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Published On: Thu, Nov 6th, 2014

Strengthening disaster response and preparedness

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By Abubakar Jimoh

An investigation conducted by the Disaster Management Committee, Japan (DMCJ) revealed that disaster emergency response changes as time passes thus disaster emergency response becomes imperative, and should be determined in advance.

In the analysis of the United State Child Welfare Information Gateway, it was stated that the process of developing and implementing emergency response plans for states, communities, and child welfare agencies is complex, hence, various stakeholders must develop comprehensive disaster preparedness plans and responding to emergencies quickly and effectively to protect children and families. They must adequately organize resources for preparedness (ahead of disaster) response (immediate aftermath), and recovery.

In view of the fact that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is mandated to take necessary measures and coordination upon occurrence of a major-scale disaster, the central and local governments should develop in advance methods of coordination.

Consequently, prior to disaster, it is essential to take into consideration such issues as workload management, assessment and response to client needs, staff supporting, volunteers’ management; and coordination and assessment for effective information and communication systems.

Apparently, strengthening of disaster management systems through collaborations with various actors—NEMA, SEMAs, LEMC, NGOs, associations, foundations and volunteers, will enable a wide range support in all aspects of disaster emergency response when an expansive and massive disaster strikes. In this case, each level of government must put in place well defined measures to enable smooth support that matches the scale of the disaster response as well as the needs of affected areas.

More importantly, the cooperation among relevant stakeholders should be encouraged to develop and implement effective measures for accepting volunteers in various disaster management areas such as securing safety during activities, providing information on affected people’s needs, and other issues should be well established.

In the course of disaster response preparedness, the facilities and resources of private enterprises can be utilized through a pre-defined Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the state governments and the private organisations. The private enterprises can help in such areas as information communication, transportation and storage of relief materials, distributing food to shelter and camps.

In order to ensure accurate information collection and communication during disasters, the relevant stakeholders on disaster management should promote and secure preparedness communication methods by duplex communication routes, diversification and upgrading of communication methods such as NEMA Free Toll Call.

The existing members of Media Information Committee on Emergency Management (MICEM) should promote information dissemination through their various organizations towards workable disaster response preparedness.

There is no need waiting for NEMA’s response during a major disaster as during normalcy, if the State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMAs) and Local Emergency Management Committees are skillfully installed. They could easily mobilize and deploy their operative capacity and their involvement and participations will constitute immense forces of workable response preparedness that can bring about effectiveness and sustainability at the grassroots.

Also, it is important to note that the ideal state of all operations conducted by NEMA, SEMA and LEMCs should be reviewed to include information collection in disaster areas and coordination tasks.

On its part, the Youths Against Disaster Initiative (YADI) has reminded the state and local governments on the need for them not to completely depend on help coming from other jurisdictions in the first 24 hours of a catastrophe. Hence, to achieve sound and effective disaster response preparedness, it is recommended that local authorities are prepared to take charge of the initial management of the emergency for at least 72 hours when help may come from elsewhere.

Similarly, it was recommended by DMCJ that local governments and institution related to disaster management should include a support acceptance plans, in their disaster management plans and local disaster management plans which contains specific methods for communication and requesting of backup and support, so as to establish a mutual support system that runs smoothly.

Moreover, reports have exposed inadequate capacity of many local governments in addressing disaster. On this note, the state government should ensure adequate capacity building for disaster preparedness and response at local government.

Abubakar Jimoh is the National Coordinator of Youths Against Disaster Initiative (YADI) and lives in Abuja, and can be reached at abujimoh01@gmail.com

 

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