Disaster Management is a management of crisis of unusual situation demanding commitment at all levels with clearly defined authorities to discharge assigned roles and identified structures to perform designated functions having also a support through appropriate budget and constituted of preparedness plans which would be more oriented to operations part, participatory skills and methods of handling than being generally descriptive.
Disaster Management is not fixity. It is not a problem of time and space alone. It is a continuous process which thrives on feedback, relies on resource planning and subsists on manpower plan based on the identification of the present strengths and weaknesses for a progression towards a better method and weakness free and full-proof system.
As everyone knows it has got three components rescue relief and rehabilitation. The relief also includes recovery phase while rehabilitation in the present context also invites those for mitigation. The Government of India has been very very concerned in planning to mitigate the disasters by constituting a High Powered Committee which has already given certain recommendations and this is backed up by an All Party Committee headed by the Hon’ble Prime Minister. It has always been suggested that the States should be actively involved with central back up and Central Government would supplement in terms of manpower, materials and methods to cope up with any situation of distress caused by the onset of the disaster. The disasters could be in many ways beginning from Flood to Cyclone, Tornado to Cloud Burst, Lightening Death to Train Accident, Land Slide to Avalanche Dam Bursts to Forest fires. It may also involve Chemical conflagration and Industrial Disaster and Biological menace of Anthrax or a large scale epidemic, food poisoning and it may also have accident linked relations due to Oil spill, Bomb Blast, Terrorist attack, Electrical Disaster, Plane accident or a Boat capsize. It may also be of a long duration nature witnessing itself through prolonged droughts that Gujarat has faced from 1985 till 1990.
For meeting all such disasters what is more crucial is to have a Core Group which shall meet instantaneously on the onset of the disaster with designated responsibility and assigned task and shall have under it an empowered group with independent authority and financial powers to cope with the stress and the situation which may consist of few line departments like Home, Health, Revenue and Roads & Building, Water Supply etc.
In the Uttaranchal State, a separate department for Disaster and the Disaster Mitigation Institution has been set up under the Ministry of Disaster Management which shows the concern of the State Government. In the same way, the Gujarat Government in the post-earthquake phase has constituted a Disaster Management Authority which is an apex body having sharing of authority on lateral line with the line departments to basically function as an umbrella for strengthening disaster management inputs and identifying areas of intervention and planning to build up the resources and the manpower for a future situation with capability.
In every Disaster Management, it is the district which is the focal point and every district needs to have advance contingency plan which shall have necessarily to include the disaster mapping of the place based on factors like disaster proneness, history sheet of disasters in the post and also local source and resource which are identifiable in the mitigation of the disaster.
Such advance contingency plans should not be only paper plans but plans arrived at after a long process of participation, negotiation and involvement of the local population who are in the front line facing the disasters and those who are vulnerable have to also have the major stakes in such planning.
In every disaster of any description mentioned above, the communities are basically of two types vulnerable and non-vulnerable and those who are vulnerable have to be informed, pre-educated, galvanized into action and mobilized into a mock-performance in such eventuality while non-vulnerable in terms of location or health status should be made to respond to the vulnerable community in times of distress as a matter of condition reflex.
The most crucial variable in any disaster related situation is the role of the health department and the medicos to restore the confidence and health status by preventive, pro-active and positive action and intervention. This necessarily involves a hierarchical performance of various factors viz. (1) MFR (Medical First Responders) (2) MAT (Medical Assistance Team) (3) EPC and (4) TRE.
The Medical First Responders are very crucial because they are the ones who move at a throw of a hat to a place visited upon by disaster team. They may either be local or could be brought from outside but definitely planned in advance. They move depending on the situation with necessary tools and para-medicos in designated vehicles with necessary supports including own utilities standing alone on their own without asking for help from others.
Below them would be Medical Assistance Team may be composed of Pharmacists, X-Ray Technicians, Nurses, Pathological Assistance and other utility fellows who do coordinating job as well as role of supplementing their efforts at a primary or a secondary stage. All of them have to be really mobile and therefore they could be called as Mobile Hospital Team and side by side with them would also move the Health Group which would be primarily targeting at the Epidemic Prevention, Maternal & Child Health, Identification of chronic disorders based on the health mapping of that area which must have been done in advance as well as isolation of the infectious patients and finally delinking the medical intervention cases from health related like complaint of Cold, Ache, Bronchial, Asthma, Dysentery, Nutrition, Pregnancy related issues and epidemic related matters. Such health teams are always preventive in nature and they would always have a separate window to take care of the chronic, unhealthy and health related problematic patients, than the fast range medical teams.
The next in line would be those who are involved with trauma related counseling and basically people with clinical psychology background and from the field of social work and experts in psychiatry would try to keep up the mental state both through medicines and counseling and preventing further physical degeneration through active mental regeneration techniques.
All this disaster related health handling or medical relief need not be a government affair alone but it could be a private public initiative, a conglomerate of government doctors and NGOs and could be also an amalgam of friends in need and experts from government but this association can not be loosely formed. It has to be formed prior to the problem during the peacetime in a conscious manner with designated responsibility and identifying tasks and methods including protocols and has to have a rehearsal of pre and post health care methods by combination of experts and professionals. Officers and social workers through the supplementation of technology like GIS communication linkages and upgraded ambulance services. Whenever they arrive at a particular place in a designated disaster area they have to respond to the self-help groups or the volunteers who are in charge of that area meaning thereby the community mobilization has to be the hallmark for their success and functioning.
It could be some kind of Grass Root Disaster Organisation (GRDO) something like in Thailand or Indonesia or could be a group born sheerly out of volunteerism or could be a designated self-help group formally acknowledged with identified role and having the requisite sensitization and skills at the local level. They need to have proficiency in hazards factor in mapping health, mapping emergency planning and must carry out analysis of their own weakness and strength which afflict them. They need to be trained both in communication and in simple skills and they need to have roles specific to the task in a disaster specific situation not forgetting the targets and the strategies for which they work.
They need to have a pre-planned coordination, network in advance which may only be formalized during such a situation. The same model also holds good for all kinds of functionaries may it be Revenue or Panchayat or R&B or Water Supply. They need to work in the same way both vertically and horizontally at district level with designated roles and responsibility, clarity of methods, synergy of guidelines and uniformity of strategies with necessary back up of tools technology, manpower and methods upgrading and modernized through training and strengths.