Natural Disaster Management Planning
After the 2004 tsunami, which heavily affected parts of Thailand and Indonesia, national and international disaster response was quick to support the affected regions.
Within several weeks of the disaster, approximately 400 international non government organizations (NGOs) were working in Indonesia alone providing basic assistance to the affected population.
Introduction to disaster relief
Several factors are necessary to improve response activities:
- Preparedness in vulnerable regions, focussing on the “ability to respond quickly and appropriately”.
- Local involvement. The local authorities and population directly involved in a disaster also are “in the best position to respond immediately” to a disruption.
- Coordinated needs assessment, which also includes local groups ensures that support can be given on efficiently where required
- Information sharing: “Emergency preparedness and response stages are driven by information”. Therefore sharing information between the disaster response parties is an important factor to improve overall outcome.
- Logistics expertise and efficiency. Natural disasters often leave most critical infrastructure destroyed. To quickly support a large number of road access is of utmost importance. “Logisticians play an important role during the initial emergency period, they are often given limited authority to carry out their decisions. Frequently too, the assessment teams sent by humanitarian agencies to determine the needs of the affected population do not include logisticians. When logisticians are not included in the planning and decision-making process this causes delays in distributing relief.” Also local logistics expertise should be levered to further foster the speed of delivery.
To build her disaster response model the author conducted several interviews with disaster relief managers involved in the 2004 tsunami. The goal was to assess the degree of execution of the above mentioned factors.
The interviews were carried out with of five NGO and government managers (figure 1).
The author summarized shortfalls in several key areas, including preparedness, local involvement and coordination (figure 2).
Drawing from the cumulative findings of the extensive pre- and post-tsunami literature analysis and the research findings, a hindsight model of effective natural disaster response management planning has been developed that is holistic and inclusive.
Figure 3 summarizes the relevant stakeholders and tasks.
Key elements include:
- the rigorous monitoring and forecasting of natural disaster risk and mitigating the effects of an impending disaster, with risk reduction activity, natural hazard forecasting, adoption of viable early warning systems;
- the building of awareness through high profile, broad-based disaster planning and awareness programs led by the local government and building networks and trust;
- the addressing of demographic vulnerability, poverty and long-term, sustainable livelihoods;
- the linking of all stages from forecasting, warning, mitigation, response and recovery to community development for resilience;
- the incorporation of disaster management protocols, social policy, international support, training programs in logistics and response, simulation programs, empowerment of local communities and encouragement of improvisation in chaotic scenarios; and
- assurances that there is adequate funding for all facets of natural disaster management and reducing risk, with suitable early warning systems and protocols, the development of a cadre of local expertise, ￼particularly in the field of logistics as well as planning for a positive future for vulnerable communities.
I presented this model for two reasons. First, for its inclusion of the logistics aspects of humanitarian disaster relief efforts. Second, for the aspects which might be transferable a business situation.
The model especially highlights the need for quick information by extensive communication and local knowledge and capabilities to deal with disasters swiftly.
One caveat I would like to mention, even though the study and the model are backed extensively using related literature, I was missing a broader empirical foundation of the work. Five interviews (as in-depth as they may be) just are not enough to build a reliable model. Further testing is therefore required!
Perry, M. (2007). Natural disaster management planning: A study of logistics managers responding to the tsunami International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, 37 (5), 409-433 DOI: 10.1108/09600030710758455