Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Partners in Action
Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA)
Disaster Preparedness is usually defined as:
Measures taken to reduce to the minimum level possible, the loss of human lives and other damage, through the organizing of prompt and efficient actions of response and rehabilitation.
What we are really talking about are activities taken in advance of an emergency that develop the operational capabilities to facilitate an effective response in the event that this is warranted.
Disaster preparedness would therefore embody the following activities/actions.
Consequently whilst for the purposes of dialogue we may seek to isolate a particular element of the process, one must always be conscious of the fact that preparedness is a precondition for effective response and is indispensable to effective mitigation and rehabilitation.
The activities of disaster preparedness generally fall into one of the following categories:
The nature of these action categories themselves clearly point to the need for cooperation and collaboration.
Figure 2 (see p. 42) highlights the organizational structure in which disaster preparedness programmes are usually delivered. The need for coordination of human, fiscal and physical resources is unquestionably central.
Fig. 2: Organizational Responsibilities, Disaster Response Functional Matrix
The matrix above is intended to show primarily, the organizational assignments and responsibilities in the Plan. It is designed to show the inter relationships between the tasks and the players.
The responsibilities are tabulated on a scale of 1 to 5 where as indicates the highest level of priority per Agency / Group per task, and 5 indicates the lowest level.
It must be noted for example, that in country response, hence the CDRU, for example, may not be considered for direct involvement in certain scenarios (major landslides). The stricken country may however request CDERA to provide significant back-up or manpower for support.
Further tasks and responsibilities of other agencies may be added to this table as necessary.
Whilst it is recognized that the players, key organizations, are critical to disaster preparedness, this sense of criticalness must be shared by all. Each organization must be committed to the problem before its collaboration with other players can be enlisted. Ascertaining where disaster preparedness lies in the global priority of the key organizations is essential towards building and sustaining linkages.
Even when we have placed disaster preparedness in the priority radar of the key organization commitment to coordination may still have to be ascertained. For example, the Partners of America has identified disaster preparedness in schools as a high priority but it is prepared to subjugate this goal to a coordinating entity.
The justification for agency linkages to disaster preparedness are unquestionable. There are possibilities for:
of use of limited resources
Notwithstanding the sound reasons for coordination, the willingness of entities to engage in cooperation initiatives has to do with the proportion of their resources to be dedicated to the effort. The larger the proportion, no matter the amount, the inclination to subjugate institutional programming to a coordinating infrastructure is minimized.
In light of this organizational reality what becomes most important is a coordination infrastructure for accommodating commitment to advancing the agenda at hand whilst at the same time minimizing the adjustment in agency structure, goals and operating protocols.
I wish to advance a coordination infrastructure that is built around consultative programme planning and sharing as a vehicle for maintaining these important institutional linkages. In essence this mechanism centers on a regional plan for disaster management. The priorities in this agenda would be distilled from inter and intra country consultation involving public officials, Non-governmental organizations, the private sector and donor interests.
Entities who are active in or would be interested in supporting a regional disaster programme which responds to the articulated needs of the target beneficiaries would then be in a position to indicate, based on their agency goals, priorities and resources, what are the programme areas they would wish to play lead or supporting roles in.
Where a programme area appears likely to be over-subsidized then there would be a facility for determining who contributes, at what levels, and when. In addition, this same facility would allow for negotiations and consensus on reallocation of interests to other areas.
This approach to cooperation in disaster management is embedded in the programming espistemeology of CDERA. Our concern is not so much about what the CDERA Coordinating Unit can do but what can be done for the region in this area.
Our search is for agencies working in the disaster environment in the region to reflect on how they can contribute to the larger goals of disaster management where people centered outcomes are the focus of policy as opposed to the fleeting buzz issues of the time. This will require agency reorientation from flag flying to people empowerment.
It is clear from our definition of disaster preparedness and a delineation of the activities involved that interagency linkages are indispensable to this agenda at any level of implementation.
We all recognize that in any major incident the resources of a single sector, agency or community will be inadequate. In addition the range of hazards we face and the complexity of their impact demands information and skills from diverse sources.
In a nutshell, we need each other for our agendas to succeed. Mutual interdependence is our watch word. Whilst we dont have to cooperate in all areas forever, cooperate we must. Where, for how long and when must be the focus of our dialogue.
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