Course manual Introduction to Disaster Management

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Unit summary


The disaster management cycle – a continuous process – includes mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.

Mitigation refers to those measures and policies put in place to reduce the impacts of a disaster. The process involves hazard identification, vulnerability analysis, putting in place the right infrastructure and ensuring up-to-date logistics. Proper education and public awareness are useful tools to engage community involvement.

Disasters and developments are closely related. Disaster can both destroy development initiatives and create development opportunities. Development schemes can both increase and decrease vulnerability. Thus, links between disaster and development must be taken into account for sustainable socio-economic development.

Effective mitigation programmes incorporate risk reduction measures in regular investment projects. Financial institutions require that foreign aid be approved on the basis of appropriate risk reduction and mitigation policies at the national, regional and local scale developments.



Are there any official policy measures or a legal framework to mitigate disaster in your country?



  1. With the help of a diagram, explain the disaster management cycle.

  2. Define mitigation?

  3. List some of the practical things that you would do to secure your house against the threat of hurricane/ tornados.

  4. Development can either increase or decrease the vulnerability of the community. True or False?


Warfield, C. (2005) The Disaster Management Cycle. Accessed on 23/01/08 at:

ESCAP (1995). Asian and the Pacific Report on Natural Hazards and Natural Disaster Reduction. Accessed on 14/01/08 at

Quarantelli, E.L. (1997) Research based criteria for evaluating disaster planning and managing. Accessed on 14/01/08 at

FEMA emergency management training module 3. Accessed on 23/01/08 at

Unit 3

Disaster Management Cycle – Phase II: Preparedness


The goal of emergency preparedness programmes is to achieve a satisfactory level of readiness to respond to any emergency situation through programmes that strengthen the technical and managerial capacity of governments, organizations, and communities. These measures can be described as logistical readiness to deal with disasters and can be enhanced by having response mechanisms and procedures, rehearsals, developing long-term and short-term strategies, public education and building early warning systems. Preparedness can also take the form of ensuring that strategic reserves of food, equipment, water, medicines and other essentials are maintained in cases of national or local catastrophes.

During the preparedness phase, governments, organizations, and individuals develop plans to save lives, minimize disaster damage, and enhance disaster response operations. Preparedness measures include:

  • Preparedness plans

  • Emergency exercises/training

  • Warning systems

  • Emergency communications systems

  • Evacuations plans and training

  • Resource inventories

  • Emergency personnel/contact lists

  • Mutual aid agreements

  • Public information/education

As with mitigation efforts, preparedness actions depend on the incorporation of appropriate measures in national and regional development plans.

Upon completion of this unit you will be able to:


  • Describe disaster preparedness.

  • Explain the importance of preparedness in disaster management.

  • List the four important levels at which all disaster preparedness activities must take place.

  • Explain the importance of disaster risk reduction.

  • Develop and write an emergency operations plan (EOP).


Emergency preparedness:

Actions taken before the onset of a disaster so that a government can successfully discharge its emergency management responsibilities, such as establishing authorities and responsibilities for emergency actions and garnering the resources to support them.

Logistical readiness:

A satisfactory state of readiness to mobilize resources in the most efficient and effective manner in order to minimize losses as a result of a disaster.

Memorandum of Understanding:

A legal document outlining the terms and details of an agreement between parties, including each party’s requirements and responsibilities

Response mechanism:

The means by which disaster relief is coordinated and mobilized from governmental and non-governmental organisations to helpless victims of a disaster.

Disaster Preparedness

Disaster preparedness is defined as a continuous and integrated process involving a wide range of activities and resources from multi-sectoral sources. (Disaster Preparedness Training Programme; International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, IFRCRCS, 2005). In order that disaster preparedness is undertaken with rewarding outcomes, those involved in the process must approach it from a mitigative, response, recovery and business continuity perspective. That is, when considering disaster preparedness the phases of emergency management must be looked at carefully.

Disaster mitigation policies and measures will not stop a disaster especially a natural one from occurring and persisting. What mitigation policies and measures seek to do is reduce vulnerability to, or increase resilience to, the effects of the inevitable disasters to which a country is prone.

Basically disaster mitigation and preparedness go hand in hand. Disaster preparedness for example includes implementation of mitigation measures to ensure that existing infrastructure can withstand the forces of disasters or that people can respond in their communities and at the same time protect themselves. The collective capabilities of the country, people, and the government to deal with extreme hazards or adversities when they occur are measures of their cumulative preparedness. In local circumstances and because of historical proneness to disasters, mitigation is important, but preparedness is doubly important.

Disaster preparedness involves the preparation of people and essential service providers in their communities for the actions that they will take in case of disasters. If this is the case, consideration must be given to the manner in which the formal responders (Police and Fire Services, Emergency Medical Services personnel and the Military) prepare to respond to disasters. For example, the personnel in these response agencies may have to learn the use of new equipment, treatment methods for diseases or providing services to prevent the escalation of the effects of disasters that will further destroy lives and devastate property.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCRCS, 2005) states that disaster preparedness requires global, national, community and individual inputs. Disaster preparedness incorporates all activities that will enhance the efficiency, effectiveness and impact of disaster emergency response mechanisms in the local community and throughout the country. The following are of particular importance:

  • Develop and test warning systems regularly and plan measures to be taken during a disaster alert period to minimize potential loss of life and physical damage.

  • Educate and train officials and the population at risk to respond to the disaster.

  • Train first-aid and emergency response teams.

  • Establish emergency response policies, standards, organizational arrangements and operational plans to be followed by emergency workers and other response entities after a disaster.

Others feel that disaster preparedness should be one that is particularly “community-based” through national or international efforts that will provide for strengthening community-based disaster preparedness through educating, preparing and supporting local populations and communities in their everyday efforts to reduce risks and prepare their own local response mechanisms to address disaster emergency situations.

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)

Natural hazards need not be natural disasters. Preventive action is possible, especially when advance knowledge of the nature and occurrence of such hazards are available to the general public.

Human vulnerability is the relative lack of capacity of a person or community to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impact of a hazard. Factors that increase human vulnerability to disasters include rapid urbanization, population growth, and lack of knowledge about how to effectively resist the effects of disasters and poverty. Of all the factors, poverty is perhaps at the root of what makes most people vulnerable to the impact of most hazards. An understanding of human vulnerability provides us with an understanding of the significance of what physical measures should be naturally favoured in the various circumstances. Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) forms the pillar of disaster preparedness, that is, it forms the action plan to be implemented before, during and after disasters. So, what is risk reduction? The IFRCRCS defines risk reduction as physical measures to reduce the vulnerability and exposure of infrastructure to natural hazards as well and to provide coping and adaptive infrastructure in case of a disaster event.

Some DRR recommendations for countries which do not have a robust disaster preparedness plan are:

  • Policy, planning and capacity building in disaster management

  • Physical prevention; example, building sea-walls against storm surge or flood shelters during flood events

  • Capacity building at institutional and systemic level in disaster preparedness

The above policy and planning of physical measures designed to reduce risks will have far reaching socio-economic and environmental benefits that will keep the country functioning at all levels; for example the continued provision of food, potable water and health care and at the same time there will be less damage to infrastructure.

Examples of DRR measures that countries can adopt into their planning and policy are listed below:

  • Proper planning to mitigate flooding in flood prone areas and alternate infrastructure for the provision of food and potable water.

  • Provision of raised flood shelters as those constructed in Bangladesh.

  • The improvement of water supply systems in rural areas to provide sufficient potable water supply during floods or droughts.

  • The construction and use of drainage pumps as an example of strengthening the capacity to cope with floods.

  • Enhance community-based disaster preparedness by focusing more on the roles of women.

  • Improve wireless communication that is robust and integrated with both electronic and manual system.

  • Train farmers to diversify food crops as a strategy to survive in the event of disaster.

  • Set up a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) locally and internationally to provide for the acquisition of resources which can be depleted by disaster and or become scarce.

Further information can be found in the UN Disaster Management Training Programme’s publication, “Building Capacity for Risk Reduction” (1997).

The Emergency Operation Plan (EOP)

At the national level, an Emergency Operation Plan (EOP) needs to be established to set out the scope of activities required for community preparedness and response. It must declare what the community can realistically do. The EOP allows the community to respond to threats and engages responders in the short-term recovery and must be flexible to be valuable in real and potential emergencies. EOPs are general and do not include the administrative plan, the mitigation strategy, the long term recovery or the Standard Operational procedures. Those areas of disaster management are contained in separate documents.

Developing and Writing the EOP

Within existing organizational structures the EOP works to ensure things are done systematically. Existing legislation and other memorandum of agreement forms the backbone of what the EOP aims to do. Basically, the EOP consists of a promulgation/broadcast statement signed by the Chief Executive Officer authorizing the Plan; description of the planning process, abstract of contents, implementation; table of contents; instructions about the use of the Plan; purpose of its sections, and its distribution.

For more information on EOPs, see “FEMA Document, Unit 4 -- Preparedness”. Some organisations call this a “Preparedness Plan” – see the excellent “UN Disaster Management Training Programme”.

  1. Structure of the EOP

The EOP is specific in its layout as follows:

  1. Statement of Purpose – This is what the Plan seeks to achieve for citizens.
  2. Situation and assumptions – Statements of the emergency events, actual and potential, and describe the warning methods and any situations that may be peculiar/unusual to the community.

  3. Organization and assignment of responsibilities – Dealing specifically with how the jurisdiction will assign the emergency functions to carry out the Plan by roles of local officials in the emergency management structure.

  4. Concept of operations – This section describes the roles and relationships of government agencies, the private sector and how they interact with each other.

  5. Administration and logistics – The management of resources, general support requirements, and availability of services and support for all phases of emergency management and the policies set up to make these activities occur.

  6. Plan development and maintenance – This involve activities to keep the plan current and reflect changes that result from actual experiences in emergency management, changing emergency situations and assumptions, and modifications in the community’s profile.

  7. Authorities and references – These authorities and references apply to those statutes, executive orders, regulations, and formal agreements that pertain to any type of emergency.

  8. Definition of terms – This provides for a common understanding of the terms that will use in communication, directing and control in disasters.

  1. Functional Annexes

An EOP is incomplete if it does not contain functional annexes that provide specific information and direction on operations and the roles and responsibilities to be performed by responders. General terminologies are included in the annexes along with the identification of actions that not only ensure effective response, but also aid in preparing responders for emergencies and disasters.

EOPs address matters such as direction and control (who is in charge); communications (information exchange); early warning (warning to the public); public information (orders of evacuation, mass care, health and medical services and resource management). The EOP includes considerations for other functions to be performed such as damage assessment, search and rescue, emergency services, aviation operations, transportation and other miscellaneous services that are necessary to manage a disaster.

  1. Exercising the EOP

EOPs are tested by having response agencies exercise them. The exercises carried out involve preparatory training that helps orient staff to the procedures that they may be required to know, to function during a disaster. Another way of testing an EOP is a table-top exercise that mainly focuses on responders’ familiarization with their roles and responsibilities in the emergency management system. In the tabletops responders sit around a table and talk their way through scenarios to complete exercises.

As familiarity is gained with contents of the EOP, more involved exercises are conducted such as functional drills which take place in an enclosed setting arranged to look like an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). They involve complex simulations using verbal and written communication, telephone and radio messaging. Scenarios for the exercises comprise messages like real events to which the players respond. Near-to-real exercises called field drill are conducted where players perform the work order in some of the specialized facilities present, such as the EOC and the communications centre. Finally, there is the full-scale exercise which combines a functional exercise with a field drill. In such an exercise, all players respond to the emergency with equipment and support as in a real situation. Civilian participation is sometimes used to simulate injured victims.

  1. Publicizing the Plan

Completed EOPs are published and made public to communities and through the use of public awareness programmes. In this case they serve to increase awareness of citizens to emergencies or disasters. Information about the EOP can be obtained from the local news media, government offices, community talk groups and hand outs and brochures.

  1. Resource inventories

The EOP requires considerable resources such as people, equipment, systems and supplies to use in its operations. These resources are needed for emergency response and at the same time, the social comfort of personnel working there for long hours during disasters. Allocation of resources needed to deploy the Plan come from the government, the community and the private sector. Resource assessments are frequently needed to identify weaknesses, strengths and needs.

Mainstreaming Child Protection and Gender in Emergency Planning

It is high time that women take an active role when designing mitigating plans and activities so that appropriate gender issues are mainstreamed. Women are not always well-represented in decision-making. Experts agree that involving women broadens the range of ideas proposed for and incorporated into disaster planning initiatives and results in plans that are more disaster-resilient.

Gender mainstreaming in disaster preparedness, relief and construction include mapping of existing forms and sources of gender discrimination in each context while making disaster preparedness plans. It is also necessary to involve community based women’s organizations of marginalized groups in preparedness, relief and reconstruction planning and pressing for accountability in implementation.

Besides, by offering children the opportunity to participate more fully in disaster situations, we cease to be interpreters of their needs and thoughts, and instead begin to accompany them in the design of actions and adequate strategies that strengthen their capacity to reflect, contribute, and lead their own development processes. This in turn increases the possibilities of sustainable educational processes on disasters and their prevention. It also contributes to the democratization process through the formation of young leaders with a vision and knowledge of development.

Further information can be found in “Children in Disasters, A report for Plan UK, 2002”.

This sub topic is addressed in more detail in Unit 14 – Vulnerable Groups in Disasters.

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