|Disaster Preparedness - 2nd Edition (DHA/UNDRO - DMTP - UNDP, 1994, 66 p.)|
|PART 3 - Implementing disaster preparedness plans|
The more disaster-prone a country, the less reliable the information base is likely to be. This point goes to the heart of what disaster vulnerability is all about: extensive poverty, weak infrastructure, and inadequate administration, Under such conditions, it is difficult to maintain a reliable information base.
There is often a data game that is played before, during and after a disaster. Sometimes there are political reasons for governments to provide unreliable data. Certain demographic data might, for example, reflect an officials regional affiliation, Infrastructural data might reflect the wishful thinking of a ministry that has not completed a project as well as it suggests. Agricultural data might reflect an optimistic forecast of the minister for agriculture. Such games are also played by international organizations. An agency might exaggerate the number of water projects it has completed, or assume that there are more primary health care facilities in a particular region than in fact is the case. At times agencies assume that food needs are greater than they are to avoid being accused of underestimating the extent of a possible crisis.
Even under the best of circumstances, baseline data and information systems cannot be perfect. Gathering sensible data and approximate information is a far more realistic information goal. It is highly recommended to implement the following information systems at the beginning of the planning process.
These assessments are particularly important for planning design purposes and for establishing a basis for information flows and updates. These assessments should be undertaken with the same rigor as any development project. With a team leader that knows a particular region well, sectoral experts from UN organizations should join with their national counterparts to undertake the sort of full-scale assessment.
Joint data and information systems between the UN disaster preparedness focal point and this persons government counterpart are vital for both the planning process and the plan itself. The fact that the government is working from the same information base that the UN focal point is using will smooth debates that might arise. In project proposals relating to the disaster preparedness plan, be sure to allot funds for computer equipment, training, and whatever else the counterpart office might require to maintain an effective system.
Even in the most disaster-prone country, lack of data is less often a problem than a plethora of conflicting data. Non-governmental organizations often know more about particular areas than government offices. Some procedure should be established, in agreement with the government counterpart, to cross-check information with other organizations, including other government ministries at central and regional levels.
As part of the disaster preparedness plan, it should be formally agreed that in times of emergencies, a team or teams comprising agency representatives of the government focal point, the UN DMT, the government focal point and non-governmental organizations familiar with the affected area assess the situation jointly.
Such procedures should be formally adopted within the proposed disaster plan. Joint assessments can reduce duplication of efforts, promote a degree of consensus about damage and needs, and ensure that subsequent appeals have national as well as international endorsement (when external aid is needed).