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close this bookCommunity Emergency Preparedness: A Manual for Managers and Policy-Makers (WHO, 1999, 141 p.)
close this folderChapter 1 Introduction
View the documentDecision-making for emergency preparedness
View the documentWhat is emergency preparedness?
View the documentCommunity participation
View the documentProject management
View the documentSummary
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What is emergency preparedness?

Emergency preparedness is:

“a programme of long-term development activities whose goals are to strengthen the overall capacity and capability of a country to manage efficiently all types of emergency and bring about an orderly transition from relief through recovery, and back to sustained development.” (3)

The development of emergency preparedness programmes requires that the community’s vulnerability be considered in context. Emergency preparedness can be ensured by creating a supportive political, legal, managerial, financial, and social environment to coordinate and use efficiently available resources to:

- minimize the impact of hazards on communities;

- coordinate an efficient transition from emergency response to recovery, according to existing goals and plans for development.

Thus, emergency preparedness and emergency management do not exist in a vacuum. To succeed, emergency preparedness programmes must be appropriate to their context. This context will vary from country to country and from community to community, but some relevant aspects are shown in Fig. 12.


Fig. 12. The context of emergency preparednessa (WHO 97553)

aReproduced from reference 12 by permission of the publisher.

There are a number of aspects to any management activity; in the context of emergency preparedness programmes they are:

- content (the elements of an emergency preparedness programme);

- form (what the emergency preparedness programme looks like, and how it fits into real life);

- principles (the criteria used when making decisions about emergency preparedness);

- process (the methods used to develop preparedness).

Emergency preparedness includes the following elements:

- legal frameworks and enabling policy for vulnerability reduction;
- the collection, analysis, and dissemination of information on vulnerability;
- strategies, systems, and resources for emergency response and recovery;
- public awareness;
- organizational and human resource development.

These elements should be developed at community, provincial, and national levels. A capacity in each of these elements is a precondition for effective response and recovery when an emergency or disaster strikes. Without these elements, there will be no link between emergency preparedness and efficient emergency response on the one hand and recovery and development on the other. Developing and implementing an emergency preparedness programme will also produce significant secondary gains in encouraging local political commitment, community awareness, and intersectoral cooperation.

The basic principles of emergency preparedness are outlined below:

· It is the responsibility of all.

· It should be woven into the context of community, government, and NGO administration.

· It is an important aspect of all development policy and strategies.

· It should be based on vulnerability assessment.

· It is connected to other aspects of emergency management.

· It should concentrate on process and people rather than documentation.

· It should not be developed in isolation.

· It should use standard management techniques.

· It should concentrate not only on disasters but on integrating prevention and response strategies into any scale of emergency.

The process of preparing for an emergency (see Fig. 13) is a series of related methods for preparing a community, an organization, or an activity for emergencies. Each part of the process is explained briefly below (and most are discussed in greater detail in subsequent chapters).

Policy development (Chapter 2) includes developing emergency management legislation, normally established by a national government. It will mainly relate to the responsibility for emergency preparedness and special emergency powers.


Fig. 13. An emergency preparedness process (WHO 97554)

There is also a need for provincial and community organizations to develop policy relating to their specific geographical area. Similarly, private organizations and NGOs with emergency management responsibilities should develop appropriate policy in full partnership and consultation with the local authorities.

Vulnerability assessment (Chapter 3) can be used to identify those parts of a community that are vulnerable and in what ways; hazards that may affect a community and how they affect it; factors that render a community vulnerable and how vulnerability may be reduced; and the hazards that should be considered for emergency prevention and preparedness. Vulnerability assessment is also useful for response and recovery and for prevention and preparedness. It can be used to suggest areas that may have sustained damage and assist in assessing harm to the affected community, and provide a baseline for recovery and development strategies, by describing the “normal” state of a community.

Emergency prevention is based on vulnerability assessment and concerns the technical and organizational means of reducing the probability or consequences of emergencies, and the community’s vulnerability. Emergency planning (Chapter 4) consists of determining:

- response and recovery strategies to be implemented during and after emergencies;
- responsibility for these strategies;
- the management structure required for an emergency;
- the resource management requirements.

Training and education (Chapter 5) concern training personnel in every aspect of emergency management and apprising the community of the kinds of hazards and the actions that may be required during emergencies, and the ways in which it can participate in emergency management.

Monitoring and evaluation (Chapter 6) determine how well the preparedness programme is being developed and implemented, and what needs to be done to improve it. Monitoring and evaluation are continuous processes, and any conclusions drawn should be included in policy development, vulnerability assessment, emergency management, and training and education.

Each section of this emergency preparedness process can be followed sequentially, but in practice, policy, vulnerability assessment, and emergency plans are often developed simultaneously. All of these activities should, however, be linked to ensure proper coordination.