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CDM - Community Disaster Management
Community Disaster Management

Your community can be affected by disaster at any time. Hazards like floods, earthquakes and landslides can happen without any warning – but this doesn’t mean that you should panic. What it does mean that your community should always have a disaster plan which can respond to all your area’s needs during an emergency.

You cannot assume that official help will always be available immediately after a disaster. A community should be prepared to work together so that they can find even a temporary solution to their problems.

If your plan is to be successful, your entire community needs to be educated, informed and organized. It’s important that you don’t neglect anyone because of their job, literacy level, or their age. Everyone can contribute something to this plan.

How can I make a plan?

We have outlined four easy steps for you to follow:

1. Identify and locate hazards
What is a hazard?

A hazard is the presence of something that can threaten a group of people, their activities and their environment. There are two types of hazards:

    • Natural Hazards – hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis.

  • Man-made Hazards – oil spills, fires, explosions.

Now that you know what a hazard is, you can decide which ones your community is at risk for. Do you live near a volcano? Is your community at the bottom of a steep slope? The first thing you should do is take a good look at your surroundings.

Then, consider the history of your area. What kinds of hazards have happened there in the past? Are they likely to happen again? How often do they happen? Now is also a good time to find out what kind of action was taken during the last emergency and if that can be improved.

You should also know the causes of these hazards. Some hazards can be prevented, for example, the chances of flooding can be reduced if you don’t let litter build up in the gutters.

Now is also a good time to become aware of organizations that can help you. Gather contacts for the Fire Department, Police, National Disaster Organization and the Hospital.

2. Find out how vulnerable you are
Vulnerability means the exposure of people, their work, and their environment to the effects of a hazard. The more vulnerable you are, the more damage a hazard can do.

To determine your community’s vulnerability, you must ask:

    • Which places and persons are exposed to the hazard?

  • How are we threatened?

Your vulnerability also depends on your community’s capacity for dealing with disaster situations. Capacity depends on the physical, social, economic and institutional resources that you have available.

Ask yourself, where the persons at risk located? What tools do you have available to help them? This can be made easier if you draw a map of your community that highlights where persons live as well as dangers like rivers, old trees, steep slopes etc.

Now that you’ve done that, you can start to create an inventory of what you have. It lets you know what the community has available to respond to an emergency situation.

    • Physical spaces and safe facilities – Know where green areas, community centres and parking lots are – these areas can be used as meeting places before, during or after a disaster.

    • Means of transportation – Make a list of any public or private vehicles available that can be used in an emergency.

    • Basic Medical Aid – First aid supplies and necessary medication should always be readily available.

    • Rescue and Protection Equipment – Tools, such as, fire extinguishers, shovels, ladders, rope, pick-axes, axes and chainsaws.

    • Electric Energy Systems – As well as other alternate energy supplies such as flash lights, generators and gas burners.

    • Water Systems – Pipelines, hydrants, wells, springs and other sources of water.

    • Sewage Water Disposal – As well as alternative methods of sewage disposal.

    • Authorities – As well as their contacts and responsibilities.

  • Organizations: A list of organizations the community has, for example, sporting groups, youth groups etc.

3. Make an Action Plan
Who will do what? When will they do it? Persons should be put into groups in order to avoid too much stress on a single individual. Plan what your groups will do to reduce the hazards in your community. Actions should be grouped into three periods:

    • Before the Emergency

    • During the Emergency

  • After the Emergency

Before the Emergency

Comprehensive Disaster Management has four phases: prevention, mitigation, preparedness and response and recovery. Before an emergency, your focus is on the first two phases – prevention and mitigation, but what does that mean? Prevention refers to things you can do to avoid an event that may cause an emergency. Mitigation means what is done to reduce the effects a disaster may have.

Here are some prevention and mitigation measures:

    • Identify and locate dangerous areas.

    • Re-locate people and belongings to places outside of these dangerous areas.

    • Inform and educate the community about the hazards they are vulnerable to and the ways to avoid them.

    • Protect and re-forest river banks in order to reduce the chances of floods, erosion and landslides – Any trees and even khus khus grass would work.

    • Protect sources of natural drinking water and other natural resources.

  • Pollution in coastal areas causes erosion and other problems. You should try to reduce this as much as possible.

After you’ve done everything you can to avoid and reduce the effects of a disaster, you can focus on preparedness. This means you can decide how you will react to disasters that cannot be evaded.

Here are some things you can do to prepare:

    • Determine meeting points and temporary shelters for emergency cases.

    • Identify and train the persons who will help the relief organizations during an emergency.

    • Make sure all groups and community members know what their responsibilities are during the emergency.

    • Establish a community information and communication system.

    • Tell the population what procedures need to be followed during an emergency.

    • Publicize your emergency plan.

    • What types of alarms will alert the community during a disaster? Ensure that everyone is aware of this and what to do when they hear it.

  • Design an evacuation plan and outline a clear route. You should also show dangerous areas to avoid and other safe zones.

During the Emergency

While the disaster is happening, your job is to save lives, and to reduce suffering and property damage – all while keeping yourself safe.

Normally, these tasks are left to disaster organizations like the Red Cross, firemen, police or community development officers. However, a prepared community makes their job easier. This can be done by supporting them and by helping with some of the other things mentioned below:

    • Temporary shelter and food for anyone who needs it.

    • Evacuation of those affected.

    • Medical assistance for those injured.

    • Security to prevent looting of abandoned homes and businesses.

    • Preliminary damage assessment.

  • Conducting a survey of the affected people.

After the Emergency

After the emergency has passed, your work is still far from over. At this stage, your actions are divided into two phases:

  • Rehabilitation – re-establishing the vital needs of the community that may have been damaged (water, electricity, communications).

This includes:

    1. Restoring basic community services – health, energy, water, transport etc.

    1. Do a damage and needs assessment.

  1. Organize community teams that can help do basic rehabilitation tasks.
  • Reconstruction – restoring structures (houses, roads) that were damaged in the disaster.

This includes:

    1. Organize volunteer teams to support institutions in the rebuilding of infrastructure that benefits your community. For example, schools, roads and clinics.

  1. Help your neighbours to restore the things that they need.

If you have followed the other stages of the plan, then the amount of work you have to do after the disaster should be minimal. This stage requires a lot of financial help so you need to plan ahead of time, exactly where this money will come from.

4. Test the Plan
Now that your plan is ready, it’s time to make sure that it works. Remember to inform the community about the plan through meetings, training, workshops, simulation exercises and other activities that explain what the plan is all about.

How do I test and evaluate the emergency plan?

Conduct exercises that simulate conditions that occur in a real emergency. You won’t be able to fake a flood or a volcanic eruption, but you’ll be able to see how long it takes your community to evacuate and if everyone remembers what they’re supposed to do. This will tell you:

    • The effectiveness of the plan.

  • Whether people know and remember the plan.

Whether or not the plan can be improved for when a real emergency strikes.

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