Course manual Introduction to Disaster Management


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Unit summary


In this unit you learned about the importance of a community-based approach in education and public awareness programmes in disaster management and the stakeholders involved. Community members should be involved in the planning and implementation phases of these awareness programmes as it makes them more receptive to new ideas and appropriate responses to a disaster. You also learned about various methods which communities can use to actively implement community-based action plans to reduce disaster risks as well as identifying and comparing the advantages and disadvantages of a community-based approach to education and public awareness.




Go to your nearest Disaster Centre/Office and have a look at a Community-Based Action Plan for your community (or for other communities). Provide a critique of this action plan highlighting the presence or absence of the following major components:

  1. The assigned tasks of individuals or groups within the community.

  2. Risk reduction measures or activities. (What strategies have been put in place for risk reduction?)

  3. Does the plan include training for education and public awareness at the community level?

  4. Identify and describe any pros and cons of the Community-Based Action Plan.



Provide short answers to the following questions.

  1. Why do you think it is important for education and public awareness to be carried out at the community level?

  2. In two paragraphs describe the roles and responsibilities of disaster managers and community workers in education and public awareness.

  3. Explain why the community-based approach needs to take into consideration the availability of resources.


Key concepts that should be included in your answers:

  1. Community members are the potential victims, and know their region best, including its terrain, hazards and vulnerabilities. They are also the experts in their language and culture. Involving them increases “buy-in”, and enhances their self-reliance and confidence.

  2. Policy-making input, leadership and organisational roles; fundraising and resource gathering; management at the local level; and dissemination of information.

  3. Avoid promising more than can be delivered; know how to make best use of available resources and what outside aid may be required; know what capacity building and training may be needed.


UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (2005) Hyogo Declaration. Accessed on 24/01/08 at:

Newport, J.K. & Jawahar, G.G.P..(2003). “Community Participation and Public Awareness in Disaster Mitigation”. Disaster Prevention and Management, 12(1), pp.33-36. Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Unit 6

Education and Public Awareness – Part II


Disaster management is everybody’s business. The impact on the lives and livelihood of peoples as well as damage to infrastructure are huge. The communities must be more proactive towards preparedness and reduction of risks during disasters whether it is natural or man-made. We will depend a lot on the resources and the traditional knowledge we have to prepare in terms of subsistence, like planting the root crops three months before the cyclone seasons. The cutting down of branches of wood, pulling down flimsy constructions, constructing buildings that can withstand cyclones and following simple instructions are measures that if we take seriously will greatly reduce unfortunate tolls and damages. The design of risk reduction strategies is imperative. Therefore, personnel training and volunteer assistance, school-based programmes and hazardous materials on disaster management are main issues discussed in this unit.

Personnel training and volunteer assistance prepare people to improve and strengthen their capacity towards managing and reducing the impact of disasters. The preparation should begin with the assessing and identifying of the capacity needs of the communities. The hazards and vulnerability of the communities at risk should be assessed on how they will be affected technically, economically and socially.

Linking school activities and plans to the work of country coalition and local community networks reinforces the goal of creating of an environment and local norms of supportive attitudes towards disaster risks. In planning school-based programmes on disaster management, schools must reach out and link with the community and include work with the local coalition in the community in the work plan. Also schools must identify all the partners in disaster prevention, within as well as beyond the school system, and define their roles and responsibilities in the programmes. For example, parents play a very important role in providing social and environmental support for the school programmes on disaster management.

Public awareness of hazardous materials is also vital for disaster prevention. A hazardous material is a substance that on release or contact has the potential of causing harm to people (physical or health effects), property or the environment. Harmful physical effects include fire, sudden release of pressure, explosion, and other violent reactions. Harmful health effects include acute conditions and chronic conditions. Acute conditions develop soon after over-exposure to hazardous materials and include burns, rashes, respiratory distress, convulsions, and possibly even death.

Upon completion of this unit you will be able to:


  • Describe how and why personnel training to acquire skills and knowledge are essential in mitigating the impact of disasters.

  • Recognise the contribution and participation of volunteer agencies assistance.

  • Define the contents of a school-based programme on disaster management.

  • Identify some appropriate school-based programmes on disaster management.

  • Discuss and implement a school-based programme on disaster management effectively.

  • Identify and discuss some types of hazardous materials.


Hazard identification:

The process of identifying what hazards have threatened a community, how often specified hazards have occurred in the past, and with what intensity (i.e., damage-generating attributes measured by various scales) they have struck; the first level of hazard analysis sophistication.

Hazardous materials:
  1. Any material that is dangerous to life, health, or property due to its chemical nature or properties. This group of chemicals is used in industry, agriculture, medicine, research, and consumer goods. Hazardous materials come in the form of explosives, flammable and combustible substances, poisons, and radioactive materials. These substances are most often released as a result of transportation accidents or because of accidents in chemical plants.

Hazardous waste:

A solid waste, or combination of solid wastes, which because of its quantity, concentration, or physical, chemical, or infectious characteristics may:

  1. cause, or significantly contribute to, an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible or incapacitating reversible serious illness, or

  2. pose a substantial presence or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, or disposed of, or otherwise managed.

Flammable liquid:

Any liquid that produces enough vapours to ignite if exposed to an ignition source.

Flammable solid:

A substance when ignited, will burn so vigorously that it creates a hazard.


Something that will destroy or irreversibly damage a substance, including living tissue, by chemical action. The main hazards to people include damage to eyes, skin and tissue under the skin, but inhalation or ingestion of a corrosive can damage the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts.


A substance that is toxic to life or health.

Duties of Response Personnel

Each duty involves a series of tasks and steps that must be considered and resolved by decisions and actions. These duties when supported by the response communities are the framework of an appropriate, survival oriented response to hazardous materials incidents. Reasoned decisions based on this approach will minimize the harm resulting from a hazardous material incident and reduce the risk to responders.

Community Mitigation Goals

Hazardous materials are usually transported on the roads and railroad networks throughout countries. Some of these hazardous materials are stored and consumed by the community, in particular, gasoline for vehicles, propane for heating, and anhydrous ammonia for fertilizers. During disasters, the potential is high for release or spill of hazardous material into residential areas or areas frequented by communities. It is important therefore to raise and promote awareness of communities in the safeguard, handling, use and disposal of hazardous materials.
Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan

To increase the public’s awareness of the full range of man-made or technological hazards, it is recommended that education and outreach programmes are developed and implemented. Actions to take include:

  1. Educating the public about the hazardous materials to which they are most frequently exposed.

  2. Help homeowners identify Hazardous Materials from which they are at risk.

  3. Identify, publish and disseminate a procedures manual on the disposal of hazardous materials.

Personnel Training

Training personnel is the preparation of resource people to provide basic information on appropriate targeted goals. It provides premier world-class training, products and services through innovative methods and technologies that contribute to the protection of life and property in the environment. It is a training that develops resources based on the needs of people.


The reason for disseminating quality information in the informal mode is very important to the communities. The obvious reason is to integrate the local skills and knowledge with modern technologies with the immediate resources that are available especially with regards to disaster risk management. The resource people in the government, NGOs and communities within the local government structure are driving the personnel training programmes.

Some types of Personnel Training

  • Legislation, convention, policy framework and planning

  • Health

  • Rehabilitation

  • Disasters, hazards and quarantine

  • Organizational structure

  • Establishment of disaster committee

  • Resource personnel

  • Leadership and discipline

  1. Legislation, convention and policy training

The communities need to know about legislations passed through the legislative body of the nation on how to mitigate not only in disasters but also related by products like hazards and quarantine. They also need to be informed of the conventions the government has signed to be part of the global and regional drive to manage disasters better. The importance of knowing these legislations and conventions are not only for their understanding but to take the necessary action when the time comes. The policies and plans are documents to guide the communities to be conscious of why disaster management is a developmental issue. It clarifies the government commitment.

  1. Health training

There are many health issues affecting communities after events of disasters. The possible outbreak of epidemics caused by rotting animal carcasses, rotten leaves, tree trunks and unhygienic environment is very disturbing. The Health Department has all the relevant information and data to facilitate any training we seek to implement.

  1. Rehabilitation training

This type of personnel training is to ensure that skilled personnel are available to serve the rehabilitation needs of individuals with disabilities in the aftermath of a disaster. The programme supports training and related activities to increase qualified personnel trained in providing rehabilitation programmes. The trainings are funded by donors under bilateral or multilateral agreements. This training also may introduce low cost housing packages- for example the one that is recommended by Habitat for Humanity International. However, buildings constructed out of local materials should also be reinforced to meet hurricane force winds.

  1. Disasters, hazards and quarantine training

Communities are prone to different kinds of disasters. They take it for granted that whether they like it or not they cannot run away from disaster. What they sometimes do not understand is the impact of the disasters on them. It is better for them to shift their understanding from picking up from the aftermath to preparing for the worst prior to the striking of a disaster. Another point that links directly with disaster reduction is the positive response to warnings that are issued by the National Disaster Management Office or through the Meteorological Departments, especially on tsunami or cyclones. it is important that disaster warnings are taken seriously. Training on hazardous materials should also be integrated into the education of personnel involved in disaster management. Hazardous materials are substances that are potentially harmful and dangerous to living beings, animals and environment. Quarantine is also connected with disaster reduction. This refers to the enforced isolation of people or animals that may have been exposed to contagious or infectious diseases. Quarantine training is a measure to reduce risk. There are three things to know about quarantine measures.

  • The enforced isolation of people and animals are kept at a safe place to prevent the spread of disease.

  • A calculated period of time must be spent in the secluded area to ensure the prevention of the spread of the disease.

  • The isolation may result in communities and government in avoiding another unnecessary disaster and expenditure.

  1. Organizational structure training

The communities that cooperate well in any event of disaster are ones that will recovery more quickly. This means that they have a disaster management committee in the communities. Not only do they have a disaster committee but that it is well constituted, in operational and fully functional. There is a continuous flow of information and communication as the structure to create human resource development is addressing disaster as a developmental issue shifting from the concept of rebuilding in the recovery stage to a more managerial commitment. The committee networks with the wider structures in the province and the national level to put in place a response and recovery plan and carry it out. In the event of a volcanic eruption, the evacuation of people out of the disaster area within the islands or crossing to other islands and emergency centres to coordinate relief is ready. The structure of providing personnel training is established to facilitate the accessing and channelling of funding and services that are available before, during and after the disaster strikes.

  1. Resource personnel in communities training

The capacity needs visibility study so as to assess how to maintain, sustain and support continuous human resource. Each disaster is different in any given situation, however, the skills, tools, and technical expertise that is available needs to be supported and equipped. There are resource and skilful people in the communities who can be singled out to lead in areas or field they are experienced to facilitate in the training.

  1. Leadership and discipline training

The type of personnel training in leadership and discipline is crucial. Quality leaders with sound discipline are needed to sustain and maintain the process and progress of disaster management. The chiefs and their communities must show responsibility, ownership and commitment. At the end of the day, the communities must have a livelihood to live for. So the establishment of disaster committees is essential to produce a set of relevant indicators as a monitoring and evaluation process to report progress, effectiveness and efficiency for relief supplies. It is essential to discourage politicized propaganda in the overall disseminating of information and relief supplies.

From here we can move to outside assistance to meet whatever means there are through the regular structure. It is also diagram is a sample and is subjected to be modified to suit the different situation and location. To facilitate the training, donors/Partners and volunteer assistance during relief, the structure needs to be established by legislation or Council of Ministers’ (COM) approval. This is appropriate to the different situation in the region so as to facilitate not only the training programme but also the channelling of relief aid after the event of a disaster. The children need to know how, what, where and when to seek assistance before a disaster strikes.

Volunteer Assistance

A volunteer assistance is a group of people or organizations that are willing to give assistance on voluntary basis. This group of people or organization provide predictable, safe and sanitary environment in the aftermath of a disaster in the communities. They participate in the community organs and provide and liaise relief from the wider community. For example, the cultural values play an important role in assisting families receives materials and utensils if they have lost most or all of their well-being. The next level where volunteer assistance comes from is organizations from outside but within the national boundaries. Volunteer assistance comes from organizations like in country Red Cross Society that also have networks within the communities and government through the standing military forces. Donor countries like France, Australia, New Zealand and China and others provide volunteer assistance in assessing the situation through surveillance. For this kind of assistance to be continuous, the recipient countries and the donor agencies need to be bonded by some form of agreements or convention through becoming members of the global forum.

School-based Programmes

School-based programmes on disaster management are sets of activities that are dealing with disaster prevention strategies for the school. The development of all school-based programmes on disaster management should begin with a determination of which natural and technological disasters are possible in the school area. Make sure all the school communities do not assume they know all the disaster risks. School stakeholders may be surprised to learn that their school areas are subject to natural disasters they had not anticipated. Also, remember that disasters can have a cascading effect. For example, think about how transportation routes or other external factors may also affect the schools by asking “Are we near a major highway where hazardous chemicals are transported, putting our school in danger of a chemical spill?”

Once schools find out what disasters are possible in their areas, assess their structures. For example, falling objects, fires, and the release of hazardous materials, flying debris and roof collapse, cause most of the injuries and deaths related to disasters. Be sure, then, to look for such hazards when doing their assessment.

School-based programmes on disaster management consist of conducting survey in a systematic manner, making an inventory of all items that require attention. It may be possible to enlist volunteers from among their parents or emergency management community. Since prevention of disaster risks is everybody business, all school stakeholders must personally walk the school halls and classrooms to determine what risks exist. Before a disaster, schools should document their property, something that can be done as part of the hazard assessment. Schools that take photos and videos prior are far ahead in recovery with less hassle and more quickly restored than the schools where files are missing and records were not kept.

School-based preparedness disaster programmes for those with special needs

Schools should be prepared to deal with the special needs of physically and mentally challenged students in an emergency. Special needs of students and staff should be a consideration in all school safety plans. Local schools should identify their particular needs and how best to address these needs. Some schools will need to communicate with transport students and staff with mobility impairments while others must address the needs of blind or deaf students, or those with language barriers. The Ministry of Education should develop a model school safety plan, and this plan will contain a section on students and staff with special needs.

School-based drill programmes

Ideally, schools should conduct quarterly. At a minimum, drills should be conducted each term or semester, both trop remind the school community the appropriate procedures and to teach the students and staff. Drills can help the schools test their plan and identify their strengths and weaknesses.

Law enforcement in school-based programmes on disaster

Law enforcement and school-based security must have a relationship in place that has, at its core, the safety and welfare of students. In conjunction with other key players (e.g., education, emergency management, public health), law enforcement should be involved in every aspect of crisis plan development and implementation. They need to be at the table as the plan is developed; active participants in drills and practices; and part of the team that regularly reviews and makes changes to the plan.

Sufficient school supplies

School programmes should focus on such issues as where students will sleep and which rooms are the safest. It is also important that each school has sufficient supplies for use during an emergency including:

  • food

  • stored water

  • flashlights with batteries

  • first aid kits

  • blankets

  • battery-powered radio

  • other appropriate supplies.

After a disaster, schools may serve as the gathering place for hundreds of people who live or work nearby. Thus, schools’ plans should address how school personnel are released and in what order. Some staff, for example, may live nearby and may be able to stay while others have small children and will need to get home in the case of an emergency. All staff, however, must have back-up family plans in case they cannot return home or must remain at the school following a major disaster.

While planning school-based plans on disaster prevention can be an overwhelming process, it may help to sketch out a chronology of what to do immediately following a disaster. Often the first decision will be to evacuate or to stay put. School plans will address both options. Their plan

must then address the following actions to take if there are people who will remain in the buildings:

  1. Damage must be assessed and damaged portions of the building sealed off.

  2. Location of the school to be far from the coast where most disaster risks happen

  3. Injured students and staff must be attended to.

  4. All people in the buildings must be accounted for

  5. Searches initiated for the missing.

  6. Small fires must be extinguished and utilities assessed and shut off, if necessary.

  7. Hazardous spills must be contained and sealed off.

  8. Of course, students need to be kept calm and reassured.

  9. Staff must be responsible for establishing contact with the outside and for handling media questions.
  10. Someone – the principal or designee, should be identified as the Incident Commander and in charge of the disaster scene

  11. Individual schools may use the term campus commander to differentiate from the top school district level incident commander.

Schools have to make sure that there are keys to ensure access to the supplies during an emergency, including access by programmes such as day-care and after-school events. Plan an annual inventory, replacing water and other items with limited shelf life as necessary.

Individual disaster kits

Some schools ask students to bring in their own kits. Student-assembled “comfort kits” typically include the following:

  • a little food;

  • some water;

  • a space blanket or large plastic trash bag;

  • a non-toxic chemical emergency light stick; and

  • a letter or photograph from home.

These kits can be helpful, but require a great deal of time and supervision to assemble and check when they are brought to school. Sometimes parents include perishable items by mistake, and some parents do not send anything at all. The school will need a plan to make sure that each student has a kit. Vendors sell expensive individual kits as well, with much of the value in the packaging

Hazardous Materials

A hazardous material is a substance that on release or contact has the potential of causing harm to people (physical or health effects), property or the environment. Harmful physical effects include fire, sudden release of pressure, explosion, and other violent reactions. Harmful health effects include acute conditions and chronic conditions. Acute conditions develop soon after over-exposure to hazardous materials and include burns, rashes, respiratory distress, convulsions, and possibly even death. There are many types of hazardous materials; however, only the following types of hazardous materials can be discussed in the unit.

Ways of storing and safely handling hazardous materials

Hazardous materials must be stored based on their compatibility, not simply in alphabetical order. Materials of the same hazard should be stored together i.e. flammables with flammables and oxidizers with oxidizers. Hazardous substances should be stored in an orderly manner with older products most accessible and the newer products least accessible. Good housekeeping must be practiced in areas where hazardous products are stored. All hazardous materials must be properly labelled including their exact contents, hazardous properties, date of receipt, and if appropriate, date of expiration. Hazardous substances should be stored in original containers in which they were packaged at the manufacturing plant. If this is not practical, these products should be transferred according to manufacturers’ recommendations into containers that are constructed to withstand the effects of the product over the maximum storage time. Incompatible materials must not be stored such that they may come in contact with each other. Chemicals shall be stored separately from non-compatible hazard classes. The following are some recommended storage schemes to minimize incompatibility of chemicals:

  • metals, hydrides.

  • hydroxides, oxides, silicates, carbonates, carbon.

  • sulphides, selenide, phophides, carbides, nitrides.

  • acids, anhydrides, peracids

  • alcohols, glycols, amines, amides, imines, imides.

  • hydrocarbons, esters, aldehydes.

Liquids should be stored in unbreakable or double-contained packaging, or the storage cabinet should have the capacity to hold the contents if the container breaks. Avoid floor chemical storage (even temporary).Chemicals should be stored no higher than eye level and never on the top shelf of a storage unit. Shelf assemblies should be firmly secured to the walls. Avoid island shelves. Each shelf should have an anti-roll lip. Store acids in a dedicated acid cabinet. Nitric acid may be stored there also, if it is kept isolated from the others. Store severe poisons in a dedicated poison cabinet. All chemicals should be labelled and dated. Look for unusual conditions in chemical storage areas, such as:

  • improper storage of chemicals

  • leaking or deteriorating containers

  • spilled chemicals

  • temperature extremes (too hot or cold in storage area)

  • lack of or low lighting levels

  • blocked exits or aisles

  • doors blocked open, lack of security

  • smoking or open lights or matches

  • fire equipment blocked, broken or missing

  • lack of information or warning signs such as “No Smoking”, “Flammable Liquids”, “Acids”, “Corrosives”, “Poisons”, etc.

Coping with Exposure to Hazardous Materials

  1. Do not purchase these compounds in quantities greater than can be used in the specified storage time period.

  2. Ethers should be stored in the dark and under nitrogen if possible.

  3. Always check for the presence of peroxides before distilling any peroxide former.

  4. Consult safety references before working with peroxidizable compounds.

Whenever it is feasible, engineering controls must be used to reduce personal exposure to hazardous materials. The two most common engineering controls are the use of local exhaust and general ventilation. These measures limit a person’s exposure to airborne contaminants.

When engineering controls are not available, or they fail to adequately reduce hazards, other personal protective equipment is required. Examples of personal protective equipment include: safety glasses, hearing protection, gloves, respirators, etc.

Personal protection devices must be provided and worn in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations indicated on the label of the product or as stated in the Material Safety Data Sheet for the product.

Hazardous chemical spills can be handled effectively when plans of action have been developed. Spill procedures should include the following:

  • the potential location of possible spills

  • the quantities of material that might be released

  • chemical and physical properties of the material. This information may be obtained from the Material Safety Data Sheet or label

  • hazardous properties of the material

  • the types of personal protection equipment that may be needed for cleanup

  • location and contents of spill kits that should be made available where possible.

The following general procedure may be used, but should be tailored to the individual needs of the handlers and the specific hazard associated with the hazardous material:

  • If the spilled material is flammable, turn off ignition and heat sources.

  • Attend to any person who may have been contaminated.

  • Notify individuals in the area about the spill.

  • Evacuate nonessential personnel.

  • Avoid breathing vapours of spilled material. Establish an exhaust or ventilation, if it is safe to do so. Air handling units are not to be used because they re-circulate the hazardous vapours.

  • If a spill is relatively large, or involves a highly toxic material, a carcinogen or flammable material, contact appropriate authorities for assistance in cleaning up the spill and disposing of the hazardous waste resulting from the cleanup.

Waste products must be clearly labelled with the complete names of the contents and they must be stored in non-leaking, safe containers. Local authorities may be contacted for pickup and giving the name of the products to be picked up, the location, the person in charge of the area, his phone number and the approximate quantity of the materials to be picked up. To minimize the risk of exposure to Hazardous Materials several steps can be implemented such as i) Buy only those amounts of hazardous materials which can be used before the expiration date of the material ii) Use up the hazardous material by using it for the purpose for which it is intended iii) Some Materials can have more than one usage. These materials can then be safely shared without stockpiling them and iv) Safe handling, storage and disposal procedures must be employed and within guidelines of manufacturers and governments. In the case of an accident e.g. spillage during a disaster the proper response (according to the nature of both exposure and hazardous Material) procedures must be employed.

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