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close this bookSevere Tropical Storms Preparation and Response - Case Study Text (DHA/UNDRO - DMTP - UNDP, 1991, 58 p.)
close this folderPart Three: Rehabilitation and Reconstruction
View the documentK. Rehabilitation and reconstruction activities
View the documentL. Weaknesses in Early Rehabilitation
View the documentM. Implications for development
View the documentN. Lessons Learned: Programmes Contributing Positively to Preparedness
View the documentO. Subsequent mitigation projects initiated as a consequence of the disaster

N. Lessons Learned: Programmes Contributing Positively to Preparedness

A subsequent comprehensive review of the performance of the emergency response system highlighted a wide range of lessons, only some of which have been included in this case study analysis. Overall, prior emergency preparedness had been weak, and during the warning period itself only a small proportion of the required actions were actually taken. However, this generally dismal overall picture disguised a number of pre-disaster measures (including in particular, a number of attempts to ensure that critical sets of data would be available when needed) that did contribute substantially to later effective actions, either during the early relief period, or later on during the rehabilitation and recovery. Among the more successful programmes were:

1. An UNDRO sponsored project for mapping of high risk communities. This focused particularly on:

a) urban low-income neighbourhoods;
b) coastal villages;
c) villages on flood plains;
d) villages on steep hillsides susceptible to landslides
e) villages on low-lying river deltas
f) villages on barrier islands

2. A prototype Red Cross project in two districts, based partly on the UNDRO study. This involved the identification and selection of buildings providing good protection in cyclones. A detailed survey was carried out by an architect, working in conjunction with representatives of a wide range of different community organizations. Selected buildings were marked, and information on their location was provided regularly to local populations by local Red Cross workers engaged in first aid and primary health care projects. Efforts were made to upgrade water tanks and sanitation facilities at these buildings. Shelter managers (usually head teachers or local government officials) were appointed and given a small fee. Local Red Cross branches were given the responsibility to provide back-up power generators for lighting, and to deliver clean water. Despite some earlier criticism, this project largely succeeded, in part because of the leadership provided by its organiser, and in part because of the extensive consultations with community groups which were made before it started.

3. A prototype agricultural preparedness project and disaster recovery studies at the regional disaster management centre, supported by several donors including UNDP and USAID. This maintained a database of agricultural associations and growers’ co-operatives, lists of NGOs working with farmers, information on agricultural produce processing facilities (Eg. grain mills etc), and a database of background information on farming practice in several areas of the country. One study area was in the disaster zone, and had been in progress for two years, focusing mainly on flood risks in the south of the region. It provided development staff from donors and NGOs with many informal contacts with local officials, and lists of key people in the local agricultural community. It was an invaluable source for recovery planning.

4. Recent investment in a medical communications network, linking local clinics and main hospitals. Special attention had been given to provision of battery powered equipment, aerials which could be dismantled and erected quickly and easily, and ways of providing waterproof protection for the sets themselves. Equally, more attention than usual was given to training staff in maintenance and operation of the equipment. In the event, this network allowed rapid inventory of damage to medical facilities, and a review of the capacity of the surviving system. Also, it permitted rapid reporting of injuries. A feature of this network was the extent to which it was combined with local support for a radio amateur emergency network (to which a number of doctors and medical administrators belonged) for which the health ministry gave useful informal support, training, and small grants for incidental expenses.

5. A special project for emergency protection of disease control programmes, including human and animal vector-borne disease control activities. Included in the budget for this project was a line item making provision for emergency grants to personnel who had lost housing or basic possessions, and for support to family members to allow the worker to return quickly to his or her job. Other measures included equipment and procedures for the protection of records against storm damage, strengthening of project buildings (including equipment stores), and measures to ensure that vehicles remained undamaged.

6. A UNDP sponsored study of critical industry in cyclone-prone regions of the country. This included collaboration with the department of economics at the national university on a model of regional inter-industry flows. It concentrated, amongst other issues, on the extent to which large producers were concentrated in high risk locations; their dependence on inputs of electric power or oil products; their dependence on local industries for critical inputs; the extent to which essential local transport links were susceptible to disruption; and, the opportunities for input substitution.

7. A review of damage compilation systems, carried out in conjunction with the UN Economic Commission for the region. This reviewed data collection requirements for national and provincial planning in the aftermath of a major disaster, particularly for economic recovery planning. It helped focus attention on the need for standardised formats for data collection and reporting, and the need for developing procedures and training for data collection and handling in an actual emergency. After a training programme at a regional centre, six staff members of the Ministry of Finance were able to develop a prototype reporting system, which formed the basis of the system used later in the recovery from the disaster. A consortium of international agencies later joined with the Ministry and the national insurance association in sponsoring the development of a training course for assessment personnel in a number of specialist areas, including public works facilities, crops, livestock, rail systems, telecommunications, water supply, and electric power, and harbours and ports. The Department of Trade and Industry was preparing a separate course focusing on assessing damage to industrial plant. The first of these had just begun as the disaster developed.

8. A basic course for Provincial Governors at the administrative staff college. This focused on emergency decision making, and on the need for identifying crucial decisions about rehabilitation which needed to be made during the first two weeks of an emergency.

9. The formation and training of the UN-Disaster Management Team.

10. The formation and training of joint damage assessment teams made up of personnel from the Police, Armed Forces, UN and national Red Cross Society. Arrangements were made to ensure that helicopter transport and communications equipment would be available for these teams at short notice.

11. Prior planning within the Ministry of Health for a detailed sample survey of cyclone-affected areas (see later).

12. A programme of disaster epidemiology courses, within the Ministry of Health, but open to personnel from the national Red Cross Society, and other NGOs. An active attempt to reach out to the heads of some of the national NGOs was instrumental in helping to focus some of their responses during the disaster on activities which were actually likely to achieve some degree of practical benefit.