Disaster, Its Management and Everything in Between

‘A known devil is much better than an unknown angel.’ A cliché that we often come across. True in some sense, not in all.

If someone or something is known to us then, to a certain extent, we are ‘aware’ of how it may behave or react in the future. Only to a certain extent. The cent-percent surety is always a long-shot. Preparedness is the formula to soak-in the complexities of unforeseen reactions. One can be prepared for the eventualities only if one has the required awareness of what’s hidden in the laps of future. It should be acknowledged that even with the ultra-modern scientific developments that we have along our sides; the future cannot be predicted. There is always an element of surprise for us to tackle. We should be prepared to take that into our stride. Nine out of Ten times, surprises bring the sensation of denial. Denials have traits of delaying our crucial natural response-time. Our preparedness should be up to the extent which makes us capable of effectively countering the surprises. Though the surprises are mostly shocking in every walk of life, the value & importance of preparedness gets increased by several notches if the surprise circumvents something of the magnitude of a Disaster.

Disaster is a fact, a phenomenon, a circumstance or, a happening with elements of destruction hidden underneath. United Nations defines disaster as a serious disruption of functioning of a society or a community. It results into catastrophic impacts over human, material, economy and environment. In all likelihood, such impacts exceed the capability of the affected community or society to cope-up on its own.

There is no country which is completely immune from disaster, though their vulnerability to disaster does vary. It can be categorised in two main types – Natural Disasters & Man-made Disasters.

Natural Disasters comprises of earthquakes, droughts, floods, landslides, forest-fires, and avalanches among many others. We have a little or no control on the occurrence of these types of disasters. On the other hand, as the name suggests, human actions and activities are solely responsible for the Man-made Disasters., for example, industrial fire and accidents, explosions, oil spills, mass-transport accidents, etc.

Controlling the Uncontrollable

Disaster management can be defined as the management and organisation of roles, responsibilities and resources for responding to multiple aspects of emergencies. In particular, it deals with the preparedness, recovery, and response in order to dampen the impact of disasters.

Mitigation comprises of the efforts that are taken to reduce the loss of life and property by dampening the impact of disasters. Be it a natural or man-made, a disaster can strike at any time. In general, the response to any disaster is in form of rescue and relief operations – ‘after the event’. However, if we are adequately prepared, it’s quite possible to significantly reduce the impact of any disaster. The impact can be reduced through a good understanding of preventive actions, as well as having the knowledge of certain life-saving tools and techniques. Such vital information when used at the occurrence of the disaster controls the cumulative damage to life and properties.

Preparedness is the Key/Prevention is always Better than Cure

The man-made disasters can be prevented and averted in most of the cases. All we need to have is proper framework in place and strict adherence to rules and regulations. For example, the industries need to ensure compliance to relevant fire and safety standards, mass transportation systems need to be engineered while keeping utmost priority to the passenger safety; proper vigilance needs to be maintained for stopping hazards like oil spillage and other similar incidences.. Above all, proper rescue, relief and evacuation methodology shall be maintained wherever high risk to human lives and properties are involved.

On the ‘Acts of nature’ we don’t have any control at all. The Earthquakes will happen whenever there is a tectonic movement below the earth’s crust. The natural depression in the climatic atmosphere, whenever it happens, will lead to Cyclones and Tornadoes. The cases of Volcanoes, Tsunamis and Floods are no different. But that doesn’t mean we will relax and consider it as our fate while being hopeless and helpless. By taking necessary and conscious steps, not only we can reduce our vulnerability towards Natural Disasters but also reduce their impact on human lives and properties as and when they occur. Afforestation, planned growth proliferation and properly engineered constructions are some crucial steps in direction of vulnerability reduction.

Weapons of Awareness

If ponder on the methods we can be implemented for reduction of the impacts of Disasters, we finally zero-in on the key panacea i.e., The Awareness. Greater the awareness about the causes, effects and responses to the Disasters, lesser will be the impact of disasters on population at large. In several countries, we have already moved forward in this direction by including Disaster Management courses in the mainstream education system.

Several thousand years ago, our planet was ruled by gigantic dinosaurs. They got wiped out, all of sudden. Among many theories behind the reason of their extinction, one points towards the mass-scale simultaneous Disasters on the planet Earth. And, as the renowned biologist Charles Darwin’s theory said, “Survival of the Fittest”. Since the inception of human life on this planet, we have seen and mitigated many such disasters. The reason is we human beings don’t have the tendency to dip our head in sand like an ostrich on the occurrence of storm. We have basic instinct to fight for our survival. This instinct has made mankind survive the high tides of time in the past. This instinct will definitely help us to go through the Surprises of Future as well. The sole message is – Be Ready, Be Prepared, Be Vigilant and Never Shut Your Eyes just for the sake of short-lived pleasure.

Ignorance is bliss? Not all the time! The key to survival is wisdom along with Awareness and Education.

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