Disasters are as something that affects large populations and swaths of populated land. First, let us distinguish between catastrophes and accidents. For example, a hurricane on the non-habituated island isn’t a disaster. But flooding, earthquake, or the outbreak of the infectious disease in a highly-populated area is a disaster.
On the other hand, wildfires in California, Dengue in Pakistan, or Monsoon flooding in the subcontinent, are an almost annual phenomenon, and local governments, for the most part, have functional contingency plans in place to meditate the occurrence of these disasters. But there are other disasters which are unpredictable and happen at a much larger scale, Tsunami of 2004 in the Indian Ocean, Earthquake of Kashmir 2005, Earthquake of Haiti 2008, the Covid-19 outbreak 2020and the list goes on. In the last 50 years the rate of epidemics and disasters has picked up, the experts give various reasons, like climate change, destruction of the ecosystem, the encroachment of settlements in areas prone to accidents, etc.
The following are the five phases of emergency preparedness collected to mitigate possible disasters:
That is the first step and the most important one, though it is usually the one which most ignored. Firstly, try to prevent situations and events that can cause large scale possible disasters. For example, modern mining of natural resources has caused harm to wildlife, damaged agricultural land, released harmful gases in the atmosphere, increased flooding rate, and destroyed ecosystems. Global warming, mainly caused by unchecked pollution, is already causing hydro-meteorological disasters annually. So the prevention step means creating policies to stop such harmful and disastrous activities from taking place unchecked. Secondly, pushing for a safer lifestyle and educating the masses in reducing their carbon print. Thirdly training the relevant organizations and putting in place possible evacuation and mitigation plans in case of such an event. Because of the increase of unpredictable disasters, individual online institutes are offering an online emergency management degree. To educate and prepare oneself is a step in the right direction in a time of crisis; it’s something that will prevent panic and chaos. There is a need for professionally trained people to handle things and lead people in case of a catastrophe.
Preparedness is organizing, equipping, and training for a calamity. Having a plan in place is well and good, but it doesn’t help if there are no tools to see it through. Preparing for possible disasters means assigning a substantial amount of money to relief organizations, like the fire department, paramedical training, creating departments specifically for disaster management, equipping and training bodies of people for possible disaster management, first aid, and controlling panic and chaos in communities. These people can be volunteers from all walks of life who get annual training sessions and become active only during disastrous situations. Preparedness prevents confusion and panic, causing additional damage and loss of life. Upgrading state machinery, like the hospital’s capacity, creating space for several ambulances and first respondents, and creating a relief fund reserved for unexpected situations, are some of the things that can be done. As all disasters affect human health and life, most hospitals and medical professionals need to be given priority while equipping for an emergency.
Responding to a disaster plays a huge rule in emergency relief. If the reaction is slow and confused, things will inevitably spiral out of control, and the situation will grow dire exponentially. For example, the quiet and delayed response in the case of the COVID-19 epidemic shows precisely how much damage can happen if things are not checked in the initial stages. The reaction for Tsunami in 2004 was overwhelming, and the whole world helped to restore the affected areas. The response needs not only to be quick but also smart and relevant. Figuring out the site of the origin of the problem and quickly isolating it is the core idea of the first response. For example, in California wildfires, the department of California Department of Forestry and fire prevention has watch towers in place and teams that can reach the lit area and isolate it from the rest of the forest. However, the response of Brazil’s government was not even close to this organized, causing wildfires to rage in the Amazon forest for a long time. So having a codified and active response matters on what intensity the disaster will take.
During a disaster, it is essential to get the basics up and running. Making sure that people have the food, electricity, and necessities of life are crucial to alleviate panic and disorder and bring some semblance of a standard back to daily life. Recovery focuses on which sector to help first to run the country in a better way. The recovery phase is the priority focus phase; the person without a house will be given priority over the person with a partially damaged house. Restoring the necessary facilities like law enforcement, public transport, post office, etc. will take precedence over the restoration of entertainment facilities like malls, parks, cinemas, etc. Recovery process with wrong priorities and corruption can drag out the recovery process. It will cause people a lot more misery and create frustration and mistrust against the government as it happened this year in Australia, where delayed response on Bush fire on Australia caused a lot of anger and against the Prime Minister. On the other hand, the quick response and unified response and future contingency plans in response to a terrorist attack by Prime Minister of New Zealand fastened the recovery after the calamity and calmed the masses.
Mitigation is the process of developing structural and non-structural measures to avoid and reduce the loss of human life and economic damages after a disaster. Japan, due to a geographical location is prone to a lot of earthquakes, to reduce the cost from them, they have significantly increased the seismic resistance of their buildings and fireproofed them as much as possible. Mitigation process means that areas that are prone to flooding should not build a house close to rivers and alleviate the levels of building etc. After the spread of an infectious disease or pandemic, it’s best to enforce regulations to counter breakouts in the future. The develop safer and healthier living habits and, most importantly, equip and update the medical facilities in time tranquility so that they are ready to deal with a possible outbreak of an epidemic in the future. Mitigation, in short, is learning from your shortcomings and preparing to handle them properly in the future.
Disasters are times of hardship and anxiety. Even when you are not directly affected by them, it affects the country’s economy severely. During a calamity, the only thing one can do is listen to sources that are verified and legitimate, like the government and the concerned international authorities. And tune out all the misinformation that is coming to you through social media and or unverified news sources. Do not give in to panic as that only furthers the damage and does nothing constructive for the given situation. So stay safe, catch up on your reading and seasons, and be with your family.