Disaster Management Planning

Designing an easy to deploy disaster management plan takes three parts common sense to one part premonition. Of course, there are scenarios which are more likely to occur within certain areas, and specialised plans can be centred on these but generic plans designed to cover most emergency situations can offer greater flexibility and make more economic sense.

The two common strategies for disaster management planning are ‘agent-specific’ and the ‘all-hazards’ approach.

In agent-specific planning, communities only plan for threats most likely to occur in their area such as specific weather patterns or man-made incidents. This strategy can be useful for areas such as California where earthquakes, wildfires and floods are common.

But for many populations, predicting what disaster or emergency may occur within their area isn’t possible.  And regions which do have regular emergency situations cannot always rely on the usual suspects.  In order to prepare for all eventualities, it is wise to have a broad disaster management plan with built-in mechanisms to allow quick adaptation for specific crises.

The all-hazards approach to disaster planning runs on the premise that all disaster scenarios have a common thread of problems and tasks.  This disaster management approach allows local governments and decision makers to make the most of their planning, whilst at the same time minimising expenditure. 

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The twelve most common challenges for any disaster management plan are:

1.  Inter-organisational coordination:  Collaboration between intervening emergency response agencies cannot be stressed enough.

2.  Sharing information: This task can become complicated by the amount of equipment needed and the number of people involved. In most incidences, two-way radios are the only reliable form of communications across distances between mobilized response units. Landline and mobile phones can become overloaded and communication via radio frequency is unreliable due to differing band usage amongst responding agencies.

3.  Resource management:  A command centre must be established to take control of the distribution of supplemental personnel, equipment, and supplies among multiple organisations and identify which resources have arrived or are en route.  Command must also determine where those resources are most needed and brief all agencies or volunteers before entering the disaster scene.

4.  When advance warnings are possible:  Evacuation from areas of danger can be the most effective life-saving strategy before and during a disaster. Communication channels must be in place to allow numerous agencies access to information about detected potential threats.  And clearly defined criteria must be established as to when and where to evacuate so all agencies understand the procedure.

5.  The public tends to underestimate risks and downplay warnings: This is especially true if messages are ambiguous or inconsistent. All warnings should be issued from a credible source and information on how to determine individual risk factors must be conveyed to members of the affected population with clear guidelines on what actions should be taken.

6.  Search and rescue:  This is an important aspect of post-disaster response. But due to it’s very nature, cannot be planned for in advance as casualties are often treated at the scene. Efforts for search and rescue teams can also become complicated by multiple jurisdictions involved during a disaster as well as by the efforts of bystanders who are trying to help.

7.   Using the mass mediato deliver warnings to the public: Local media agencies should be tasked with educating the public on how to avoid health problems post disaster.  Information on food and water safety, injury and disease prevention should be disseminated through TV and radio.

8.  Triage:  Untrained personnel and bystanders involved with the initial search and rescue often bypass established field triage and first aid stations because they do not know where these posts are located or because they want to get the victims to the closest hospital.  Established protocols between emergency medical services and area hospitals will ensure more even distribution of casualties.

9.  Patient tracking: This issue can arises because most people who are evacuating a scene do not use local shelters and therefore their whereabouts are not recorded through official agencies.

10. Hospital or healthcare agency damage:  In the event that local medical facilities are incapacitated or overloaded with  disaster related casualties, an alternate site should be determined prior to an emergency.

11. Volunteer management:   Donation and volunteer management can become problematic during a disaster since most efforts are focused on mobilising all available participants and the available resources may exceed needs. 

Plan for organised improvisation:   Be prepared to respond to the disruption of shelters, utilities, communication systems, and transportation. Regardless of how thorough your disaster management plan may be, preplanning must always anticipate the unexpected.  And Public health officials must develop mutually agreed procedures, maintaining frequent training exercises to keep their systems coordinated. Sitemap>> Murano glass chandeliers.


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