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close this bookDisaster Preparedness - 2nd Edition (DHA/UNDRO - DMTP - UNDP, 1994, 66 p.)
close this folderPART 1 - Planning for disaster preparedness
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentVulnerability assessment
View the documentPlanning
View the documentInstitutional structure
View the documentInformation systems
View the documentResource base
View the documentWarning systems
View the documentResponse mechanisms
View the documentPublic education and training
View the documentRehearsals
View the documentCASE STUDY
View the documentSUMMARY


Disaster Preparedness Framework








and Training


Planning is the theme of the whole disaster preparedness exercise. One objective is to have agreed-upon, implementable plans in place, for which commitment and resources are relatively assured. Planning for readiness includes working out agreements between people or agencies as to who will provide services in an emergency to ensure an effective, coordinated response. These agreements might take various forms: memos of understanding, mutual aid agreements, or individual agency and master plans. The ultimate objective is not to write a plan but to stimulate on-going interactions between parties which may result in written/usable agreements. The written plan is a product, but not the main goal, of the planning process. There are four obvious points to be considered in any planning effort.

A plan must:

· have a clearly stated objective or set of objectives

· reflect a systematic sequence of activities in a logical and clear manner

· assign specific tasks and responsibilities

· integrate its activities, tasks and responsibilities to enable the overall objective or set of objectives to be achieved

Four other aspects of planning should also be considered.


Is this a “national disaster preparedness strategy” or a “contingency plan?” National disaster preparedness strategies include broad exercises which review the structure of all relevant institutions and their response capacities. This review includes central and local levels of government in an attempt to prepare for disasters in the context of the “disaster continuum.” (See Figure 1). It incorporates disaster preparedness within all disaster phases as well as within development programs. Such strategies normally include disaster mitigation, preparedness, recovery and rehabilitation.

Typical Structure of a Disaster Plan

FIGURE 1 Typical structure of a disaster plan


Legislative Authority
Related Documents

The Aim, Definitions and abbreviations, The country (region, state)

Government Organization

The threat

Natural events (by type)
Industrial accidents (by type)

Command and coordination

Powers and responsibilities at each level
Command authorities and posts
Description and role of Emergency

Planning groups

Arrangements for sectoral planning (such as Medical, Transport, and Communications)

External assistance

Arrangements and authority for requesting assistance from outside the planning area

Emergency operations centers
Activation of organizations

Warning Systems
Receipt and Dissemination of Warnings

Operational information
Counter disaster organizations

Government Departments
Defense Ministry
Local Government
Voluntary Organizations
Arrangements for Liaison

Financial procedures,

Emergency Purchasing Procedures
Powers for Requisitioning

Public Information

Announcements (requiring action)
Information releases
Emergency Broadcasting
Multi-language broadcasts


Communications, Police, Fire Services, Medical, Rescue, Welfare, Housing, Public Works, Transport, Power, Registration and Tracing Service

Disaster contingency plans normally focus on means to address particular hazards. This is not to say that a good contingency plan ignores the need for mitigation and recovery measures, but it usually is not concerned with the entire disaster continuum, such as rehabilitation and development linkages. The main focus is on ways to address a particular hazard (such as a flood), within a fairly finite period, such as from early warning and response to immediate recovery phases. An effective national strategy will usually generate various contingency plans to meet specific disaster conditions

Disasters strike in different ways and at different times. For example, certain countries have to face persistent, slow-onset disasters that occur almost on an annual basis during a three to five year cycle, affecting substantial portions of a society, such as drought-related famines in the Horn of Africa. Other countries face chronic sudden-onset threats. For example, floods in Bangladesh may normally affect a predictable part of the population in a geographically well-defined area. There are other nations, including Mexico, which may suffer severely from natural disasters which are relatively rare in occurrence, spread out over much longer intervals.

The answer to what types of plans or strategies are needed obviously depends on these and other variables. To what extent will a government of a disaster-prone country wish to commit national resources or external aid to this extensive an undertaking? From a structural and institutional point of view, would it be better to introduce a disaster preparedness plan on an incremental basis? For example, the plan might deal with one type of prevalent problem such as drought, or with all types of emergencies in a particularly vulnerable area.

Q. Explain the difference between a disaster preparedness plan and a strategy.

A. __________________________________________________________



Plans focus on the means to address particular disaster threats, while strategies include broad exercise which review the structure of relevant institutions and their response capacities

Participation in the process

Of course, you can assume that the plan is designed for those most vulnerable to hazards. Determining who the plan is for reveals two standard planning dilemmas. The first involves determining who should be incorporated into the planning process. Experts often insist that local people and grassroots organizations should participate in the planning process. This advice is justifiable for anyone who has seen the effectiveness of local coping mechanisms in urban or rural communities. However, how best to do this often requires considerable institutional dexterity. Local participation can not only present a considerable logistical problem, but government officials may not be receptive to the input.

The second point is the extent of centralization or decentralization, not only in the planning process but in the plan itself. For example, to what extent will regional or local institutions be allowed to declare an emergency or be allowed to release essential food or non-food items from prepositioned stores? What institutional relationships will exist between local, regional and central authorities? Who will undertake assessments, who will determine needs, and who will “own” the information?

The planners

In the enthusiasm and commitment to develop a plan, international experts and institutions are frequently tempted to lead the planning process. This is a fundamental error. If this is done, it will result in a mound of paper that benefits few. The complexities for government of introducing such a plan might be considerable. Progress might be commensurately slow. The best leadership role for international experts is that of gently pushing the process from the back ranks.


Planning might best be seen as the coordination of the intentions and plans of each collaborating party. Planning is not simply the work of “experts.” Rather, it includes such aspects as challenging shoe factory managers to decide how to protect and respond to threats to their employees and facilities; or asking farmers how they intend to protect their seedlings or animals.


In all UNDP field offices in disaster-prone countries, a senior national officer is designated this title for all disaster-related matters, including mitigation, response and international UN/UNDP preparedness.

However, to identify central planners, define which ministries and agencies in the government might be directly or even indirectly involved in some aspect of the proposed plan. Do not assume that if a government structure has a designated disaster focal point, the field will be adequately covered by a representative from that focal point alone. Instead, cast a wide gaze over all government institutions that might feel left out if they were not represented. Suggest to the government authority responsible for developing the plan that full representation would ultimately derive greater commitment and more durable results.

National as well as international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which have a long-term commitment in vulnerable areas should be included in the process. Governments may not want NGOs directly involved in the planning process, but should be urged to link them into the overall objectives of the proposed plan. Similarly, bilateral donors should be kept informed about the planning process. Governments may not want them to play a direct role in the planning process; nor might the bilateral donors wish to become directly involved in the process. However, for any financial support which the eventual plan might require for implementation, a well-informed bilateral donor community can be a distinct advantage. Including UN staff in the planning process may also lead to successfully utilizing their agencies’ resources.

With all the potential participants that might become embroiled in the planning process, you might wonder if the planning process can ever be sustained and controlled. It can, if you think in terms of the variety of mechanisms in which participation can take place. For example, a national conference can set the overall tone for a wide range of ministries and relevant national and international institutions. A series of work groups asked to design specific components of the plan also distributes the load and may allow for greater participation. Workshops can bring together the various “sub-groups” which inevitably will work under the guidance of a core steering group that can facilitate overall activities.

Q. In your country, which entities should be involved in the planning process?

A. ____________________________________________________________



Answer might include specific references to national or local government entities, UN agencies, grassroot organization, NGOs and donors

Status of the plan

A variety of indicators will suggest if the plan is intended to be taken seriously. An obvious indication will be the level of commitment by participants to the planning process itself. An equally evident indicator is if the funds for implementing the plan are adequate. A clear sign of commitment on the part of government to the plan will be the enabling legislation that the plan may receive. A disaster preparedness plan has to be underwritten by the laws of the nation, Unless roles and responsibilities of ministries and individuals are reinforced by legal sanctions, implementation will be jeopardized.

With these various points in mind, you should now focus upon the contents of a disaster preparedness plan. Whether that plan is a contingency plan focusing on specific types of emergencies or on specific geographic areas, or a national disaster preparedness strategy, there are certain features common to all such endeavors. Generally speaking, all planning exercises will have to address various points which will eventually be incorporated into a planning document.