The impact of disasters can be reduced significantly by appropriate action during, and after the disaster incidence. For example practicing Drop Cover and Hold could minimise casualties during an earthquake while prompt, effective and organised response could save human lives. Ensuring these during emergency situations however warrants regular practice and drills.
Preparedness generally refers to upgrading knowledge, and capacities of all the stakeholders including government, professional response and recovery agencies, communities, and individuals to effectively anticipate, respond to, and recover from the impacts of likely, imminent or current hazard events or conditions.
Preparedness related activities are generally focused on putting in place warning generation and dissemination infrastructure together with search, rescue, communication and evacuation equipment, and preparing and practicing procedures, protocols, SOPs so as to reduce vulnerability to disaster, to mitigate the impacts of a disaster or to respond more efficiently in an emergency.
Disaster-induced losses can be reduced by understanding and management of risk by enhancing capabilities of various stakeholders. For instance, by strengthening their capacities to absorb, and recover from disasters, several countries across the world have reduced mortality risk associated with floods, and tropical cyclones. Many high-income countries have also successfully reduced their extensive risks. However, losses associated with extensive risk are trending up in low and middle-income countries.
Disaster Management Act, 2005 defines preparedness as the state of readiness to deal with a threatening disaster situation or disaster and the effects thereof.
Following are some examples of preparedness activities:
- Carrying out disaster risk assessments
- Integration of broader social, and environmental issues into business strategies and operations
- Enactment of risk reduction measures, and systems
- Development of plans for response, and recovery
- Ensuring special provisions for emergency action, such as the evacuation of populations or their temporary movement to safe havens
- Putting in place warning generation, and dissemination infrastructure
- Ensuring fail safe, and redundant emergency communications
- Public education, and awareness
- Conduct of mock exercises
- Training programs, including exercise and tests.
One aspect of preparedness, which is not always given adequate priority is individual and familial preparedness. In many circumstances where government resources, and emergency services are limited, individual and family preparedness might be vital for survival.
Some disaster management cycles divide the preparedness segment into sub-segments such as:
Warning: The time or period when a hazard has been identified but is not yet threatening a particular area; e.g. notification that a cyclone exists but is a long distance away.
Threat: The time or period when a hazard has been identified and is assessed as threatening a particular area; e.g. a cyclone is tracking towards that area.
Precaution: Action taken after receipt of warning to offset effects of disaster impact. Such actions might include:
- Closing offices, schools, public places and others
- Bringing emergency power generators to readiness
- Cutting crops to avoid total loss from high winds and heavy rain
- Ensuring availability of boats, and vehicles
- Taking household precautions, such as storing emergency water supplies
An advantage in including these sub-segments is that it provides some indication of the possible sequence of events/action leading up to disaster impact.