Posts Tagged With: Emergency management

Command System in the Emergency Response

In the emergency situation, we often hear different information about number of casualties and damage, also uneven aid distribution, lack of cooperation between the various stakeholders and so on.  Situations like this are usually caused by a lack of coordination among stakeholders or related agencies.

Incident Commander

To deal with the above situation, we need a command system to coordinate, control, monitor and evaluate emergency response activities. The command system is also known as the Incident Command System (ICS).

In general, the command system of the emergency response is a disaster emergency management system that is used to synergize and integrate the use of all available resources, human resources, equipment and funds or budget.

Or other definitions from Wikipedia:

The Incident Command System (ICS) is “a systematic tool used for the command, control, and coordination of emergency response” according to the United States Federal Highway Administration. A more detailed definition of an ICS according to the United States Center for Excellence in Disaster Management & Humanitarian Assistance is “a set of personnel, policies, procedures, facilities, and equipment, integrated into a common organizational structure designed to improve emergency response operations of all types and complexities.

Establishment of command system in the emergency response is usually done at the time of emergencies include:

  1. Emergency standby (preparedness) phase. Establishment of command system at this stage is usually performed for the type of disaster that happens gradually, like a flood or volcanic eruption. At this stage, operations control center is usually located in the region concerned (provincial / district / city).
  2. Emergency response phase. Establishment of command system at this stage is usually performed for the type of disaster that occurs suddenly, such as earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides.
  3. Transition phase from emergency response phase to recovery phase.

Establishment of command system for the disaster that occurs suddenly is usually done after going through the following four stages:

1. Information about the initial event of disaster. This information can be obtained from various sources, to create a simple formula:

  • What: type of disaster
  • When: day, date, month, year, hour, local time
  • Where: location/place/disaster area
  • Who: number of casualties and infrastructure damage
  • Why: the cause of the disaster
  • How: what efforts have been made and what urgent needs

2. Assignment of Rapid Response Team. Based on the information about the initial event of disaster, the government or relevant agencies send Rapid Response Team to immediately conduct a quickly and accurate assessment also to provide the necessary support services for emergency response. The results of assessment from Rapid Response Team will be an input and consideration to the Government or related agencies to determine the next steps or to determine the status or level of disaster.

3. Determination status or level of disaster. Based on the input from Rapid Response Team (point 2 above), the government will set a status or level of disaster. At this stage the Government will also sometimes assign an officer as a Commander for Disaster Emergency Response in accordance with state or disaster level (national or regional scale).

4. Establishment of Disaster Emergency Response Command. Government in this regard the President / Governor / Regent / Mayor will issue a decree forming Disaster Emergency Response Command and immediately activate it. Mobilization of all resources is also usually done at this stage.

Emergency Command System is typically a single command organization. The chain of command and responsibilities are clearly. Usually all stakeholders will be coordinated within the organization is based on a unity of command. This organization can be formed at all levels of the region, at the central / national, provincial and district / city.

In general, basic organization structure of the Command System in the Emergency Response:

1. Incident Commander.

2. Deputy Incident Commander.

3. Command Unit:

  • Secretariat
  • Public Relations
  • Safety and Security
  • Liaison Officers from all respective stakeholders

4. General Unit:

  • Planning Section
  • Operations Section
  • Logistics, Equipment Section
  • Finance and Administration

The organizational structure above can be narrowed or expanded based on the needs.

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Coordination is Essential for Emergency Response

Coordination

During the emergency/disaster response, we often hear the word coordination, coordinate, and the like. It is easy to say coordination and coordination, but in reality very difficult to run and achieve it. For example, during the emergency response of floods in Jakarta in early 2013, we noticed that a lot of turmoil distributions of basic necessities due to lack of coordination between the authorities, relief parties/donors and communities affected by the disaster. We saw from mass media, affected people at the evacuation centers complained that they have not received any aid, but on the other hand we also saw that a lot of aid has been given. The questions then where the given aid and why many affected people still complained not get it? Apparently at the time, a lot of aid have only been stored at posko and has not been given to the affected people due to lack of coordination!

Shortly after disaster struck, many people, individually, organizations and government agencies immediately plunged into the location and provide humanitarian assistance. All parties came with their own interests so often competing priorities occurred. It can be seen from the lack of services and support provided to the affected people/communities, one example as mentioned above. Another example is duplication of effort so it can create inappropriate assistance. I have experience the same situation when I was participating in the emergency response in one area sometime ago. At the time, almost all parties/donors sent food aid, until finally the affected people refused to accept any food aid. Actually what urgently required at the time is basic medicines and medical assistance, but due to lack of coordination in the management of information, therefore the aid as per requirement came very late.

Definition of coordination based on free dictionary artikata.com is regarding the set of an organization or activity to ensure that rules and actions to be implemented are not contradictory or confusing or we can say coordination is the regulation of diverse elements into an integrated and harmonious operation. Some synonyms for coordination are harmonization, alignment, organization, and synchronization.

From the above definitions and synonyms, we could see that coordination does not occur within the short time. Coordination should be done well long before the disaster. Coordination of emergency response must be made by all stakeholders from government, private sectors, other relevant organizations and communities itself.

In general, to be able to make a good coordination system, there are several things should be considered, namely:

  1. Participatory of all stakeholders involved in the emergency situation. The tasks of coordination within a structure and process agreed and supported by all of stakeholders. A person or an agency or organization designated as the coordinator should be able to build a good atmosphere and mutual respect among all stakeholders.
  2. Impartial. Coordination should aim to provide assistance in accordance with the requirements irrespective of ethnicity/race, religion, political choices/affiliate, gender or age. Attention should be given to the vulnerable groups, children, the elderly, the disabled and pregnant women. Coordination should not be made to favor one agency or organization over another.
  3. Coordination should be done in transparent way. Coordination requires trust from all of stakeholders. Every decision making process and the provision of information should be done in a transparent and honest, even in cases of failure remains to be informed and not be covered up to a certain interest.
  4. Should be beneficial to the affected communities and other stakeholders.

One of the first steps that could be done in order to have a good coordination in the emergency response is mapping the capacities of all stakeholders. This needs to be done in order to be able to identify and facilitate the process of involvement of each party at the time of emergency. In essence, this mapping noted:

  1. Who
  2. What
  3. When
  4. Where
  5. Why
  6. How

From the mapping, then we can see the capacity of the different stakeholders so that the division of tasks for emergency responses can be coordinated.

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Response – Disaster / Emergency Response

Airlift to speed up assistance to the affected people

Airlift to speed up assistance to the affected people

Previously, we have seen that response is the provision of assistances and services during or immediately after a disaster with primary goals to save lives, reduce the impact of the diseases or health-related, providing health services and providing basic needs required by the affected people/communities.

We can use a reference from The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR, 2009):

The provision of emergency services and public assistance during or immediately after a disaster in order to save lives, reduce health impacts, ensure public safety and meet the basic subsistence needs of the people affected.

As above reference, we can see there are two stages of response, namely:

  1. Response given immediately after a disaster or as we know is the emergency response.  The main activities at this stage are save lives and evacuation, fulfillment of basic needs and health care delivery. Emergency response period is usually set by the government for a certain period of time based on the recommendation from the agency or a special team tasked to assess and consider the conditions and impacts that occurred shortly after the disaster.
  2. Responses given during the disaster, this stage we know as well as the transition period. At this stage the provision of basic needs and health services still on-going and began providing assistance to improve vital infrastructure in order to support socio-economic activities as soon as possible. However, activities at this stage are temporary. Sometimes this phase continues until the recovery period.

Preliminary information about disaster events can be obtained from various sources, from the public reports, local government, mass media, the internet or other reliable sources. This early information must include the required data, namely:

  1. What: type of disaster
  2. When: day, date, time
  3. Where: location
  4. Who: number of casualties and infrastructure damage
  5. Why: the cause of the disaster
  6. How: what efforts have been made

Based on the preliminary information, the government or other professional organizations typically directly send their assigned Rapid Response Team to immediately conduct a quickly  and accurately assessment as well as provide the necessary support services for emergency response. In general, the team will conduct an assessment by using references from the initial information received and other secondary data. The report of rapid assessment must contain the necessary data, namely:

  1. Describes the type of disaster.
  2. Describes the exact time when disaster occurred.
  3. Describes the exact location or disaster area.
  4. Describes number of casualties (death toll, severe injured, minor injured, sick, missing) and the number of refugees, destruction of buildings and vital infrastructure that are damaged.
  5. Make a brief analysis of the causes of the disaster.
  6. Make a brief analysis of the available resources in the closest area to the disaster site and urgent resources needs.

From the report of assessment from Rapid Response Team, then usually the government will determine the status or level of disaster and set the next steps that should be taken to respond.

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The Importance of Strengthening Local Wisdom for Disaster Preparedness

We may ever think what have been done in the past by local communities in the event of earthquakes, floods, landslides or other disasters. Do they have disaster management at the time? Do they have disaster preparedness at the time? Do they have early warning system at the time? How they recover from disaster at the time? We may even think that what have been done in the past is better than now. At the time, they might think much more ahead about preparedness rather than what we think today. At the time, they might more concern about environment rather than us today.

Is the implementation of disaster management policies made ​​by government or other professional organizations are in accordance with the characteristics of an area and can be well received by the local community?

Kentongan

Local wisdom consists of two words, wisdom and local. Wikipedia said that wisdom is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgments and actions in keeping with this understanding. The free dictionary by Farlex said wisdom is the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight. Local can be interpreted as one area or location.

Gobyah (2003) said that local wisdom is the truth that has been a tradition or steady in a region. Local wisdom is a product of the past that continue to hold onto life. Although local but the values ​​contained in it is universal.

Caroline Nyamai-Kisia said local wisdom is the source of knowledge held dynamic, evolving and forwarded by a certain population that is integrated with their understanding of the nature and the culture around.

So in general we can say that local wisdom is the knowledge or awareness that is hereditary inherited that has been fused with the community and local culture.

I was attended tsunami drill in one of the district in Indonesia sometime in 2011. At that time, we were quite amazed when the locals turned out their early warning system which quite effective and executed well by them. Local communities have inherited the knowledge of the signs of a tsunami threat and having their own tradition that serves as an early warning to warn their community to flee to a place in a higher ground. Because of this local wisdom, when the tsunami occurred long time back in this area, there were many lives been saved.

Sometimes we see that the people who are in disaster-prone locations as “weak poeple” or even as “potential victims” so that we as an external party come and “give latest knowledge” about preparedness in various forms. We do not think the fact that local people have their own capacity in disaster preparedness. From the above example, it is important for us to fin a way how to combine the local methods/wisdom with the techniques as well as new information and knowledge in order to have more effective preparedness and increase resilience accordingly. To be able to achieve this, it is necessary to have close cooperation from all stakeholders, government, professional organizations, academics and communities themselves.

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Disaster Preparedness – Overview

I began this writing with a quote from one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. This quote is matched if use in preparedness phase. If we and all respective parties are not well prepared then we must be prepared to face huge losses.

Ring of fire

Of course we all hope disasters will never happen. However, would be better if we all remain to be alerted and prepared. For us in Indonesia, we are in the “ring of fire”, definitely we need to improve our preparedness.  The most obvious example is this time in July we supposed to be in dry season but rainfall in Greater Jakarta areas still high. The phenomenon of climate change has also become an input to further improve our preparedness.

In the previous post, we have seen the outline of preparedness is readiness or capacities of government, organizations / professional institutions, communities and individuals in anticipation of possible disasters, to respond when it occurs and how to effectively recover from disaster.

To be more detail, we can use a reference from The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR, 2009):

“Preparedness is the knowledge and capacities developed by governments, professional response and recovery organizations, communities and individuals to effectively anticipate, respond to, and recover from, the impacts of likely, imminent or current hazard events or conditions”.

So we can draw a conclusion, in essence, preparedness is our readiness before, during and after a disaster.

Each type of disaster requires different measures, however the main idea of preparedness is our ability to quickly and appropriate respond when required.

Currently, many preparedness training conducted by governments or professional response and recovery institutions in which the training made based on analysis of disaster risks in respective locations.

One example of preparedness training that familiar with us is fire drill. Fire is one of the most common disasters.  Commercial buildings should have a contingency plans for fire and regular agenda for fire drill. The fire drill has to be conducted and attended not only by building occupants, but also building management staffs. One of the most important to be trained is when the fire alarm has been sounded, all occupants are expected to not panic and get out of the building by using a route that has been made ​​towards to the evacuation point. So in principal, fire preparedness is to make your place fire safe, plan escape routes, and escape safely.

At this writing I only made the general idea of ​​disaster preparedness, in the future we could see further on several types of disaster preparedness.

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Disaster Prevention

Prevention was recently added to the phases of disaster management. Honestly, I was still occasionally baffled also to define whether one action includes in the category of prevention or category of mitigation. I definitely think that the basic difference, mitigation is actions or steps to reduce the impact of disaster/reduce the risk while prevention is for preventing the event to be happened/ how to avoid hazards and related disaster. I expect there may be readers of this paper can provide feedback or criticism to add to our knowledge.

We know that not all disasters, particularly natural disasters can be prevented, but the risk of lost or injury can be reduced with good evacuation plan, environmental planning, etc.

Back to the case of floods in Jakarta-Indonesia occurred in early 2013. We may still remember that at the time, the government of Indonesia in that case, the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) and the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) conducted weather-modification by cloud-seeding efforts. This is an example of prevention of floods, BNPB & BPPT preventing the formation of clouds and rain outside flood-prone areas in Greater Jakarta.

Other example is relocation of local communities from landslide-prone areas. This is considered as prevention action also the government’s efforts to maintain soil structure that does not change in the event of heavy rains or earthquakes by reclamation or hard-tree planting.

Pencegahan

Prohibition or regulations of the government to not build a home or residential in disaster-prone areas are also included in the category of prevention.

Our efforts in everyday life, such as not littering, cleaning drains / sewer in our residential area can be considered as prevention of floods and infectious diseases.

Disasters prevention is very important, and should be done continuously and sustained by all of us.

Therefore, in January 2005 during the World Conference on Disaster Reduction held in Kobe, Hyogo-Japan, 168 countries agreed to adopt a 10-year global plan for natural disaster risk reduction called the Hyogo Framework for Action. It offers guiding principles, priorities for action, and practical means for achieving disaster resilience for vulnerable communities.

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