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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

Institutional structure

Disaster Preparedness Framework








Public Education
and Training


A coordinated disaster preparedness and response system is an essential condition of any disaster preparedness plan. There is no standard way of ensuring effective coordination. Each design will depend upon the traditions and governmental structure of the country under review. However, a plan will rapidly deteriorate unless there is “horizontal coordination” at central government and sub-national levels among ministries and specialized agencies and “vertical coordination” between central and local authorities. Avoid creating new organizations for disaster preparedness. Instead, work within established structures and systems. The emphasis must be upon strengthening existing institutions rather than devising additional layers of bureaucracy.

Work within established structures and systems.

Disaster responses generally need the sanction of senior levels of government For most disaster plans in the developing world, the approval of a president, prime minister or at least a deputy prime minister becomes the trigger mechanism for implementing a response. Consider the relationship between the senior level of government, ministerial levels and the functional disaster preparedness focal point.

An effective disaster preparedness plan will reflect an inter-ministerial response to disaster warnings and occurrences. These inter-ministerial committees, such as exist in India, should not be below the level of Permanent Secretary. This sort of committee will include a representative from the designated disaster preparedness focal point, and will keep appropriate senior government officials apprised on broad issues concerning preparedness and relief implementation.

A focal point should be designated to ensure effective disaster preparedness and to act as a coordinating mechanism for disaster response. This focal point can be attached to or become a specialized agency, such as a Relief and Rehabilitation Commission. A focal point can also be developed within a ministry regarded as essential for certain types of disasters. For example, a Ministry of Agriculture might house the focal point if the nation’s principal concern involves droughts which affect agricultural production. Finally, a focal point might be attached to the office of a senior level of government, as occurs in the Prime Minister’s office in Jamaica. The need for a strong focal point is essential

FIGURE 2 2 National disaster assistance organization: detailed plan of organization and functions

2 Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator, Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, Volume 11, Preparedness Aspects, United Nations, New York, 1984, p. 19.

A variety of institutional options related to regional and community structures also exist. In the Ethiopian National Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Strategy, the government has decided to have parallel systems at regional and local levels. Representatives from relevant central government ministries are located at regional and local levels to work hand in hand with committees comprised of representatives from local peasant associations, as well as local and regional officials. In China and India, however, regional and state governments respectively determine most of the functional activities needed to develop preparedness activities and to implement plans.

Within these various institutions, who does what to implement various aspects of the disaster preparedness plan? Defining roles and responsibilities is one of the principal purposes of the plan. There is no standard method of delegation that will fit the requirements of all countries. There are, however, three points to keep in mind.

Responsibilities should reflect established expertise

It is of little use to give authority to implement an emergency food or cash-for-work program to a body that has little knowledge about the substance of such a program. Therefore, if one sort of measure to assist farmers to survive after the onset of a severe drought is to expand public works construction, then the responsibility for implementing such expanded projects should be with the relevant ministry.

Imprecision breeds confusion.

Roles and responsibilities have to be clearly defined

Imprecision breeds confusion. During the planning process, you inevitably will be tempted to make compromises about who should be doing what in order to move the process along. While convenient in the short-term, too many compromises early on may make the plan unworkable in the longer term,

Roles and responsibilities have to be appropriate

Effective planners avoid imposing roles and responsibilities upon individuals or institutions that will not be capable of implementing them in the foreseeable future. Nor does it make sense to assign roles and responsibilities without regard to the political and social conditions of the country or relevant regions within the country. This is especially important regarding the functions of local officials and local institutions. Botawana’s successful preparedness is due in part to the way it uses local tribal leaders to elicit information about needs instead of relying on a central government official who may be less familiar with particular areas and local relief requirements. Assessing vulnerability builds a framework for on-going information updates about the infrastructure and socioeconomic conditions of disaster-prone areas and vulnerable people. At a very early stage in the planning process, you should decide on who will be responsible for providing updates of vulnerability profiles and on the frequency of such exercises.