The word ‘disaster’ derives from middle French desastre and that from old Italian disastro, which in turn comes from the Greek pejorative prefix pronounced as dus- (meaning ‘bad’) + aster (meaning ‘star’). The root of the word disaster comes from an astrological theme in which the ancients used to refer to the destruction or deconstruction of a star as a disaster.
Disasters can have certain characteristics which are (i) they are disruptive in nature, (ii) they are not part of day-to-day experience and are outside normal life expectations, (iii) they are unpredictable in occurrence and effects can be of sudden onset, (iv) they need a response for which normal local resources are normally not adequate, (v) they have a wide range of effects and impacts on the human and physical environment.
Disasters have massive human and economic costs. They can cause several deaths, severe injuries, and shortages. Majority of the incidents of severe injuries and deaths occur during the time of impact. Anticipating the potential consequences of disasters can help determination of the actions which need to be started before the disaster strikes to minimize its effects.
Several definitions are frequently given to disaster. A disaster is frequently defined as ‘a sudden ecological phenomenon of sufficient magnitude to need external assistance’. It is also defined as any event, typically occurring suddenly, which causes damage, ecological disruption, loss of human life, deterioration of health and health services, and which exceeds the capacity of the affected people on a scale sufficient to need outside assistance. It is an emergency of such severity and magnitude that the resultant combination of deaths, injuries, illness, and property damage cannot be effectively managed with routine procedures or resources.
Disaster is an event or series of events, which gives rise to casualties and damage or loss of properties, infrastructures, environment, essential services or means of livelihood on such a scale which is beyond the normal capacity of the affected people to cope with. Disaster is also sometimes described as a ‘catastrophic situation in which the normal pattern of life or eco-system has been disrupted and extra-ordinary emergency interventions are needed to save and preserve lives and / or the environment’.
A disaster results into a serious disruption in the functioning of the organization causing wide spread material, economic, social, or environmental losses. A disaster is a result from the combination of hazard, vulnerability, and insufficient capacity or measures to reduce the potential chances of risk. It happens when a hazard impacts on the vulnerable area and causes damage, casualties and disruption. Any hazard which is a triggering event along with high vulnerability (inadequate access to resources, inexperienced people, lack of awareness etc) can lead to disaster causing high loss to life and property.
Disaster results into emergency which is a state in which normal procedures are suspended and extra-ordinary measures are taken in order to mitigate the losses because of the disaster.
Disasters set back development programmes, destroying years of development initiatives. This also gives an opportunity for infrastructure improvements. Rebuilding after a disaster provides significant opportunities to initiate development programmes. Sustainable development programmes can be designed to decrease the susceptibility to disasters and their negative consequences. The significance of disaster can perhaps best be summarized in global, organizational, and practical disaster management terms.
In global terms, unless disaster can be mitigated and managed to the optimum extent possible, it continues to have a dominating effect on the future. The world is already facing a range of environmental and survival crises. Disaster mitigation is to be regarded as an important tool in successfully coping with these crises. Mitigating and containing the effects of disaster now and in the future is an important asset toward bridging this gap.
In the organizational context, the impact of disaster normally results in two major set-backs namely (i) the direct loss of existing organizational assets in different forms, and (ii) the diversion of organizational resources and effort away from ongoing subsistence and development for achieving satisfactory recovery. This indicates that organizations need to develop a comprehensive approach to disaster management. Only by such an approach can they hope to deal effectively with these two major set-backs.
For reducing the impact of a disaster, a comprehensive disaster management programme is necessary in every organization which is to aim at several activities such as (i) development of an efficient disaster management system which improves the effectiveness of the management of disasters, (ii) main-streaming of disaster risk reduction in order to reduce the impact of disasters, and (iv) there is to be available an effective emergency response and recovery when disaster strikes.
It is true that improvements can result from disasters (the ‘disaster-as-a-benefit syndrome’). However, this does not reduce the need for a comprehensive approach. Such an approach, because of its inter-relationship with the organizational development, is more likely to ensure that potential benefits from disaster are realized.
In practical disaster management terms, the over-riding need is for an accurate and precise focus on the needs at any given level of the organization. There is seldom scope, or indeed need, for fancy trimmings in such things as organizational structure and operational concepts. On the contrary, it is important to define clearly key aspects such as possible threats, resources available, organizational needs, planning needs, action needed in relation to sectors of the disaster management cycle, and training.
If the definition of disaster is correctly made and acted upon, a lean and efficient concept of counter-measures are achievable. This results into a system which provides a thorough professional disaster management capability.
Normally, typical effects of a disaster can be loss of life, injury, damage to and destruction of property, disruption of production, loss of livelihood, disruption to essential services, damage to infrastructure and disruption to the organizational systems, economic loss, and sociological and psychological after effects. Majority, if not all, of these effects can be expected from the disasters.
There can be variations in the process by which disaster management authorities define the threat from any particular form of disaster. Also, the capability to define disaster threats accurately is likely to vary between different organizations. This depends on the standards of disaster management and other disaster-related activities in the organization. However, a basic theme or pattern comprises the main areas of action such as identifying the hazards, assessing the vulnerability of plant and equipments, local communities, and other assets to relevant hazards, and evaluating the risks.
A hazard can normally be described as a threatening event. It can take the form of a natural phenomenon, such as a possible cyclone, or it can be basically artificial, such as the accidental release of a hazardous substance from a process. The process of identifying hazards obviously involves carefully surveying the organization or department concerned. This survey can need inputs from a variety of specialists and authorities, including information on past disaster-related events. Normally, this identification process includes hazard mapping, which establishes geographically where the natural and artificial hazards can occur. The relationship of these hazards to work-areas then provides a valuable indication of the risks which can be involved.
For the foregoing identification of hazards, it becomes possible to identify, with reasonable accuracy, those equipments, areas, and assets which are especially vulnerable to disaster-caused damage or destruction.
Risk has two dimensions, frequency and magnitude / intensity. Evaluating risk is done by relating a natural or artificial hazard to the primary characteristics and vulnerability of the area concerned. This process particularly identifies high risk areas and is the basis for producing risk maps.
The hazard, vulnerability, and risk information are, of course, only an outline of what is a detailed and extensive procedure. However, it serves to show the value of disaster threat information, as applied to practical disaster management.
Disaster management policy – Clear definition of organizational disaster management policy is necessary if an organization is to establish and maintain adequate arrangements to deal with all aspects of its disaster threat. This applies to all levels of the organizational structure. If such a policy does not exist, arrangements to deal with disaster is going to be ill-defined and inadequate. Hence, loss of material and human resources is to arise, and the organization, as a whole, is going to suffer.
A strong and clear policy offers several advantages which include (i) demonstrated lead from the organization in disaster-related affairs, (ii) foundation for appropriate procedures, (iii) basis for sound organization and clear allocation of responsibilities, (iv) overall direction for ensuring optimum use of resources against a carefully assessed threat, and (v) organizational competence and self-reliance
For defining an organizational disaster management policy, it is necessary to consider certain main factors or pillars. For this, the things which normally apply are (i) defining accurately the disaster threats, (ii) identifying the effects which are likely to be caused by the threats, (iii) assessing the resources available to deal with the threats, (iv) organizational arrangements which are needed to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disaster events, (v) defining how a disaster management policy interlocks with other aspects of organizational policy, especially those concerned with organizational development and protection of the environment, and (vi) any other specific organizational factors which can be applicable.
Information on the disaster threats and on the effects likely to arise from the disaster itself is needed. However, for the purposes of defining organizational disaster policy, these two aspects need to be carefully reviewed. This is necessary for ensuring that a correct relationship is established between the threats and their effects on the one hand, and the policy itself on the other hand. This is particularly relevant to the selection of policy options and to the priorities within the organizational policy which are given to these options.
Obviously, it is no use framing the organizational disaster management policy which is beyond the capacity of available resources. The reverse sense normally applies, i.e., organizational policy has to be balanced with the different existing resources in terms of equipment, facilities, and personnel.
It is normally accepted that the primary responsibility for dealing with disaster rests with the organizational management. In addition, an important disaster management concept is for ensuring optimum use of existing resources, the majority of which tends to be under management direction. It follows, hence, that the organizational arrangements needed for dealing with disaster (both before, during, and after a disaster) are best based on the organizational structure. Indeed, experience has shown that it is neither wise nor effective to try to switch to some special organizational arrangements for disaster purposes. Majority of the organizations hence, use their existing organizational structure as the basis for dealing with disaster. They then augment this by establishing such specialized teams or sections as deemed necessary.
Hence, in framing an organizational disaster management policy, these organizational aspects are to be carefully considered and included in the relevant policy statement. In this regard, it is normally practical to frame the policy in such a manner so that minor adjustments to the organizational arrangements can be made without having to amend the policy itself.
Approach to the disaster management is a cycle known as disaster management cycle. This cycle recognizes four major functional areas which are considered as necessary components for having a comprehensive approach. These are (i) prevention and mitigation, (ii) preparation, (iii) response, and (iv) recovery. Further to these functional areas, the key responsibilities of agencies connected with the disaster management include (i) planning which consists of the analysis of the needs and the development of strategies for resource utilization, (ii) preparedness which is the establishment of structures and development of systems by the organization as well as testing and evaluation of the capacity of the structures and systems to perform the allotted roles, and (iii) coordination which is the bringing together of the organizational resources to ensure a comprehensive approach for prevention, preparation, response, and recovery. Risk management consists of the activities which are carried out during pre-disaster situation, while the crisis management constitutes the activities related to the post disaster situation as shown in Fig 1.
Fig 1 Disaster management cycle
For being effective, this comprehensive approach clearly needs to cover crisis management and risk management and needs to include an appropriate balance of prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, and disaster-related development. In the past, some organizations have not achieved this balance. They have, for different reasons, concentrated on post-impact relief and rehabilitation. As a result, little or no mitigation from the impact of future disasters has been achieved.
In identifying what options are available as elements of organizational policy, it is useful to study the disaster management cycle having six segments (Fig 2). All the segments of the cycle are possible elements. These are prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, and development. These segments are to be scrutinized against the following definitions (or alternative definitions if the latter appear more suitable for a particular organizational policy).
Fig 2 Elements of disaster management cycle
Prevention includes measures aimed at impeding the occurrence of a disaster and / or preventing such an occurrence having harmful effects.
Mitigation is action taken (normally in the form of specific programmes) for reducing the effects of a disaster on an organization. For example, developing and applying building codes to the plant buildings can reduce damage and loss in the event of earthquakes and cyclones. The term normally implies that while it can be possible to prevent some disaster effects, other effects are going to persist and can be modified or reduced if appropriate actions are taken.
Preparedness are measures which enable the organizations, departments, and individual employees to respond rapidly and effectively to disaster situations. Preparedness measures include formulating viable counter-disaster plans, maintaining inventories of resources, and training of personnel.
Response measures are normally those taken immediately prior to and following disaster impact. They are directed toward saving life, protecting organizational assets, and dealing with the immediate damage and other effects caused by the disaster.
Recovery is the process by which the organization is assisted in returning to its proper levels of functioning following a disaster. The recovery process can be very protracted, sometimes taking several years. Recovery is normally taken including other aspects such as restoration and reconstruction.
Development is the progressive advancement and modernization of the organization, and in case of a disaster as it interrelates with the effects of disaster and with the disaster management.
It is clear from the above definitions that there is little real option or choice in the case of preparedness, response, and recovery, and that these are to be covered in the organizational policy to the best possible extent. Hence, these constitute option priorities of the organizational policy. In fact, some organizations initially, at any rate, have found it necessary to limit their organizational policy to these three options, largely because of financial considerations.
The other aspects are best considered and selected against the following criteria, and probably in the order of option shown below. However, it is emphasized that individual organizational circumstances can need different priorities from the ones suggested. For example, it can be highly important to implement a specific prevention programme to protect a vital organizational production or other asset.
There is a clear and valid inter-relationship between disaster and organizational development and, in particular, each can affect the other. Also, a post-disaster period normally offers the opportunity to improve different aspects of organizational development.
As inferred in the definition of mitigation, not all disaster effects can be prevented, but that these effects can be mitigated, then mitigation logically becomes the next option. Its particular advantage, in terms of organizational policy, is that it offers the possibility of reducing damage and loss, hence easing the burden on the management.
Adopting programmes of prevention can be problematical. In some cases, because of cost, they can have to be omitted or delayed. In other cases, they can be mandatory to protect a specific vital interest. The option priority is hence best decided on an individual organizational basis. Hence, it can assist organizational policy makers to use the combined category heading of prevention / mitigation.
In assessing the scale of organizational, planning, and other measures which need to be undertaken to deal with disaster, it is useful to bear in mind the range of responsibilities and tasks which are likely to arise. These include, for example, (i) providing and disseminating warning, (ii) search and rescue, (iii) surveying, assessing, and reporting disaster effects, (iv) treating and caring of victims, (v) clearing debris and rehabilitating the key areas, vi) providing emergency supplies, (vii)evacuating people, (viii) providing first aid and medical services, (ix) restoring essential services such as communications, water and power supply, (x) directing and coordinating counter-disaster measures, (xi) informing and advising the public, (xii) maintaining employee morale, (xiii) counselling victims and relatives, (xiv) controlling and distributing emergency supplies, (xv) liaising with the media, (xvi) measures for long-term recovery, and (xvii) applying emergency regulations.
The scope and variety of the above tasks underline the need for a carefully organized and systematic approach to all aspects of the disaster management. Ad-hoc measures, even if they are based on long experience and traditional actions, are likely to be inadequate, although obviously they can make a useful contribution.
Before the requirements for coping with disaster can be determined and adequately met, it is necessary to bear in mind the simple but nonetheless important philosophy which is involved. This is that disaster can have wide-ranging effects on the organization and its employees. Hence, the primary responsibility for coping with disaster rests with the organizational management. Management is responsible to the employees for meeting the needs created by disaster, in the same way that it is responsible for other aspects of the operations of the organization.
This being so, it is the management of the organization and resources which necessarily have to bear the brunt of counter-disaster action. Further, when the organizational departments (including emergency services) have to deal with disaster, they invariably have to accept a considerable additional workload. Moreover, they normally have to function under pressure and in cooperation with different departments and agencies. Further, disaster produces some needs which cannot be covered by normal working.
This is why, a disaster management system is needed. The main function of the disaster management system is to ensure that at all times, and as far as possible, the resources and operations of different departments are coordinated to produce the best possible counter-disaster efforts. In sum, hence, the simple philosophy for coping with disaster is one of management and employees working together in a coordinated way through a coherent disaster management system.
Foundation factors – Before the major requirements for coping with disaster can be established, it is necessary that certain basic or foundation factors are considered. These include an understanding of the significance of disaster, especially at key levels throughout the organizational structure, a clear assessment of the disaster threat, and an effective disaster management policy. These are fundamental to the needs of the organization, planning, resource utilization, and training for the management of a disaster.
Some people have difficulty in understanding what exactly comprises a disaster management system. It can be useful, hence, to state the things which such a system does not do. It does not duplicate normal operation of the organization. It does not act independently of the organization. It does not control other organizational departments. It does not act outside the terms of reference given to it by the management, except perhaps in cases of extreme urgency.
These things being so, it becomes clear that when people talk about disaster management organization (system), or counter-disaster organization, they are really talking about an organizational system. Moreover, this is a disaster management system which is necessarily an aide to the normal organizational system, designed to enable the latter to deal effectively with the special demands which can arise from disaster. Fig 3 shows management of a disaster event.
Fig 3 Management of a disaster event
Disaster management includes survey and assessment, information management, and emergency logistics. When considering overall organizational needs, it is necessary to determine the range of specialist facilities and systems which apply to any particular set of circumstances.
Clearly, a sound organizational system is one major key to successful disaster management. However, in considering and applying what is described above, it is to be noted that effective organization of disaster management produces one particularly important product. This is what is sometimes called ‘operational coherency’ during response operations. Operational coherency means that the disaster direction / coordination authority, and hence the management has a clear picture at all times of the needs caused by the disaster and the pattern of action being taken to cope with such needs. If operational coherency is lost, even for short periods, response operations can be adversely affected, sometimes very seriously.
Important organizational considerations include formation of an emergency control group to function during a disaster. The composition of the group, its disaster management system is to include the functions, delegated power, management, and staffing of this group. The nature of the emergency control group is not some form of specialized set-up superimposed on the existing organizational structure. On the contrary, it adapts existing resources for disaster purposes. Obviously, members of this group are required to have knowledge of disaster management, acquired through training and experience.
The disaster management cycle – The disaster management system (Fig 4) utilizes the total extent and depth of the existing organizational structure. This structure is, by its nature, permanent. It hence makes sense to utilize it for all disaster related purposes. In any event, experience indicates that it is unwise to try to switch to some alternative system or structure purely to deal with disaster. In case some outside help is needed for the management of the disaster, it is to be easily coordinated into the system.
Fig 4 Disaster management system
A disaster management organizational system is essentially a dynamic entity. All phases of the disaster management cycle infer and involve action. This obviously needs a range of specialist facilities and systems, normally required to cover things such as direction and coordination of disaster-related action, emergency operations centred activities, alerting and activating the disaster management system, as and when needed, communications, and warning.
The disaster management cycle can be, and frequently is, portrayed in different forms. Fig 1 to Fig 4 all shows different forms of disaster management cycle. Moreover, alternative terminology can be used. The important factor, however, is that the format is to indicate that disaster and managing it is a continuum of interlinked activity. It is not a series of events which start and stop with each disaster occurrence.
The format in Fig 4 can be utilized to make two significant points as described here. The first point is that such format is schematic only. It does not and cannot designate the length or relative importance of the component parts. For example, the actual recovery period can vary considerably for different disasters. Or, in a particular set of circumstances, the amount of importance, priority, and effort allotted to prevention can be small when compared with that given to, say, preparedness.
The second point is that such format is not be allowed to give the impression that each activity segment is clearly and precisely divided from adjacent ones. On the contrary, it is important to understand that segments normally tend to overlap and / or merge. For example, some response activities can be initiated prior to disaster impact, i.e., during the preparedness segment. Such activities can include the precautionary measures taken prior to the impact of a disaster. Similarly, recovery action frequently begins while the emergency response period is still operative. For example, a technical advisory team probably begins collecting information immediately after impact and such information is to be used for both response and recovery purposes. Points such as these are important when it comes to practical disaster management action.
The composition of the main segments within the disaster management cycle is described briefly below. In this connection, it is worth bearing in mind that two major factors are likely to trigger action in some or all of these segments. These factors can also affect the balance between the activities and the priorities allotted to individual activities. The factors are post-disaster review and results of exercise or simulation.
Post-disaster review is to be carried out as early as practicable in the recovery period. Such review frequently reveals deficiencies in plans and also indicates, for example, if certain activities such as preparedness measures and response arrangements need strengthening.
Provided exercises and simulations are accurately evaluated and the lessons from them are correctly drawn, they can exert influences similar to those of post-disaster review. In some cases, exercises and simulations can be more effective since (i) they can be directed towards testing a particular part within the disaster management cycle (e.g., coordination in the use of resources), and (ii) their lessons can be more accurately defined than is sometimes the case with post-disaster review (since the latter can lack important information which has been overlooked or lost under the pressures of disaster impact). Also, effective day-to-day disaster management is needed to monitor all aspects of activity and initiate necessary action accordingly.
Action within prevention segment is designed to impede the occurrence of a disaster and / or prevent such an occurrence having harmful effects on the key installations. It is noteworthy that some organizations tend to use the term prevention / mitigation as a combined heading for action within these two segments.
Action within mitigation segment normally takes the form of specific programmes intended for reducing the effects of disaster on the organization. The term mitigation normally implies that while it can be possible to prevent some disaster effects, other effects persist but can be modified or reduced provided appropriate action is taken.
The actions or programmes which are normally regarded as coming under the heading of mitigation include enforcement of (i) procedures, standards, and codes, (ii) statutory regulations, (ii) safety regulations such as control of hazardous substances etc., (iv) systems to protect key installations such as power supplies and vital communications, and (v) developments in infrastructure for reducing the impact of disaster.
Preparedness is normally regarded as comprising measures which enable the organizations to respond rapidly and effectively to disaster situations. Examples of preparedness measures are (i) formulating and maintaining valid and updated counter-disaster plans which can be brought into effect whenever needed, (ii) special provisions for emergency action, (iii) providing warning systems, (iv) emergency communications, (v) employee education and awareness, (vi) training programmes, and (vii) mock drill.
One aspect of preparedness which is not always prioritized adequately is the employee preparedness. In several circumstances, where organizational resources and emergency services are limited, employee preparedness can be vital for survival.
Some disaster management cycles can divide the preparedness segment into sub-segments such as (i) warning which is the time or period when a hazard has been identified but is not yet threatening a particular area, (ii) threat which is the time or period when a hazard has been identified and is assessed as threatening a particular area, and (iii) precaution which is the action taken after receipt of warning to offset effects of disaster impact e.g., bringing emergency power generators to readiness. An advantage in including these sub-segments is that it provides some indication of the possible sequence of events / action leading up to disaster impact.
The segment of disaster impact is self-explanatory, being the point in the disaster cycle at which a disaster occurs. However, including it serves as a reminder that, in disaster management terms, impact can vary between different types of disaster.
Response measures are normally those which are taken immediately prior to and following disaster impact. However, for ease of representation, the response segment is shown (Fig 4) as following directly after disaster impact, and this is when majority of the response measures are applied. Such measures are mainly directed toward saving life and protecting property, and dealing with the immediate disruption, damage, and other effects caused by the disaster. Typical measures include implementing plans, activating the counter-disaster system, search and rescue, providing emergency medical assistance, and surveying and assessing etc.
The segment is sometimes called emergency phase to indicate that it applies to a fairly short period (i.e., 2 weeks to 3 weeks after impact) when emergency measures are necessary to deal with the immediate effects of a disaster and when, perhaps, a state of emergency or state of disaster has been declared by the management.
It is noteworthy that it is sometimes said that all disaster-related activities which follow impact (including measures of relief, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction) constitutes response. However, it is more convenient and practicable to separate response from recovery.
Recovery is the process by which the management assists the disaster affected area to return to the normal process. It can be very protracted over a period of time. Three main categories of the activities are normally regarded as coming within the recovery segment. These are restoration, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. Typical activities include restoring essential services, restoring of repairable installations, measures to assist the physical and psychological rehabilitation of the employees who have suffered from the effects of disaster, and long-term measures of reconstruction, including the replacement of buildings and infrastructure which have been damaged by the disaster.
Post-disaster review is also be included as part of the recovery process. It is to take place as soon as practicable after the disaster.
The development segment provides the link between disaster-related activities and organizational development. Its inclusion in the disaster cycle is intended for ensuring that the results of disaster are effectively reflected in future policies in the interests of the organizational progress, e.g., to produce the best possible benefits by introducing improved and modernized technology and equipments, and improving the plans of disaster management etc. At the same time, this linkage is to be used for ensuring that organizational development does not create further disaster problems, or aggravate the existing ones.
Apart from its obvious value in providing a ‘visual aid’ for those involved in the study of disaster and in disaster management, the disaster cycle can have practical applications. e.g., in training programmes, programmes for employee education and awareness, day-to-day disaster management activities, and maintaining organizational motivation for disaster management.
Disaster management planning – Disaster management plan is a comprehensive plan, which optimally utilizes men, material and available resources to prevent loss to lives and minimizes loss to property in case of a disaster. It ensures fastest approach for rescue and rehabilitation. Disaster management plan guides the entire machinery engaged in relief operation and induces courage amongst the employees to face the eventuality boldly.
The key objectives of a disaster management plan can be described as (i) to identify vulnerable areas of disaster through risk assessment and vulnerability analysis, (ii) to evolve a suitable mitigation strategy so as to minimize the impact of disaster in terms of men and material loss, (iii) to give professional guidance to the relief machinery engaged in relief operations, (iv) to create awareness amongst the employees to face the disaster in case of an eventuality, (v) to involve all the employees of the organization in awareness creation and in relief operations, (vi) to enable quick restoration of the plant, equipment and services affected by the disaster, and (vii) to prevent the spread of post disaster effects on the morale and spirits of the employees.
Risk and vulnerability analysis (RVA) also known as Hazard analysis (HAZAN) is a necessary tool for any disaster management plan. In a disaster management plan, RVA helps in identifying people, property, and resources which are at risk of damage, injury, or loss during disasters. Such information aids in prioritizing the precautionary measures. Hazard analysis involves mapping of areas, which are prone to disaster so as to develop a visual representation of the hazard. The analysis aims at identifying areas in which the potential impact of a disaster is higher. Based on the analysis, the vulnerable areas in the plant are identified.
This analysis aims at identifying the critical facilities in the plant like fire stations, first aid centres, telecom facilities, and rescue stations etc. These facilities play a central role in disaster response and recovery and, hence, it is important to protect these critical facilities for ensuring that disruption of these services is minimized during the disaster.
A high-level disaster management committee (DMC) is required to be formed under the chairmanship of very senior management personnel to evaluate the disaster preparedness for different type of likely disasters. This DMC is to ensure the preparation of the needed emergency procedures, training and retraining of the employees in these procedures, regular mock drills, frequently taking stock of the situation, monitoring of the routine preparedness, and suggesting of improvement in the response mechanism. This is needed to be done for ensuring coordinated mitigation, preparedness and response measures whenever disaster strikes.
The need for counter-disaster plans is sometimes questioned. Proponents of this view take the attitude that disaster is going to occur whether people like it or not. Hence, it is better to let nature take its course, then use all available means of assistance to build a better tomorrow. However, the vast majority of international experience indicates that where plans has not existed, or where planning has been inadequate, then the effects of disaster on the organizations and their employees have been worse than has otherwise been the case.
A senior disaster management official has once stated that ‘when the management look back on the cyclone and what it did to the organization, there is no doubt that the damage to the plant and equipment is minimum today since, the organization has made proper disaster plan’.
There can be little doubt that an effective basis of planning and the maintenance of relevant plans does offer several advantages which include (i) clear and coherent approach to dealing with disaster, (ii) common reference for all departments and authorities which have roles in counter-disaster activity, (iii) basis for coordinated action, (iv) clear allocation of responsibilities, (v) focus for disaster-related training, and (vi) setting against which to review and evaluate the present and future disaster management needs.
There are, of course, pitfalls in the planning field. Plans are to be reviewed and revised as necessary so that they are fully updated. Indeed, it is true that an unrevised and outmoded plan can cause more trouble than no plan at all.
There is also a serious danger from nominalism in planning. Nominalism is frequently regarded as the deadly sin of a disaster manager. It is relatively easy, given a specific set of circumstances, to produce a counter-disaster plan, put it in an attractive cover, and circulate it to all concerned. However, this can amount to little or nothing more than a useless front or facade. Since if the system which is necessary to implement the plan is not fully effective, then, quite simply, the plan is not going to work. In other words, if there is lack of necessary funding, personnel, equipment, facilities, systems, training support and so on, the plan becomes nominalistic, i.e., a plan in name only. This has occurred in some organizations, normally because of lack of a clear organizational policy, inadequate funding, limited expertise, or other similar reasons. Hence, what is very much needed in planning is realism, not nominalism.
Another planning pitfall concerns what is frequently called ‘moving the goal-posts’. This normally takes the form of major changes to the organizational policy, structure, or system and procedures. The result is that the plan no longer fits the realities of the situation and hence is needed to be amended, otherwise, serious problems can arise.
Disaster management strategy – Optimum strategy is to be followed in accordance with the comprehensive disaster management plan to combat the effects of the disaster and to minimize the loss of life and property. Different departments of the organization, employee’s groups, fire station, and first aids etc. are required to play a major role in disaster mitigation. Broadly disaster management strategy has been divided into three major sub-strategies namely (i) pre disaster phase, (ii) impact phase, and (iii) post disaster phase.
Pre disaster phase consists of preparing the organization under the condition of ‘no disaster situation’. During this phase prevention, mitigation, and preparedness activities are undertaken. The activities undertaken during this phase are (i) formation of the disaster management committee (DMC), (ii) carrying out the risk assessment and vulnerability analysis, (iii) formulation of a practical disaster management plan, (iv) carrying out the resource inventory, (v) allocation of responsibilities to individual employees, groups and departments, (vi) preparation of the needed emergency procedures, (vii) training and retraining of the employees in the emergency procedures, (viii) continuous awareness / sensitization programmes for the employees and stakeholders, and (ix) regular exercise of the mock drills.
Impact phase includes measures taken immediately after the disaster. Immediately after disaster state of emergency is to be declared and the emergency procedures are to be immediately come into force. The key activities of this phase include (i) rescue operation / evacuation by teams (already identified) and providing basic infrastructure and movement to rescue centres, provision of immediate medical facilities to the injured person. (iii) ensuring that there is no crowding of the area of the disaster and only the people connected with the relief work are available, (iv) functioning of disaster control room (DCR) and departmental control rooms, (v) regular coordination meeting of the disaster management committee at the disaster control room to take stock of the situation and take decisions, (vi) providing regular, proper, and accurate communication to the employees media, and other stake holders to avoid spreading of the rumours, (vii) monitoring of the disaster management by ensuring an effective line of control, and (viii) allocation of adequate resources and administration of relief measures.
Post disaster phase consists of assessment of the damage, speedy bringing to the normalcy, quick restoration of the affected facilities and learning the lessons from the disaster, mitigation of the long-term consequences and taking measures for the avoidance of similar disaster in future. The key activities of this phase include (i) carrying out of the morale building exercise for the employees and the stake holders, (ii) assessment and enumeration of damage, (iii) analyzing the cause of the disaster by a fact-finding committee, (iv) developing a reconstruction and rehabilitation plan after taking into consideration the recommendations of the committee, (v) removal and disposal of debris. (vi) restoration of communication network, (vii) restoration of infrastructure network, (viii) restoration of the facilities modified to avoid similar disaster in future, (ix) documentation of the entire event for record and for use as training aid, (x) modification of the procedures and other documents based on the lessons learnt so as to avoid repetition of the disaster, (xi) training of the employees in the revised procedures, and (xii) continual of mock drill to keep the disaster management team in oiled condition.
Major requirements for coping with a disaster include review of the plan (i) which has not been reviewed during the previous 4 years and, hence, has become stale, and (ii) in the same 4-year period, management has made considerable changes to the organizational structure, hence, making the plan no longer applicable to the present circumstances.
Several other areas of planning can prove critical when plans are implemented in response to a disaster event. They include (i) crisis pressure which arises from disaster impact, (ii) effect of disaster impact on the organizational structure, (iii) deficiencies in the information management system, (iv) inadequacy of planning for post-impact survey, assessment, and reporting, (v) allocation of tasks to resource organizations, and (vi) coordination of counter-disaster effort.
One very difficult problem in disaster management is to achieve the optimum use of available resources. Difficulties tend to arise for some or all of the such reasons as (i) counter-disaster planning has been inadequate, (ii) all potential resources have not been identified during the planning process, (iii) resource requirements have not been accurately assessed in terms of their capability, availability, and durability, (iv) allocating tasks to resource requirements has been inaccurate or inappropriate, (v) human resource requirements are not sufficiently skilled in carrying out allotted tasks, (vi) some resources can be destroyed or put out of action by disaster impact, (vii) delays can occur in the availability and application of resources, also because of the disaster impact, (viii) required resources have had insufficient practice in their disaster roles, especially in coordinating their activities with those of other resources needed, (ix) system for directing the use of resources, especially for coordinating their activities, is inadequate, (x) inadequate and /or inaccurate information can lead to ineffective deployment and use of resources, and (xi) poor direction of resources can result in duplication or gaps in disaster-response activities.
The resources which are used to deal with disaster situations tend to be a mixture, sometimes a complex one. During the planning process, it is not always possible to accurately envisage the nature of some of these resources. Hence, the direction / coordination authority in charge of response operations can face problems in optimally utilizing all the resources. An important management stipulation in all these circumstances is to correctly use the management system. If this management stipulation is strictly observed, then (i) there is no confusion in the management role of the direction / coordination authority, (ii) there is unlikely to be conflict of management, (iii) tasks are carried out accurately and efficiently, and (iv) overall effectiveness of response operations is maintained at the optimum level.
Given that the important management stipulation is recognized and applied, resource management, and hence effective utilization depends largely on four major needs, namely (i) a capable emergency control centre, (ii) a good information picture, (iii) effective communication between the direction / coordination authority and individual resource departments, and (iv) sensible commitment of resource organizations to operational tasks, bearing in mind their capability and durability.
While discussing the philosophy for coping with disaster, foundation factors, organization, planning, and the use of resources, a common theme is apparent. It is that in dealing with disaster, every effort needs to be made to extract maximum effectiveness from existing systems and resources. However, the scope of disaster-related action also indicates that a multiplicity of skills is necessary if disaster management is to be effective. While most of these skills are likely to exist within the organization, they can be insufficient in strength and numbers to cope with disaster, especially on a large scale. This can particularly apply to (i) search and rescue, (ii) survey, assessment, and reporting, (iii) first aid, (iii) mobile medical teams, (iv) evacuation, (v) emergency welfare, (vi) emergency shelter, (vii) emergency logistics, (vii) staffing of disaster control room, and (viii) information management. In this connection, the need for developing the leadership skills of team leaders / managers is to be kept in mind.
Further, it is necessary to make a broad assessment of specialist skills requirements needed during the time of a disaster is to be made and compared against the number of skilled personnel available. In this way, the needs for training in specialist skills can be established broadly.
It is self-evident that trained personnel constitute a key component in effective disaster management. By contrast, unskilled and untrained disaster operatives can well be a threat to themselves and to other people. A wrong decision, obviously based on lack of disaster management knowledge and skill, results into delay in response to the disaster and restoration activities.
Experience indicates that important policy considerations need to be applied to disaster management training. They are (i) identification of the training needs and framing of the training policy, (ii) training programmes are to be designed to be compatible with and support disaster plans, and (iii) responsibility for training is to be clearly defined in the organizational policy statements and counter-disaster plans.
One important first step in establishing training policies and programme is to identify clearly the scope of training activity needed. This is best done by closely examining (i) organizational disaster management policy, (ii) overall disaster management structure, through all levels, (iii) all relevant plans, (iv) needs for employee education and awareness with which training programmes need to be compatible, and (v) other relevant sources of information.
Once the scope of necessary training activity has been defined, it is to be translated into a training policy. This is best done in the form of a simple policy document which clearly sets out (i) major training consideration, (ii) aim of training policy, (iii) responsibility for implementing a training policy, (iv) scope of training to be carried out e.g., disaster management areas to be covered and levels at which programmes are to be implemented, (v) process for reviewing and updating training programmes, and (vi) periodic issue (annually or otherwise) of training programmes.
In framing and implementing a training policy, it is to be borne in mind that training is a dynamic activity which is susceptible to changing needs. For example, in a given training programme, the need for some activities gets diminished, while the need for other activities arises. Hence, assessing the training pattern annually is normally worth carrying out so that programmes are kept compatible with realistic training needs.
Normally training is implemented as a two-fold training namely in-house training, and external training. In-house training essentially addresses domestic training needs as per the organizational policy and its selected programmes. Such training uses in-house resources to the best possible extent. It normally comprises a variety of activities such as seminars, workshops, courses, and exercises etc. External training is normally designed to broaden the knowledge of key disaster management officials, mainly through the interchange of views, ideas, and experience which it provides. It is to be regarded as an important aide to the in-house training but not as a substitute for the latter.
Evaluation of resources – It is important to evaluate organizational resource systems to determine their suitability and effectiveness for disaster management purposes. This can be done with respect to capability, availability, durability, and operational integrity.
Leadership in disaster – Leadership under crisis conditions is important during disaster management. In all organizations, leadership has a prominent and powerful role. It influences all levels of the organization. The requirement of the leadership changes with the organizational conditions. This normally happens since organizations are constantly adjusting to change and development. Under stable conditions, although the tasks of leaders are onerous, they mostly tend to be orderly and reasonably straight-forward. There is normally time available to make calculated decisions based on methodical assessment of the different factors involved. Indeed, quite frequently, decisions are made only after a process of consideration and reconsideration, of drafting and redrafting. Also, there is normally a well-founded organizational system within which this process takes place, plus a framework of system to provide formalized support and confirmation. Even so, in spite of stable conditions, some leaders have to operate under unpleasant and stressful circumstances.
By contrast, under unstable and disruptive conditions such as those which apply in disaster, the tasks of leaders normally become more difficult. This applies at most, if not at all the levels of the organization. Some of the factors which can affect leadership during disaster conditions are (i) loss of some designated leaders, who can be put out of action by the disaster itself, (ii) failure of designated leaders to cope in disturbing conditions with which they are not experienced, (iii) reduced effectiveness of subordinates because of various crisis effects, (iv) lack of information on which to make decisions, or inadequate facilities for presenting information to leaders / decision makers, (v) lack of or disruption to communications, which constrains the ability of leaders to consult with other key persons, or to convey instructions rapidly and clearly, (vi) severity of post-impact conditions which can make it difficult for leaders to determine courses of action and priorities, and (vii) loss or delayed availability of resources in terms of personnel, equipment, transport, and so on. There can, of course, be several other factors which affect leadership under disaster circumstances, depending on specific situations.
What is equally or perhaps even more significant is that the importance of decision making at different levels can vary from that which normally applies. In fact, in several cases, the relative importance of decision-making levels can be reversed. This can apply particularly in the early post-impact stages of a disaster when decisions taken at the ‘disaster front’ (i.e., within the stricken area) can be more crucial than those taken at the organizational department levels.
Enlarging upon the above point, some or all of the considerations which can apply are (i) prudent decision on precautionary measures during a pre-impact warning period, taken by leaders at, say, department level, can ensure that things are normal when disaster impact occurs and this obviously mitigates disaster effect, (ii) decisions by those same leaders concerning post-impact priorities can be crucial for the safety of the employees and the equipments and other assets, (iii) decisions to organize and implement self-help measures, pending assistance from other departments, can significantly defer or lessen potential hardship for those who are affected by the disaster, (iv) the tangible strength of leadership shown by local leaders through personal example, courage, and demeanour can be far more significant to large numbers of disaster-affected employees than who are in areas of relative safety, and (v) If there is undue delay (real or perceived) in mobilizing in-house resources to the disaster affected area, then the credibility of leadership at higher levels of the organization is likely to come under question.
It is clear hence that conditions of disaster impose several unusual pressures and demands on leaders at all the levels. In disaster management terms, this clearly indicates the need to analyze and study leadership requirements and, where possible, to adjust and train key persons accordingly.
Besides the above aspects which affect the organizational leadership, the policies and attitudes adopted by the leaders can have far-reaching ramifications for disaster management and, in particular, for response operations and recovery programmes. These effects can be shown by considering conditions prior to, during, and after disaster impact.
At the time of pre-disaster, regrettably, sometimes, it is the leadership which can expose whole of the organization to the threat of disaster. There are several reasons for this. However, some examples of the ramifications of the leadership are given below.
There can be significant indifference of the leaders to the disaster aspect of the organizational affairs which can occur for a variety of reasons. It sometimes amounts to a form of calculated risk-taking. However, when it does occur, the whole capability of the organization to cope with disaster is seriously or sometimes dangerously downgraded.
The threat of disaster and the true significance of disaster effects can be under-rated by the leaders. This can particularly apply if the disaster threat is low key and intermittent, and if no consideration has been given to risk analysis and vulnerability assessment.
There can be over-reliance by the leaders on the willingness and capacity of the departments and different agencies to provide rapid assistance if disaster strikes.
Perhaps in consequence of some or all the foregoing factors, no in-house team / department has been set up to monitor and advise on disaster-related affairs. Hence, overall organizational awareness is low and preparedness is almost non-existent.
In sum, the effects of inadequate leadership on the pre-disaster requirements are to produce an organization which is inadequately prepared to cope with disaster. Employees hence suffer unduly and organizational assets and development are seriously jeopardized.
Immediately prior to and following disaster impact, during what is normally called the emergency phase, leaders can decide in the spur of the moment, which can produce far-reaching results, some of them counter-productive.
In post-disaster recovery and associated development programmes, leadership clearly plays a primary role. In this context, decision making tends to have very profound long-term effects. Ideally such decision making normally needs to involve (i) an optimum data base, including relevant factors from the present disaster and from previous ones, plus projections for feasible future development, (ii) clear definition of post-disaster recovery and development strategy, (iii) accurate determination of individual programmes within such strategy, (iv) clear definition of responsibility for implementing the strategy and its component programmes, (v) effective management and coordination of programmes / projects, and (vi) relevant adjustments, where applicable, to present and future organizational development plans.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to adhere to all the foregoing desirable activities. Factors which affect this can include (i) recording of relevant data during the emergency phase has not been adequate for providing a reliable data base, e.g., post-disaster review has not been effectively carried out, (ii) special committees set up to review the disaster, or selected aspects of it, can produce findings which are practically not feasible and hence such findings get conveniently disregarded or given low priority, (iii) funding sources can pressurize the organization into premature decisions which can arise from budgeting, programming, or similar requirements on the funding sources side, (iv) the timing of recovery programming can be such that the management needs to be seen as acting vigorously and quickly which can lead to programmes being prematurely approved, hence forfeiting some of their effectiveness.
The considerations outlined above clearly indicate the importance of leadership and decision making in relation to the total spectrum of disaster management. One extremely important corollary is that organizational leaders at all the levels need to be kept aware of disaster problems and of the necessary counter-measures. As with other aspects of the organization, it is the responsibility of the management to ensure that this awareness is maintained. In turn, this requirement underlines yet again the need for some kind of disaster management team within the organization which can monitor policies and programmes.
The disaster management has the problem of operational coherency. It is frequently difficult for the disaster management officials (e.g., those responsible for the direction of response operations) to maintain and implement a coherent operational plan of action. Response leaders need to be aware of possible problems in operational coherency and to recognize the limitations these can impose, although temporarily, on the effectiveness of operations.
Closely linked to the problem of operational coherency is that of access to and movement within a disaster area. This can apply to different conditions such as a highly toxic industrial disaster.
The effective overall leadership of response operations can also be influenced by the quality of the human resource involved. If the human resource is highly skilled, self-contained in logistics and communications, and experienced in the type of operations being undertaken, then the tasks of ovrall leaders / coordinators tend to be simplified. This can be a significant factor under majority of the circumstances but especially when the response task is extensive and complicated.
A frequent problem in the direction of response operations is coordinating the different activities undertaken. The experience tends to indicate that there is no easy solution to this problem. However, from a leader’s viewpoint, it is important to understand that success or failure in achieving coordinated effort depend considerably on (i) capability, experience, and personal qualities of the coordinating leader(s), (ii) professional competence of the employees, (iii) previous experience in dealing with disaster problems, (iv) relationships between the coordinating leader(s) and the employees and the leaders, as well as between individual leaders themselves, (v) practice in coordination during exercises, and clear allocation of roles to individual employees and adherence to such roles, in terms of both tasking and implementation.
Another common shortcoming in response leadership is failure or inability to delegate responsibility. Since events immediately post-impact are complicated, urgent and pressurized, several leaders seem to think that they are to see the crisis through. Almost inevitably, this leads to overwork, strain, and fatigue, in consequence of which the capability, competence and, especially, judgment of leaders become seriously downgraded. In other words, there is absolutely no point in leaders carrying on until they are fully tired. Hence, it is prudent, wherever possible, to direct response operations as a team which allows for adequate sharing of leadership responsibilities and pressures.
In short, effective leadership of response operations depends highly on recognizing the types of problems likely to arise and endeavouring to offset them by prudent management and preparedness.
There are several different aspects, conditions, and factors which influence leadership. Hence, when it comes to analyzing leadership, especially in terms of attributes and desirabilities, several variations can apply. Ultimately, it is up to the individual disaster managers to adapt leadership principles, guidelines, and experience to their own circumstances. Perhaps a start can be made by making two basic suggestions. First, it is not possible to ‘learn’ leadership by memorizing and applying certain facts. People cannot, for example, ‘learn’ courage, which majority of the people regard as a worthy and useful leadership quality. Second, only very few people can be classified as ideal, all-around leaders. At the same time, however, majority of the people do have some useful leadership qualities.
If one accepts that the above suggestions are reasonable, it tends to indicate that there is limited merit in trying to judge leaders or potential leaders in terms of personal qualities alone. The latter process is sometimes done against a list of desirabilities such as courage, dedication, enthusiasm, sense of humour, endurance, cheerfulness, and so on. This sort of process is bound to end in disillusionment, since few if any individuals are likely to meet such a specification. Hence, while personal qualities undoubtedly play an important part in leadership capability, it seems practical to look for other aspects as well. Hence, the characteristics which form a possible combination of desirable objectives for leadership in disaster management are personal qualities, professional competence, self-confidence, sound judgement, accurate decision making, ability to communicate, personal example, and appropriate style.
In examining leadership styles, gradations are sometimes used to show variations which can apply between strong leader influence and strong team influence (sometimes called ‘boss-centered’ and ‘subordinate-centered’ influence). One example of this is (i) ‘tells’, i.e., the leader decides, tells the team, then expects the orders to be carried out without question, (ii) ‘sells’ i.e., the leader still decides, but recognizes some possibility of resistance and, hence, takes care to ‘sell’ the ideas to the team, (iii) ‘consults’, i.e., the leader asks for views from the team before deciding but the decisions are still those of the leader, and (iv) ‘joins’ i.e., the leader puts the problem to the team and after discussion takes the majority decision. This type of gradation has sometimes been criticized on the grounds that a leader is there to lead and that, hence, team influence is to be only minimal.
However, there is a case where in a team, all members are trained and qualified in the leadership role. The reason for this is that calls on the team are normally very urgent and not all members are always immediately available. Hence, any member has the capability of mobilizing the team in case the leader or deputy leader are not available. Such teams are normally successful which clearly underlined the wisdom of this ‘multi-leader’ system. Hence, it seems that disaster management authorities are well advised to take an analytical approach to this and similar aspects of leadership.
Another useful factor in the development of disaster management leadership is the strong and positive link between leadership and training. If a team or organization is trained to very high standards, it normally develops a high degree of professionalism. This, in turn, promotes an attitude of pride and strong esprit de corps. Leadership of such a team or organization does not normally present several problems.