By Abubakar Jimoh
Nigeria has hitherto witnessed series of flood disasters due to the increasing impacts of global warming, which has continued to wreak havoc in some parts of the country.
The fact that the business of protecting people and the country from disasters remains one ultimate responsibilities of any serious government, the prompt responses by and provision of succor to victims of various disasters also becomes incumbent on all the relevant stakeholders in charge of disaster management in the Nigeria.
There is no doubt that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) had over the years collaborated the relevant agencies to ensure adequate preparedness on mitigation and control, as well as ensuring that normalcy returns with special attention to the standards for designating emergency evacuation sites for the affected persons
temporarily from hazard zones.
Earlier, the Meteorological Agency (NIMET) predicted distress zones and shelters for mid-term or long term period which the concerned state governments through their functional State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) are expected to clearly designate. Also, safe evacuation routes to be used during flood disasters should be determined, and each route should be clearly indicated in states and local governments’ evacuation plans and hazard maps to provide sufficient information to the residents.
In order to achieve concrete evacuation measures, Committee for Policy Planning on Disaster Management in Japan, has recommended that the specific evacuation standards appropriate to the nature of each community such as vertical evacuation (i.e. evacuation to upper floors of a building) and specification of contents of evacuation order must be initiated in according to the phases of flooding.
Similarly, a recent investigation conducted by Youths Against Disaster Initiative (YADI) revealed that evacuation to remote locations, local government Areas should be clearly indicated in the evacuation plans which must contain means of transportation such as the use of public transportation, chartered buses, automobiles, speed boats with
consideration for the time available for evacuation and extent of flooding.
As in practice, social, educational and welfare facilities such as schools and community centers should be utilized as emergency evacuation sites to facilitate smooth and non-crowded evacuation; while supply storage and other live-saving facilities should be determined in advance and set up at schools and other areas to be used as evacuation sites.
Immediate consideration must be given to the pregnant women, nursing mothers, olds, and disabled persons who must first be evacuated to the evacuation sites during normal times. Thus, sufficient human resources should be deployed to the evacuation sites to ensure prompt and appropriate response.
Livelihood support systems being run by various stakeholders such as NEMA, SEMAs, Nigeria Red Cross, United Nations, local volunteers disaster management organizations, other national and international Non-Governmental Organisastions (NGOs), social workers, nursing-care service providers, should be put in place for smooth evacuation of people requiring special assistance during flooding.
More importantly, SEMA should be adequately funded and promoted to thoroughly familiarize evacuation supporters, including police officers, fire fighters volunteers and volunteer disaster management organization members with the expected behavioral rules and procedures. SEMA and LEMCs should collaborate in ensuring the delivery of warnings to residents to seek for their maximum support and understanding for the evacuation.
The state governments through their SEMA should promote the development of flood evacuation plan with consideration to the information on predicted distress zones need to be evacuated, evacuation sites, evacuation routes, standards for issuing evacuation orders and instructions that match the needs of each community. They should ensure local residents are thoroughly familiarized with the plan.
Also, there is the need for information provision techniques to be improved. This will make accurate safety decisions on evacuation including provision for information about disaster risks and necessity of evacuation in an easier-to-understand manner.
Considering the porous nature of the local communities in the country, there is need for improvement in the disaster management communication, sensitization, Early Warning Alert systems, technical development and utilization of satellite positioning systems.
Popularising media such as Early Warning email services for mobile phones like NEMA Free Toll Call, social network services, one-segment broadcasting, and news media should be promoted.
From the previous experiences, large-scale floods in some states and local governments could result in evacuation of thousands; therefore there is need to put in place measure that will help distressed populations identify and familiarize with evacuation locations and routes, as well as early establishment of methods to issue evacuation orders, instruction and guidance.
Furthermore, Federal and State Fire Services should enhance their structures by establishing organizations that will ensure smooth movement of fire-fighting materials, vehicles, including self-sustaining equipment to the affected areas during the floods.
Abubakar Jimoh is the National Coordinator, Youths Against Disaster (YADI), and lives in Abuja.