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Disaster Management-The Need for Managers
Disaster Management

One issue that continues to jump out at me as I watch disaster events unfold around the country is how disaster responders somehow are pushed into the roles of disaster managers. There is a difference. The term management is defined in Webster’s as “the act or art of managing” and when you look up managing you get to my point with the definition of “to handle or direct with a degree of skill.” Managers have to have skill and experience to be effective. One of the worse fallacies that we promote in our discipline is that a great responder makes for a great manager. Nothing is further from the truth.

A great responder is just that….. skilled and trained to complete a response task. A great manager has to have more diverse skills and training to not only be able to see the “big picture,” but also be able to see a concise, clear path to an events mitigation. The diverse skills come into play for a great manager to be able to accomplish the mitigation of this event by communicating and delegating to others, his vision and goals, and then motivating them to success. He is not managing the disaster….. he is successfully managing the people who are taking care of the disaster. A great responder may see the “big picture,” but his skills are centered on mitigating the event himself. In a management position, he quickly becomes the “micro-manager” that everyone has worked for at one time or another.

A great responder can evolve into a great manager, but he has to attain management skills and then develop them through experience as a deputy or assistant. Skills such as effective communications, conflict management, situational awareness and even creative thinking are not readily learned in response trainings. Let’s get to work in developing our next cadre of great managers through management training, education, and placement. With today’s complicated disaster events, a great responder that is forced into a management position can quickly become a victim of the disaster himself.

Emergency Management
Emergency Management

This was another of those forums for discussion organised by Metro Vancouver for the Sustainable Region Initiative. We were supposed to discussing “what happens when a catastrophic event extends beyond municipal boundaries?” but on the whole we didn’t. There was a lot of discussion about recent disasters, and how well everybody co-operated - for example when a plane hit a building in Richmond last week, all kinds of help came in to Richmond from adjacent municipalities, which shows that, as a number of people pointed out, we are getting better than we were. But there is still a long way to go.

Johnny Carline (Metro’s CAO) pointed out that there is no regional power to co-ordinate emergency planning - not that that seems to stop them. What happens at present is that the province is the next step, and John Oakley the Senior Regional Manager did answer most of the questions. But he did say that his region does go beyond Metro. He also thought that Translink goes beyond Metro, which (except for WCE) it doesn’t- yet. Though Falcon thinks it might, the local Mayors beyond Metro have been pretty clear that their constituents are not going to pay for buses in Vancouver.

The basic message was that we cannot expect any help from the federal government any more. There’s no military close enough for one thing. But also government in general is not going to help people who should be able to look after themselves. That is why you are supposed to have a week’s supply of drinking water, non-perishable food and essential supplies (like toilet paper) in your home. And have figured out what to do when the power goes out and the phone doesn’t work. The emergency response is designed to help the members of the community that cannot be expected to look after themselves or control their own lives. The very young, the very old and the disabled, for example. That also includes people who need methadone.

Many of the people displaced by the plane crash did not even have home insurance. Since they were in a condo I found that a bit surprising: a lot of tenants cannot afford home insurance (which costs as much for just personal property as home owners are charged for their entire home) so I suppose that means that the condos are not owned by the people who live there. Home insurance does cover earthquakes, but not floods, by the way. Guess which is more likely.

A family doctor, who is also a parent concerned about school safety, pointed out that earthquakes do not kill people. Bad buildings do. And 311 schools are still at high risk in a moderate to severe earthquake. Local school boards are in no hurry to fix these buildings and bring them up to standard, as it would raise property taxes. No one talked about how safe community centres were, but they will play an important role in any major disaster.

Someone else doubted the wisdom of putting the replacement for St Paul’s Hospital on False Creek Flats which is likely to be flooded in almost any major disaster scenario. But of course Providence Health does not report to the City or the Region. It talks to the Ministry of Health, and they don’t seem to talk to anyone else.

There was also quite a lot of concern about what happens during the Olympics - as we will be already stretched at that point so another event on top will really test things. There were soothing noises, but no specifics. Mayor Lois Jackson of Delta was there as Metro Chair, but she obviously enjoys the role of taking charge during a disaster. As she herself pointed out, it was Rudy Giuliani who took over on 9/11. She made it clear that it is the Mayor who runs things when there is a flood or an earthquake.

I cannot resist retelling my favourite disaster response story. It happened in Victoria during a sudden huge snow storm a few Christmases ago. The Municipality of Oak Bay had the only snow plough in Greater Victoria. It also has a high proportion of elderly residents who might need to get to a hospital. So out came the plough and cleared the main street of Oak Bay so the ambulances could get through, but the hospital is actually in the City of Victoria. And the snow plough turned around at the municipal boundary and went back to its shed. And Oak Bay refused to lend it to Victoria to get the job completed.

When I worked on the citiesPLUS plan, I was very impressed by the then GVRD Emergency Planner, who told us about the importance of not building on flood plains or unstable slopes, which seemed like good advice to me. Which makes me wonder about places like Richmond and the North Shore. Sometimes, the municipality may not be the right level to plan for these things. But at least the emergency responders can now talk to each other - so the fact that every one of the 21 municipalities has its own fire brigade and police arrangement may now be of less concern. Although Doug Kelsey told an interesting yarn about the police forces that cover WCE arguing over jurisdiction - and that includes railway police as well as different local forces.

But overall I got the sense that there will only be as much regional cooperation as the Mayors deem necessary - and anyway most of us will simply be told to stay put, stay off the emergency response routes and be sure we have enough supplies for 72 hours - or was that a week? At least we will be told if we remembered to buy fresh batteries or have a wind up radio.

You do have a wind up radio, don’t you?

 

Aftermath of the 1999 super cyclone.
Aftermath of the 1999 super cyclone.

The figures speak for themselves. Practically every family that lost their home received money to construct a concrete house. Some 221 healthcare units were built or restored along with nearly a thousand km of road, 500 agro-service centres, 2,555 lift-irrigation facilities, 8,890 primary schools and 1,149 high school buildings.

We’ve trained people from each coastal village in rescue operations and first aid. They form the backbone of the shelters and we hold refresher courses for them once in three months," OSDMA MD Nikunja K. Sundaray told Outlook. In addition, the agency has drawn on personnel from the state armed police to form the Orissa Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF), which has platoon-strength units stationed in five coastal locations. Four hundred communication posts, equipped with VHF sets and satellite phones, are strung out along the coast to provide early warnings. The agency proved its mettle on September 13, when a tsunami warning sounded in the early evening. "Within a few minutes, people in all the coastal districts were alerted," Sundaray said. "And within two hours, we had evacuated lakhs of people to safer places, including the cyclone shelters." In fact, the UNDP was so impressed that it is now studying their response mechanism as a model for other countries. On its own initiative, the OSDMA is offering disaster management consultancy to other states.

Orissa received thousands of crores of rupees in aid after the cyclone.Amazingly, not a single allegation of corruption or irregularities in distribution of relief has surfaced. Baijayant (Jay) Panda, the BJD MP, recalls that immediately after coming to power in early 2000, CM Naveen Patnaik drew up guidelines to ensure that "relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction had to be efficient and transparent, without any bias and corruption," and that all such projects were strictly monitored. "We’ve evolved a set of clear benchmarks and ‘best practices’ that are now being emulated by other states," he told Outlook. Even Opposition leaders in Orissa concede the remarkable achievements of the government’s relief and rehab efforts, which have shown that a gust of ill wind can be harnessed to blow some good.

 

Focus on flood management, not flood control
Both China and India face

"In China, we have switched focus from flood control to flood management to ensure more equitable distribution of water resources," said Jiao Yong, vice minister of water resources of China.

"Both China and India face a serious challenge of water management. We need to have a long-term development goal with an environment focus," said Jiao.

Till now, China has constructed 277,000 km of river dykes and 85,000 reservoirs in addition to seven flood control engineering systems in seven major river basins. All this "improves flood control and disaster mitigation capacity", he said.

Over 500 participants from 50 countries across the globe are attending the four-day congress, which is focusing on solutions and innovation to ensure sufficient supply of potable water to all as part of the Millennium Development Goals.

In the case of India, experts pointed out that India is a country where many aspects of water resources management and development are being brought into use. Yet, in the matter of floods, the focus is still on control and not management.

Citing the case of the Brahmaputra, an advisor with the Central Board of Irrigation and Power (CBIP) stated that the Brahmaputra Board and the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) submitted proposals for creating dams on the rivers tributaries, but only one project had been taken up so far.

"If undertaken, dams on Brahmaputra tributaries could help generate 40,000 MW hydropower," said G.N. Mathur, secretary of the CBIP, the organisers of the event.

Over the last 60 years, about 4,000 dams have been constructed in the country and water storage capacity for 220 billion cubic metres (BCM) have been created. In comparison, Egypt with a much smaller population has storage capacity of 120 BCM while China has raised its capacity to 600 BCM.

India hopes to raise the storage capacity by another 200 BCM by 2020 while ensuring better water usage by the farm sector, which consumes 70 percent of the good quality water, experts pointed out.

They were of the view that all the "projects on water resources development seem to be at a standstill in the country" despite a higher allocation of funds.

"What is required is putting the water resources on the concurrent list to ensure a holistic approach and not a politically biased one," one expert said.

In his address to the congress, Minister of Water Resources Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi urged greater involvement of the community in the management of resources.

"For the success of any approach it is necessary that peoples aspirations are given due consideration and they are fully involved in the whole process of water resources development and management, particularly in respect of planning, operation and maintenance of the facilities," the minister said.

nihidaorissa
amaranga ,salanga, nimapada,puri

nihida is a state level leading voluntary organisation working at nimapara under puri district under natural disaster prone flood and cyclone based locality in odisha  for aiming to provieding resque,training,relief,rehabilitation to affected poor people at same areas.

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