|Disasters Preparedness and Mitigation - Issue No. 54 - April, 1993 (PAHO)|
News and Information for the International Disaster Community
Populations living in the border regions of neighboring countries share not only strong ethnic, historic, and commercial ties, they also frequently share the threat of common natural hazards. phenomena that do not distinguish political boundaries. The degree of vulnerability to these hazards in one country may vary from that in a neighboring country because of differing social and economic conditions. Understanding these differences. which can also imply distinct technical capabilities. can open up rich possibilities for cooperation and exchange between countries.
Factors such as centralization and geographical distances in the poorest nations contribute to slower development in the frontier regions and have a strong influence on the escalation and prolongation of the phase of isolation following the impact of a natural disaster. Scant measures of prevention and mitigation, insufficient preparation for response. and delay in receiving assistance from one's own country or from others - an element always widely publicized in the media - heighten the sensation among the affected population that they are being overlooked and that their needs are being ignored.
In contrast to all of this we should emphasize the spirit of cooperation and community solidarity that can be found in small border populations. This is an element that can enrich constructive dialogue between the leaders of the respective countries and among the community members themselves, who, together, can generate imaginative answers to problems that are shared and that may have already been dealt with by one of the neighboring countries. There is an example of such an exchange going on now in the Region.
In January 1993 the Ministers of Health of Chile and Peru met in Arica and Tacna, border cities of those two countries. An agreement on binational cooperation in health was signed one year earlier, and the discussions centered on advances that had been made in the interim. Disaster preparedness was one of the priorities of that agreement.
Activities have been jointly developed to confront cases of massive emergencies and disasters, including the implementation of an integrated radiocommunication system, the formation of a Border Committee on Coordination in the case of disaster, training of human resources, the implementation of joint operative plans for health services, and coordination between the operational systems of health in both cities.
The advancements made thus far in this initiative led to the approval of a Plan of Action for 1993, and of a Disaster Preparedness Project for the area surrounding the two cities for 1993-1995, a project that commits both countries to an investment of US$170,000. The initiative and development of this binational project has grown in the framework of technical cooperation provided through the PAHO/WHO Representations in Peru and Chile.
The destruction resulting from natural disasters in the region and the valor shown by the victims, shows that cooperation between neighboring countries can provide relief from the misfortune that inevitably accompanies disasters.
This article was prepared by Dr. Nelson Raul Morales, Emergency Preparedness Program, PAHO/WHO, Lima, Peru.
Search and rescue is one of the most sensitive issues in the aftermath of earthquakes in developing countries. It is, like first aid and medical care, both very time sensitive and politically sensitive for its mass media value. International coordination was long overdue until the U.N. Department of Humanitarian Affairs and "assisting" countries established the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) in 1991. Still sorely missing were the voices and participation of disaster-prone developing countries who benefit from (and sometimes are the victims of) the influx of foreign search and rescue teams.
A major step was taken in the Americas with the first meeting in San José, Costa Rica, of INSARAG/Americas in March with the participation of "practitioners'' from rescue teams in Latin America, mostly from nongovernmental agencies and organizations. Proceedings of this meeting are available from the Chairman. INSARAG/ Americas, c/o Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, Room 1262A, Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20523, USA. Fax: 202-647-5269.
Progress in the grassroots exchange of information and education among specialists should now be complemented with formal involvement of national disaster coordinators. by matching the donor community's willingness to send search and rescue teams after disasters with a similar level of international commitment in developing this expertise before disasters occur where it is most immediately effective - at the local level.
Resolution Passed on Emergency Relief
The World Health Organization's Executive Board approved a Resolution (EB91.R10) on emergency and humanitarian relief operations at their 91st meeting in January, which will be presented for adoption by the Forty-sixth world Health Assembly. The Resolution urges Member States to strengthen their capabilities in preventing and mitigating disasters, to establish national emergency preparedness plans, and to evaluate the level of preparedness of their health systems. The Resolution emphasizes the importance of the role that WHO plays in coordinating health aspects of disasters within the context of United Nations humanitarian assistance, particularly in cooperation with the recently created Department of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-DHA).
Subregional Disaster Office Installed in Ecuador
The PAHO Disaster Office serving South America is now up and running in Quito, Ecuador, after its move from Lima, Peru. Joining the staff will be Ms. Vanessa Rosales, a civil engineer who will work to promote disaster mitigation in the health sector throughout the region. Dr. Luis Jorge Pérez, PAHO/WHO subregional adviser, and staff can be contacted at the following address: Organización Panamericana de la Salud, Programa de Desastres, Apartado Postal 17-07-8982, Quito, Ecuador. Tel: (593-2) 464-629 or 456-800; fax: 464-630.
... and the IDNDR
Director of IDNDR Secretariat Named
On 25 January 1993, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali announced the appointment of Dr. K. Olavi Elo of Finland as the new Director for the secretariat of the IDNDR in Geneva. Dr. Elo, a physician specializing in public health issues, has had broad experience in public health, environment, and disasters. Most recently, Dr. Elo held the position as WHO Representative in India. Prior to that he served as chief of emergency preparedness and response at WHO Headquarters.
Working Group Meets to Plan IDNDR World Day Activities
Experts from the health. education, and social communication sectors in Latin America. along with representatives from regional organizations, met in Mexico in February for a three-day working session to discuss regional activities for the celebration of this year's International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction on 13 October. The theme for 1993 IDNDR activities is "Stop Disasters: Focus on Schools and Hospitals". Discussions centered both around public awareness activities for the International Day and medium-term strategies to reduce the vulnerability of hospitals and schools to natural disasters. Analyzing the vulnerability of hospitals: encouraging the media to broadcast public service announcements: and having simulation exercises in schools are examples of activities countries can carry out. The meeting was organized by the IDNDR Regional Office, PAHO, OAS, UNDP, and Mexico's National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC). A report of recommendations resulting from this meeting and suggested activities is available from the Editor of this Newsletter.
Scientific and Technical Committee for IDNDR Meets
Progress made by National Committee and Focal Points for the IDNDR was the major focus of the fourth session of the Scientific and Technical Committee for the IDNDR. which met in New Delhi in February Special reports highlighted "partnerships" being developed between countries that focus on the long-term strengthening of national institutions, and achievements were noted in a wide range of "IDNDR demonstration projects". The Committee discussed the objectives of the world Conference on Disaster Reduction. to be hosted by Japan in 1994, in terms of national and regional participation. For a copy of the Chairman's report on this meeting, please contact Mr. James P. Bruce, Chairman, Scientific and Technical Committee, c/o Secretariat of the IDNDR, Palais des Nations, CH-1211, Geneva 10, Switzerland.
Red Cross Societies Meet to Adapt the "3000 Series"
How do you turn a pile of paper into emergency assistance in times of disaster? How do you translate text into food for the hungry, first aid for the injured, and beds for the homeless?
This is what participants from Latin American Red Cross societies have been discussing as they work to produce segments of the American Red Cross Disaster Regulations and Procedures - better known as the "3000 Series" - to fit the disaster response conditions that exist in their own countries.
The American Red Cross manuals have gone through many changes in response to the increasingly complex nature of disaster programs, and the "3000 Series" is conceived as a "living" series that can be easily adapted to meet changing realities of the disaster response scenario. The documents cover everything from emergency mass casualty cure to raising money to pay for activities. For more information on this project contact Mr. Martin Perret, International Services, American Red Cross. National Headquarters, Washington, D.C. 20006, USA.
Newsletter on Radiological Protection
ARCAL, the Regional Cooperation Agreements for the Promotion of Nuclear Science and Technology in Latin America. is made up of a series of projects to promote nuclear science and technology in the Region. ARCAL I is the radiological protection project. The activities carried out by ARCAL I during the last decade have contributed to greater security against radiological accidents or emergencies. In 1994, ARCAL I will initiate a three-year project (ARCAL XVII) to enact legislation for radiological protection programs. The purpose of this project is to promote the adoption of radiological protection standards based on the latest recommendations of the International Commission for Radiological Protection, and to promote the development of regulatory infrastructure that will help countries to fulfill this essential role through standardized regional procedures.
ARCAL I publishes a newsletter (in Spanish) containing the latest news on current and future activities under the project. Readers may write for individual copies to PAHO's Centro de Documentación de Desastres. (Disaster Documentation Center, Organización Panamericana de la Salud, Apartado Postal 3745, San José 1000, Costa Rica). If you would like to be on ARCAL I's mailing list, contact Ing. Eduardo Medina Gironzini, Coordinador ARCAL I, Instituto Peruano de Energía Nuclear, Casilla 1687, Lima 100, Peru: fax (51-14) 728081; E-Mail (BITNET): email@example.com.
Networks for Social Studies in Latin America
Mach of the research and application of disaster prevention and mitigation in Latin America has been dominated by the natural and engineering sciences. The limited number of professionals and research centers working from a social perspective on disasters prompted several institutions to organize the Network for Social Studies on Disaster Prevention in Latin America (LA RED) in 1992 to establish a multidisciplinary research and training network among institutions. One of their main objectives is to disseminate the information and documentation already available in the Region. and at their most recent meeting in Cali, Colombia. they discussed the development of periodicals and publications. Among the recommendations was increased collaboration with PAHO's Disaster Documentation Center. For more information write: Red de Estudios Sociales en Prevención de Desastres en América Latina, (ITDG), C.P. 18-0620, Lima 18, Peru. Fax: (5114) 46 66 21; E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
OAS Passes Resolution in Support of IDNDR
At the 24th Meeting of the OAS Inter-American Council for Education, Science and Culture, held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, from 29 to 31 March, the assembly passed a resolution in support of the IDNDR. The resolution calls for the Secretariat of the OAS to cooperate in providing technical assistance in evaluating the vulnerability of schools and hospitals to natural hazards. as well as to promote activities for the celebration of the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction. giving special emphasis to reducing vulnerability in the education sector.
Caribbean: Tradewinds '93
St. Lucia will be the venue for the Tradewinds '93 exercise from 1-6 Jane. An earthquake following the eruption of Soufrière, the island's volcano, will be simulated. A bread range of players has participated in planning for multi-scenario risks to the Island population. The implementation of SUMA, The Supply Management System Following Disasters, will be highlighted during the Tradewinds exercise.
For more information on the Tradewinds '93 exercise, contact Mr. Timothy James, National Disaster Coordinator, PO Box 1517, St. Lucia; fax: 809-453-2 152.
Trinidad & Tobago Hands-on Experience for SUMA Trainees
The 4.1 version of SUMA software, the SUpply MAnagement System Following Disasters, was tested during an exercise held in Port-of-Spain. Trinidad. on 15 April 1993. A perfect training experience for SUMA teams from Trinidad. Guyana. and Grenada took place when the Government of Trinidad provided them access to a cache of unsorted medical supplies. At the end of the exercise. grateful officials received a complete inventory of the goods-and trainees received their certificates.
The SUMA software and accompanying operation manuals are now being distributed in English and Spanish. Contact the editor of this newsletter for information.
Disaster Emergency Medicine Training Course. The first in the series of Disaster Emergency Medicine Training Courses at UWI Cave Hill Campus was conducted during February and March, to update the skills of physicians responsible for accident and emergency treatment. who will in turn begin training sessions in their respective countries. The OECS-PAHO-French Cooperation project sponsored students from four OECS countries. to encourage the exchange of skills and training between English and French-speaking countries in the Caribbean. Two other OECS participants were sponsored by their own Governments. For information about upcoming courses contact Dr. R.P. Naidu, Faculty of Medical Science, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, St. Michael, Barbados; fax (809) 429-6738.
Mass Casualty Management Consultation. The handling of casualties in three scenarios-maritime accidents, airport accidents, and hotel fires - was analyzed by working groups in a one-day consultation on mass casualty management in Barbados on 17 March. The meeting was organized by the Barbados Central Emergency Relief Organization (CERO). to strengthen coordination among agencies responding to such situations. Drawing both on personal experiences and conclusions made during the Barbados Tradewinds '92 simulation, participants stressed the importance of having pre-established command post procedures specific to each level of operation.
Colombia: Master's Program Established
A new Master's program in the Department of Social Work at the University of Antioquia in contemporary social problems will emphasize social development in emergency and disaster situations. For more information contact: Lic. Maria Victoria Muñoz H., Coordinadora Post-grado, Departamento de Trabajo Social, Apartado Aereo 1226, Postal 229, Universidad dc Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia.
Exchange of Training Materials. In January, faculty responsible for teaching disaster management in the San Marcos, Cayetano Heredia, and Federico Villareal Universities and the School of Public Health in Peru met with librarians from these same institutions at a workshop to exchange texts and audiovisual materials in disaster management. This was the first phase in a project that aims to establish a network of university and hospital libraries throughout Peru where the latest information in the field of disaster preparedness and prevention will be made available to professionals students. and researchers. The project will receive support from the PAHO/WHO Documentation Center in Lima and the Disaster Documentation Center in San José. For more information, please contact Dr. Nelson Raul Morales Soto, Advisor for the Emergency Preparedness Program, OPS/OMS, Casilla 2117, Lima 100, Peru.
University Programs in Emergency and Disaster Medicine. At a seminar held in March in Lima. university faculty discussed the distribution of educational activities in emergency and disaster medicine in Peru. In northern Peru. the University of Trujillo will emphasize the production of educational materials for undergraduates and scientific research in the subject; the University of San Marcos in Lima will take on the residence program in Emergency and Disaster Medicine; in the south, the National University of San Agustin and Catholic University will work together to develop an associate degree in Emergency and Disaster Medicine Technology. At the University of Cusco, the medicine and anthropology faculties will develop a program on community participation in disaster preparedness in rural areas, a project initiated by PAHO/WHO. the Italian Cooperation, and the Peruvian Ministry of Health.
Cuba Hit by Storm
One of the most violent tropical storms in recent history hit Cuba on 13 March 1993. Winds reached 160 km/h and over 150,000 people were affected, with tens of thousands requiring shelter. On much of the island, drinking water supply and sanitation facilities. food storage and distribution systems, and housing were either destroyed or severely disrupted. Staple food crops were devastated. The maternity hospital in Havana was evacuated and its entire stock of antibiotics and vaccines was lost. The hospital's food stores, blood bank and laboratory facilities were severely damaged.
The national relief services responded immediately in maintaining basic food supplies and water to the population. PAHO, along with other international relief organizations, provided assistance in the procurement of medicines and food staples
Floods in Ecuador
Heavy rains caused an enormous landslide on 29 March which dammed
the Paute River and created an extensive lagoon. The result has been serious
flooding in the southern part of Ecuador in Azuay and Canar Provinces. near the
city of Cuenca. Evacuation of the vicinity is ongoing. Since most relief items
are available locally, international assistance is being sought in the form of
financial and technical assistance. Staff from PAHO's subregional emergency
preparedness offices are on the scene, consulting in the area of sanitary
engineering and health needs assessment. Members of the SUMA team
in the area have been mobilized to administer the Supply Management Project.
27-29 Development Approaches to Disaster: An International Symposium, sponsored by the University of Manitoba Disaster Research Unit, will focus on the challenge of meeting emergency needs of disaster-affected communities within a framework of long-term development planning. Contact Ben Rempel, Conference Secretary, Disaster Research Unit, Isbister Bldg. 229, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3T 2N2. Fax: 204-275-5781.
13 July-19 August The Cranfield Disaster Preparedness Centre offers counter-disaster staff training program. Using practical exercises and simulations. students will examine effects of natural and man-made disasters, effective planning and preparedness methods, and emergency response. For registration information, write : Director, Cranfield Disaster Preparedness Centre, RMCS (Cranfield), Shrivenham, Swindon, Wilts SN6 8LA, UK. Fax: 0793 782179.
7-10 "The Practical Approach to Hazardous Substances Accidents", an international conference presented by The Major Industrial Accidents Council of Canada in Saint John. New Brunswick. will also be the venue for Environment Canada's l0th annual Technical Seminar on Chemical Spills. For more information contact Major Industrial accidents Council of Canada. 265 Carling Avenue, Suite 600, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 2E1, Canada; Fax: 613-232-4915.
19- 24 The Mexican Red Cross is sponsoring the 'International Invitational Conference on Disaster Mitigation'', In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to provide a forum for sharing current knowledge related to disaster mitigation on a world wide basis, and to facilitate discussion relating to disaster rescue issues Over 1,500 participants are expected to attend, including international rescue team participants, ministers of civil defense, experts in disaster operations. and other interested individuals. For more information contact: Ms. E. Estrada, Conference Coordinator, Melia Puerto Vallarta, Paseo de la Marina Sur, Marina Vallarta, Jalisco, CP 48300, Mexico, Tel: 52-322-10200 ext. 2005; Fax: 52-322-10118.
The books referred to in this section have been
abstracted from review copies sent to the Editor of this Newsletter. Except
where noted otherwise none of the books are available from PAHO. The publisher
and the list price (when available) are included at the end of the abstracts for
readers who are interested in purchasing the books.
Emergency Preparedness Materials Catalog. Federal Emergency Management Agency, NOAA, American Red Cross. 1992. (English and Spanish)
This catalogue offers booklets and brochures to help people learn how to prepare for disasters and includes videos, slide presentations. posters and exhibits that can be purchased or borrowed. Some items are suitable for individual disaster preparedness, others for disaster program organizers. Mach of the material is available in Spanish as well as English. Write for a copy of the Emergency Preparedness Materials Catalog to Federal Emergency Management Agency. P.O. Box 70274, Washington, D.C. 20004: request catalog L-164.
Mi Amiga la Tierra: Preparémonos para el Próximo Terremoto. Sistema Nacional para la Prevención y Atención de Desastres de Colombia. 1991. (Spanish only)
The Colombian National System for Disaster Prevention and Awareness publishes booklets directed at the general public that give an explanation of the phenomena that cause natural disasters and illustrate measures that individuals can take before, during, and after such events to lessen the chance of personal injury or damage to their surroundings. Designed with a colorful combination of photographs and cartoons. they are very informative and accessible to the general reader. The booklets in thc series deal with floods, volcanoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes. The most recently published. (My Friend the Earth: Prepare for the Next Earthquake) is available from the Disaster Documentation Center.
Prevenir - Newsletter of the WHO Collaborating Center in Colombia
The second issue of Prevenir, produced by the Faculty of Public Health of the University of Antioquia reports the results of a survey made of the Colombian engineering schools to determine to what extent they have integrated disaster mitigation issues into their curricula. There is also a summary of conclusions reached in October 1992, in Spain, where representatives from Latin American universities examined training in emergency preparedness and disaster related research at thc undergraduate and postgraduate levels in medicine and nursing faculties. Those interested in receiving a copy of Prevenir should write to Dr. John Flórez T., Facultad Nacional de Salud Pública, Apartado Aéreo 51922, Medellín, Colombia; tel: (574) 512-0035; fax: (574) 511-2506.
New Slide Set Available on Conducting Hospital Drills
Simulacros Hospitalarios para Situaciones de
Desastres, a new slide set available from PAHO in Spanish outlines steps
that should be taken in organizing simulations for disaster response in hospital
settings. If focuses on the responsibilities of the hospital emergency committee
in preparing the hospital staff for such a drill, including such elements as
assigning roles to the participants and moulage techniques; establishing
evacuation routes; and insuring that the normal functions of the facility will
continue during the simulation. In Central and South America order the slide set
from the Disaster Documentation Center (Disaster Documentation Center,
Organización Panamericana de la Salud, Apartado Postal 3475, San José 1000,
Costa Rica, Telephone and fax: (506) 31-59-73, e-mail: RPEREZ@UCRVM2.BITNET). In
other regions contact the Editor of this Newsletter.
Managing Disasters in Large Cities
Metropolitan Emergency Response System Created in Costa Rica
The National Emergency Commission of Costa Rica (CNE), recently created the Emergency Response System for the Greater Metropolitan Area (SIREGAM). Its objectives are to integrate all sectors into one response system for individual and mass casualty emergencies occurring in metropolitan areas. and to define the mechanisms of interinstitutional authority and support between participating entities. The areas being focused on are: health, security, evacuation. shelter. infrastructure damage assessment, supplies. transport, information. communications. social impact, and volunteerism.
Networking Metropolitan Areas for Improved Disaster Management
The population in Latin America is increasingly concentrated in large metropolitan areas. Aware of their high vulnerability to disasters. the larger cities are formally establishing disaster management offices.
PAHO invites those country offices interested in participating in informal networking - sharing information, documents and experiences - to write to the editor of the Newsletter. This information. including addresses and phone numbers will be shared with officials and experts in other metropolitan areas.
Japan to Host Conference on Disaster Management
A conference on "Disaster Management in Metropolitan Areas for the 21st Century" will be held 1-4 November 1993 in Nagoya, Japan, for the purpose of exchanging ideas on strategies to reduce vulnerability to disasters in large cities. The Japanese Government Headquarters for the IDNDR. the World Bank. and UN Center for Regional Development are the main sponsors. For information. contact: Secretariat for IDNDR Aichi/Nagoya International Conf., 1993 Japan, 3-1-2, Sannomaru, Naka-ku, Nagoya, Aichi Pref., 460-01 Japan, Fax: 81-52-972-0525.
The articles listed in this section are of interest
to health professional and others responsible for various aspects of disaster
relief and preparedness programs They have been reproduced and recently added to
the collection of articles available from the Editor of this Newsletter. A
complete list of reprints is available upon request. Please quote the reference
code listed to the left of the publication title when requesting
Determinación de Gases o Vapores Inflamables. Prevención
(México: Organo informativo del Sistema Nacional de Protección Civil -
CENAPRED). No. 4, Diciembre, 1992.
Residuos Peligrosos. G. Fernández Villagómez, J. Becerril
Alvarrán. Prevención (México: Organo informativo del Sistema Nacional de
Protección Civil-CENAPRED). No. 4, Diciembre, 1992.
Global Environmental Change and Human Population Health: A
Conceptual and Scientific Challenge for Epidemiology. A. J. McMichael.
International Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 22, No. 1,
SARA three Years Later: Emergency Physician's Knowledge.
Beliefs, and Actions. L.Y. Landesman. R.B. Leonard. Prehospital and Disaster
Medicine. Vol. 8, No. 1, 1993. pp. 39-44.
The Role of the Veterinarian in Hurricanes and Other Natural
Disasters. R.M. Moore. Jr., Y.M. Davis. and R.G. Kaczmarek. Annals of the New
York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 653, June 16, 1992. pp.
Construction of a Large Dam in a Seismic Region in the Wake of an
Earthquake: A Study of the Relationship Between Development and Disaster. G.
Pandey. Disaster Management. Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993, pp.
Disasters: Preparedness and Mitigation in the Americas is the Newsletter of the Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Coordination Program of the Pan American Health Organization, Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization. The reported events, activities and programs do not imply endorsement by PAHO/WHO, nor do the statement made necessarily represent the policy of the Organization. The publication of this Newsletter has been made possible though the financial support of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance of the U.S. Agency for International Development (OFDA/AID).
Correspondence and inquiries should be addressed to:
The Work of the Disaster Documentation Center
It has been three years since the Disaster Documentation Center, established by PAHO in San José, Costa Rica, began to collect and organize scientific and technical documents and training material in the field of disasters in order to put them within reach of professionals and students in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Center was originally established because there was a shortage of this information in Spanish and much of what was available had little to do with the realities of the Region. One of the greatest challenges was finding what existed and making it available. Today, even thrum large gaps still exist, the material is less scarce, but it is more and more common to find desks and offices that are flooded with papers that in many cases are filed away and forgotten.
Fortunately, a growing number of professionals from an increasingly wide range of backgrounds are tackling the issues of disaster management from different perspectives. They need the most up-to-date information, and they are also producing new studies that their counterparts in other countries should know about. The work of finding this material, and above all, of making it easily available to this collective of students and workers in the area of disasters, requires an increasingly bold effort that should be accompanied by improved coordination between individuals and institutions.
The material that the Center has been collecting includes training material; reports, results, and recommendations from meetings; simulation exercises; scientific articles; emergency plans; evaluation studies of damage and vulnerability; etc. The documents are entered into a bibliographic database, MICROISIS, which is the software used by the United Nations system.
We have often mentioned, and will repeat, that one of the most important characteristics of the Disaster Documentation Center lies in the importance given to the distribution of information. It is the Center's aim to ensure that the interested individual receive a copy of the information required, a much greater role to be played than that of archive or center where the database can be consulted. The impact we want to measure is our ability to make a document arrive, at no cost, to the student or professional who requests it. The assignment of resources to the Center is oriented to this end.
Today the Center processes orders from hundreds of individuals and institutions who work not only in the health sector but also in other professional areas related to disaster relief and mitigation. Other regional and bilateral agencies and organizations should join PAHO in making a combined effort to strengthen and extend this work of disseminating information It is only through a multisectoral approach, through real participation. that it will become a major center of reference and distribution of materials in Latin America and the Caribbean.
How Far Has the Center Come?
The Center is located in the offices of the Costa Rican National Emergency Commission (CNE), who contributes by providing the office space and certain general operating costs. The CNE also supports a local counterpart that has created a database for local and national staff.
The Center's database has 3,000 entries and is growing at a rate of 1,500 per year. The staff is also adapting part of the old disaster collection that was housed at PAHO Headquarters in Washington, D.C., to MICROISIS.
PAHO has established the infrastructure and necessary resources to deal with a continually increasing demand for information. The Center distributes, free of charge, training material produced by PAHO, information provided by other institutions, and photocopies of scientific articles and other documents. This year it is estimated that 5,000 publications and 60,000 photocopies of material will be distributed.
The Center has increased its connections and relationships both inside and out of the health sector. Some examples are the ongoing collaboration with the Latin American and Caribbean Center for Health Sciences Information (BIREME). the collaboration and support given to the National Directorate of Disaster Prevention in Colombia, and more recently to the Network for Social Studies on Disaster Prevention in Latin America (LA RED).
Spreading the News Is Everyone's Responsibility
The Center makes every effort to maintain the quality of its collection and to ensure that the most current information possible is available, but we need everyone's collaboration and contributions if we are to succeed. Please send us copies of your studies and scientific articles in order to make your work known in other countries.
In support of the celebration of the theme of this year's International Day for the Reduction of Natural Disasters (11 October 1993), which is "Stop Disasters: Focus on Schools and Hospitals", we will prepare special bibliographies on disaster mitigation in schools and hospitals. We ask you to send material on emergency plans and studies carried out in your countries in relation to these themes.
In order to be sure that documents requested from the Center reach the widest audience possible, individuals receiving materials can create a multiplier effect by duplicating and distributing them locally. The materials and reproduction capacity of the Center are limited - if the dissemination of information is to be successful, everyone's assistance is needed.
How to Access the Information in the Center
DESINDEX is an index published periodically with
bibliographic references included in the DESASTRES database. The first two
volumes contain 1,600 references, and the third volume, in preparation, has
1,000 new entries. DESINDEX is recommended for libraries and documentation
centers where it can be consulted by a large number of
ELECTRONIC MAIL The Documentation Center is now
included in the BITNET electronic mail network to facilitate communication and
make it easier to request information. You can reach us using this address:
RPEREZ@UCRVM.BITNET. We hope to be connected soon to the INTERNET
electronic mail system. We urge readers with either BITNET or INTERNET to send
BIBLIO-DES is a selected bibliography of special
disaster-related topics. It contains short references on all of the documents
existing in the Center on a specific theme. Those interested in obtaining this
information rapidly can request a corresponding issue of BIBLIO-DES. The six
issues published thus far are: Earthquakes, Environmental Health. Effects of
Disasters on Health, Technological Disasters, Disasters and Education, and
Mental Health. Future issues will deal with volcanoes. floods. and disaster
mitigation in schools and hospitals. As of number 6, BIBLIO-DES can be requested
through electronic mail on BITNET.
Please note that DESINDEX and BIBLIO-DES are published in Spanish. However, in most cases the entries and abstracts for materials appear in their original languages, so that they can be of use to those who do not read Spanish.
LILACS CD-ROM Thanks to the collaboration with the Latin American and Caribbean Center for Health Sciences Information (BIREME), the information included in the Center's database is now available on the LILACS CD-ROM, developed and distributed by BIREME.
The CD-ROM is a system similar to compact music discs, capable of storing a great deal of information, that can easily be consulted. All that is necessary is the availability of a CD-ROM Reader, that can be connected to an IBM AT or XT. LILACS CD-ROM is updated every three months, and in addition to the disaster database, includes other important databases on health, sanitary engineering, human ecology, and health legislation, as well as collections from the central libraries of PAHO and WHO.
For $US120 month, users from Latin America and the Caribbean can
subscribe by writing to BIREME, Caixa Postal 20381, V. Clementino, 04023, São
A Two-Way Street: Send Us Information!
The Center encourages ongoing exchange of information as the most effective way of maintaining a current database. To expand its collection, the Center invites businesses, organizations, and individuals to send articles reports, and books.
Our address is:
Disaster Documentation Center
Organización Panamericana de la Salud
Apartado Postal 3475
San José 1000, Costa Rica
Telephone and fax. (506) 31-59-73
Where is the Center Headed?
Reducing the effects of disasters is not the work of the health sector alone. This Center was developed by and has grown within PAHO and, as a result, within the health sector, and now it counts on this experience and infrastructure to grow and expand in other areas. Without losing sight of its original objectives, it is time that other disciplines and agencies outside of the health sector, agencies of the United Nations or regional and bilateral organizations become involved in the Center's growth. The most practical way of achieving this is by creating "modules" that focus on certain topics. These modules would be the mechanism for collecting and distributing information and material dedicated to specific subjects. Agencies willing to collaborate would finance one or more modules that relate to their mandate. To obtain more information on this collaborative approach, write the CDD to receive the document a "Proposal to Expand Services".
PROPOSAL FOR EXPANDING THE DISASTER
What will the result be?
· An increase in subject matter from outside the health sector
· An increase in the level of distribution of information to all professionals
· The promotion of comparable national initiatives
· To take advantage of the accumulated experience and the available resources of the Center in a multiagency strategy
· To facilitate communication and to exchange information between agencies and organizations that are now working in the disaster preparedness and mitigation fields
· To gather and disseminate the growing amount of information generated in Latin America and the Caribbean
· To encourage the exchange and collaboration between National Committees of the IDNDR
How can we expand the services and use of the Center?
· Collect and process literature from other agencies and institutions Promote the work methods of the Center and the use of MICROISIS
· Improve the techniques of soliciting and sending information (electronic mail, etc.)
· Strengthen the publication and distribution of documents and materials such as DESINDEX. BIBLIODES. LILACS CD-ROM
· With regional distribution agreements for educational materials
How can other agencies collaborate?
· Create thematic modules for the collection and distribution of information
· Support the modules by financing equipment. technical personnel, support staff. and operating costs
Disasters: Preparedness and Mitigation in the
Pan American Health Organization
525 Twenty-third Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037-2895
Penalty for Private Use $300
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