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Early Warning Systems and Preparedness

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  28-Nov-2023 | Jess Doshi



Disaster management requires many early warning systems and preparedness to ensure the most minor damage done to life and property. Structured warning systems can help prevent economic damage to a great extent in times of natural and man-made disasters.

It helps reduce risks that can otherwise be fatal in times of disaster, like infrastructural deficits and lack of fire exits. Preparing for any disaster before it actually occurs helps people feel some sense of control in an otherwise uncontrollable environment.

Source: EM-DAT, CRED/UCLouvain (2023)

The annual observance of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on October 13th highlights the global efforts of individuals and communities in diminishing their vulnerability to natural disasters.

While it's not feasible to entirely eradicate the risk of disasters, proactive measures like prevention and readiness significantly enhance the ability of local communities to withstand them. UNESCO promotes a shift in focus from responding to disasters after they occur to taking preventive actions before they happen. Additionally, UNESCO assists nations in enhancing their capabilities to handle disaster and climate-related risks.

Early Warning Systems

Multi-hazard early warning systems address several hazards that may occur alone, simultaneously, or cascadingly. Increasing the availability of multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information is one of seven global targets set by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. The UN Office of Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) implements the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030). It adopts measures focusing on the three main aspects of risks - exposure to hazards, vulnerability and capacity, and hazard characteristics. It helps prevent the creation of new threats, reduce the existing ones and increase resilience. The Sendai Framework Monitor collects risk data from member states and compares it with 38 aspects or indicators, which help understand disaster management progress.

Preparedness

Preparedness is the process of taking steps to ensure that individuals, communities, and organisations are ready to respond to disasters. Preparedness activities include developing emergency plans, conducting drills and exercises, and stockpiling essential supplies.

India has made significant efforts in managing disasters, including the establishment of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). NDRF is a task force in India that ensures quick response to man-made and natural disasters. It works towards reducing and mitigating the risks that come along with disasters. Battalions are spread all over India and help in immediate response.

Why are Early Warning Systems and Preparedness Critical?

There are numerous reasons why preparedness is essential before a potential disaster. Some of these reasons are:

  • Protection of property
    In times of disaster, people suffer from property and asset loss. Being prepared in advance can help take preventative measures to ensure the loss is minimal and assets can be taken care of.
  • Systematic resource allocation
    If informed prior, relief organisations and governments can have proper time to examine and decide the distribution of resources. For example, if a massive fire breaks out in the western part of the city, tents will be set up in the eastern areas along with food and water.
  • People preparedness and panic reduction
    If the community has a better sense of what is going wrong and how to improve things, they can help more. For example, a man bleeding from a cut could be immediately treated by another civilian if they know first aid. This helps keep panic to a minimum and allows everyone to be equipped to help others.
  • Environmental protection
    In times of cases that lead to environmental degradation, it is necessary to have a quick and efficient response. For example, boats can be quickly deployed during oil spills to constrain the spill rather than letting it spread.
  • International aid and cooperation
    Early warning systems can ensure the international world to work hand-in-hand during a disaster. Sharing information, resources and whatever help is necessary can lead to a more joint and effective response.

Hence, preparedness before disasters is a critical part of disaster management. It promotes resilience and ensures that people remain in control of their surroundings. Investing in early preventative measures for potential disasters can often be more economical than battling the risk of not.

Why is it Important to Educate and Raise Awareness About Disaster Management?

It is essential to raise awareness about disaster management before the disaster because it is often less talked about.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is a government agency formed under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. Its main purpose is to ensure a coordinated response to disasters and promote building resilience among various stakeholders. Moreover, it raises awareness about disaster management.

However, the potential risk of catastrophe should be acknowledged, and all preventative measures should be taken to ensure the least psychological and physical damage to all.

Key Benefits of Disaster Education and Advocacy

  • Equip people with information
    Disaster education can help people better understand the risks of location and living conditions. If they live in areas with poor structures and bad hygiene, they can fully understand the risks and shift if they can. Otherwise, they could take precautions of their own.
  • Conscious learning
    Disaster management is a constantly growing field with several ups and downs. It faces new challenges due to global warming and the boost in population. Technology is advancing every day in areas like preparedness. Making a conscious effort to learn can help during disasters and ensure more mental peace and problem-solving skills.
  • Crowdfunding and advocating for rights
    When many people get together to advocate for policies and regulations that call for disaster education and risk reduction, the bodies in charge tend to listen. Moreover, crowds coming together help raise funds quicker for relief after the disaster. The more the people, the more the effect on people and management.

Education is a vital part of preparedness. The more you know about a particular issue, the better you can process, understand and help.

Latest Developments

Recently, the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has begun field studies to put in place an Early-Warning System in the Himalayan states against major and sudden floods, rockslides, landslips, glacier lake bursts, and avalanches. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) have released a report titled Global Status of Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems - Target G, which warns that half of the countries globally are not protected by Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems (MHEWS). The WMO has launched a five-year program to set up early warning systems. The plan will address key gaps in understanding disaster risk, monitoring and forecasting, rapid communication, and preparedness and response.

What Can you Do When There is a Disaster?

The 'Early Warnings for All' initiative, led by UNDRR and the World Meteorological Organisation, aims to ensure universal disaster protection by 2027, focusing on awareness, monitoring, communication, and response.

For disaster preparedness:

  • Create an emergency plan with evacuation routes and a family meeting point.
  • Assemble an emergency kit with food, first-aid, flashlights, essential documents, and medications.
  • Stay informed through news and media.
  • Practice fire and evacuation drills.

During disasters:

  • Follow local authorities' instructions.
  • Monitor official updates through TV and mass media.
  • Avoid spreading fake news.
  • Evacuate when necessary.
  • Check on neighbors in need.

After a disaster:

  • Ensure your surroundings are safe before returning home.
  • Contact loved ones to confirm your safety.
  • Document damages for insurance claims.
  • Be aware of leaks or damages in your area.
  • Seek urgent medical care if necessary.
  • Volunteer and provide support to those in need.
  • Rebuild with proper infrastructure and disaster preparedness.

Community involvement is crucial for collective disaster management. Reach out to strangers, offer help to the elderly, and seek support from community organisations and local groups.

Remember, you are not alone, and proactive preparation is key to resilience. Together, we can create informed, resilient communities and reduce the impact of disasters.

Sources:

International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction | UNESCO. (n.d.). Www.unesco.org. https://www.unesco.org/en/days/disaster-risk-reduction

Disaster preparedness. (n.d.). Civil-Protection-Humanitarian-Aid.ec.europa.eu. https://civil-protection-humanitarian-aid.ec.europa.eu/what/humanitarian-aid/disaster-preparedness_en#:~:text=Disaster%20preparedness%20consists%20of%20a

Disaster Preparedness Tips. (n.d.). Ors.od.nih.gov. https://ors.od.nih.gov/ser/dem/emergencyPrep/Pages/Disaster-Preparedness-Tips.aspx

Fleitas, M. (2019, January 14). Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery. Www.samhsa.gov. https://www.samhsa.gov/disaster-preparedness

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). (n.d.). Drishti IAS. Retrieved October 11, 2023, from https://www.drishtiias.com/drishti-specials-important-institutions-national-institutions/national-disaster-management-authority-ndma-

https://www.undrr.org/publication/global-status-multi-hazard-early-warning-systems-target-g