunteers must be sought out based on the warnings from the weather department – local volunteers have the advantage of knowing the geographic location
1) This becomes the key for everything. In the event of a disaster it’s likely that networks are down and as such walkie talkies must be readily available
2) flyers/pamphlets with all the information about the various centers must be distributed to every single nook and corner
4) audio announcements must be regularly made
5) directions must be well placed such that anyone walking into the disaster site must be able to help themselves as much as possible
Mobile ambulances and make shift hospitals are a must.
The disaster management department must be a full fledged department taking care of all the aspects of the disaster relief and recovery. It’s not just about evacuation and reducing the human loss, it’s also about restoring normalcy as soon as possible and more importantly treat victims with respect and dignity.
Last but not the least, the disaster recovery fund should not be just about rebuilding the infrastructure, it must also be about addressing the environment concerns that caused these disasters in the first place. If we don’t do anything to address these concerns then we are basically setting ourselves for another disaster.
After the 2009 floods in kurnool, I did make an effort to talk to the kurnool disaster recovery department but unfortunately I couldn’t get my point across. But with these many disasters, starting from Meghalaya, Assam, J&K, Uttarnachal and now Andhra, we have to double our efforts.