We have been, and would keep trying ways of delaying or averting hazards, and ruling out possibility of disasters taking place. Most hazards however have multiple drives having complex interrelationships. Despite giant leaps in the field of science and technology, causative factors of not all hazards are however fully understood. Even if we understand these it’s not always possible to manipulate, and avert these. We know that earthquakes generally take place due to the motion of tectonic plates, but we are unable to predict earthquakes or rule out possibility of seismic tremors.
Moreover, the forces of nature have immense capability of putting forth surprises. So, its not always possible to rule out occurrence of hazards.
As has been put forth by Stephen King, “There is no harm in hoping for the best as long as you are prepared for the worst.” Nothing is therefore wrong in trying new methodologies and techniques for averting hazards, but we have to at the same time, be fully prepared to face them when these occur.
After the hazard has occurred or emergency situation has come into being the disaster managers aim at ensuring that the hazard does not result in a disaster or emergency situation is diffused without major losses, and all the actions taken for this fall under the category of response.
The first and foremost goal during the response phase is to rule out or minimise loss of human lives. Golden rule for saving lives however suggests that the chances of survival tend to decrease exponentially with the passage of time. So prompt and effective response holds the key to saving lives. It is for this reason that specialised response agencies are being raised by the the states across the world.
This however needs to be remembered that the mobilisation of specialised response agencies to the incidence site is always going to take some time that may vary from few minutes to hours and even days depending of the ground realities. In the mountainous terrain the deployment of specialised response agencies is often delayed by the constraints of information exchange, accessibility, and weather. In such situations responding with the available resources is always preferred to waiting for specialised responders.
All the measures taken immediately prior to and following hazard impact are thus identified as response measures, and these are mainly directed towards saving life and protecting property, and dealing with the immediate disruption, damage and other effects caused by the hazard. Aim of these measures is to minimise the effects, and provide immediate relief, and support to the affected population.
Typical response measures include:
- Implementation of plans
- Activation of the counter-disaster systems
- Search and rescue
- Triage, first aid and referral
- Provision of emergency food, shelter, medical assistance, and others
- Impact and needs assessment
- Evacuation measures
This phase is sometimes called emergency response, to indicate that it applies to a fairly short period when emergency measures are necessary to deal with the immediate effects of a disaster and when, perhaps, a state of emergency or state of disaster may have been declared by the government.
The response phase of an emergency generally commences with search and rescue but in all cases the focus quickly turns towards fulfilling the basic humanitarian needs of the affected population.
It is important to remember that unlike other phases of the disaster management cycle, even minor details of the actions taken during response are scrutinised at great depth, not only by media but also by common people, and that too for a long time. The disaster managers and responders have to be therefore prepared for delivering their best under high media exposure and public pressure. Moreover, there being no scope of retakes with minor lapse making a difference between life and death each and every step and procedure has to be well practiced and rehearsed. This amply highlights the importance of pre-disaster preparedness and conduct of mock exercises.