Thursday, August 21, 2014

Disaster Manageme

  In South Africa, it is not necessarily the 'classic', comparatively rare events - which receive massive media coverage - that we should be focusing on, but rather on building alert, informed, self-reliant and resilient communities who have the capacity to withstand, cope and recover from these relatively less spectacular events which affect them on a regular basis
Pat Reid, former president of Disaster Management of Southern Africa

A disaster can be caused by humans or nature. Disasters are events that are sometimes unpredictable. It is important for any government to manage disasters. Government provides legislation, allocates resources and does rational planning and sustainable development. Disaster management and planning is a key part of government work.


Disasters are events that have a huge impact on humans and/or the environment. Disasters require government intervention. They are not always unpredictable. Floods take place in valleys and flood plains, droughts in areas with unstable and low rainfall, and oil spills happen in shipping lanes. This predictability provides opportunities to plan for, prevent and to lessen the impact of disasters.

 Disasters arise from both natural and human causes, and the responses needed could stretch community and government capacity to the limit. For example, during 2000 we saw a series of disasters in South Africa: huge floods devastated the Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga and neighbouring countries; massive fires and an oil spill threatened Cape Town; and separate floods hit rural communities in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. In 2004 Cape Town experienced a drought disaster attributed to global warming. From April 2004 to January 2005, the province experiences 376 disasters, mostly fire and flood.

Disasters are inevitable although we do not always know when and where they will happen. But their worst effects can be partially or completely prevented by preparation, early warning, and swift, decisive responses.

Disaster management aims to reduce the occurrence of disasters and to reduce the impact of those that cannot be prevented. The government White paper and Act on Disaster Management define the roles of Local Authorities as well as Provincial and National government in disaster management.


Every municipality must have a disaster management plan as part of its Integrated Development Plans, according to the Municipal Systems Act.

Structure and Mechanism: This plan must set up the structure and mechanisms for dealing with disasters and it must anticipate future disasters. Plans must be developed to deal with disasters that occur regularly - for example flooding of informal settlements and roads.

Protection Services Department: In each municipality, the Protection Services department is responsible for Disaster Management. The department usually deals with traffic policing, fire brigades, law enforcement, and sometimes ambulances on an agency basis for provincial government, The role of Disaster Management is to coordinate the response to disasters and emergencies, ensuring that resources are applied effectively, whatever it may be. Fire services, ambulance services, emergency medical services, engineers and traffic services can all become involved in Disaster Management.
Capacity: When a disaster exceeds the capacity of a local authority, the district, province or national can become involved, coordinating and facilitating the response and efforts of various local authorities. Other parties such as the SANDF as well as volunteer organizations such as the Red Cross, St John's and the National Sea Rescue Institute can also be drawn in if needed.

Disaster Management Activities: Disaster Management Activities include the co-ordination of disaster response agencies, the compilation and exercising of contingency plans, and Disaster Management education and training.

Funding: Following the finalisation of the Act, the national government will announce on a funding mechanism for provinces and municipalities to finance their comprehensive disaster management plans.




The disaster management policy and legislation makes provision for government to declare disaster areas, and allow for resources to be allocated for immediate relief, as well as reconstruction. This includes things like food, blankets and medical supplies as relief and building materials for reconstruction. The local and provincial government have to prepare the submission to the national Department of Provincial and Local Government for this to be done speedily.

The Disaster Management Act focuses on speeding up response and cutting red tape to ensure that disasters are dealt with efficiently and effectively - by giving clear guidelines for the classification of disasters and the declaration of states of disaster.

These can include all or some of the following:
  • Mass-event situations (concerts, sport, other social gatherings - for example the 2001 Ellis park disaster during the Pirates-Chiefs game)
  • Storms and storm damage;
  • Flooding;
  • Fires: Domestic, mountain and veld;
  • Oils spills, at sea, on land;
  • Transport accidents;
  • Hazardous material spills (spilling of chemicals, etc from factories, trucks);


Here are some of the things we can all do to prepare and deal with disasters:
  • Know the emergency numbers. Remember that all municipalities have emergency centres - get these details!
  • Report incidents - don't take it for granted that someone else has already reported it;
  • Do not build houses in unsafe areas - for example close to a river-bed (even if it has been dry for years) or on dolomite invested areas;
  • Keep a bucket of sand next to your door so that any small fires can be put out quickly - sand works on paraffin and electric fires, water does not.
  • Gain knowledge of basic first aid, fire training and CPR;
  • Remember that swimming pools, dams and rivers are a danger to children;
  • Always follow the rules when: swimming in rivers, dams, pools and the ocean; camping and making fires;

A very important way of preventing fire disasters is to have a good disaster plan in place. The emphasis should be on public education, prevention and containment.

One of the common disasters in poor areas and informal settlements are fires. These fires are often caused by accidents with paraffin or candles. The Paraffin industry is involved in the "Ufudo" campaign. Because of the building practices in informal settlements, and the building materials used in these settlements, everyday tools such as a primus stove, paraffin lamp or candle can become extremely dangerous if used incorrectly. The "Ufudo" kits provide tools to make primus stoves, paraffin lamps and candles more stable and less prone to fall over.

The Paraffin Safety Association also promotes safe storage and use of paraffin through safe bottles and dispensers - any registered dealer can get access to this.

People in informal settlements should be educated about leaving enough space between houses to prevent the spread of fires and to allow emergency vehicles into the area. Fire fighting volunteers can also be trained.

   Discuss the type of hazards that could affect your family. Know your home's vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind.
   Locate a safe room or the safest areas in your home for each hazard. In certain circumstances the safest areas may not be your home but within your community.
   Determine escape routes from your home and places to meet. These should be measured in tens of kilometers rather than hundreds of kilometers.
   Have an out-of-town friend as a family contact, so all your family members have a single point of contact.
   Make a plan now for what to do with your pets if you need to evacuate.
   Post emergency telephone numbers by your phones and make sure your children know how and when to call emergency services
   Check your insurance coverage - flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance.
   Stock non-perishable emergency supplies and a Disaster Supply Kit.
   Have a portable radio and remember to replace its battery every 6 months, as you do with your smoke detectors.
   Take First Aid, CPR and disaster preparedness classes.

    Water - at least 4 liters daily per person for 3 to 7 days
    Food - at least enough for 3 to 7 days
— non-perishable packaged or canned food / juices
— foods for infants or the elderly
— snack foods
— non-electric can opener
— cooking tools / fuel
— paper plates / plastic utensils
    Blankets / Pillows, etc.
    Clothing - seasonal / rain gear/ sturdy shoes
    First Aid Kit / Medicines / Prescription Drugs
    Special Items - for babies and the elderly
    Toiletries / Hygiene items / Moisture wipes
    Torch / Batteries
    Radio - Battery operated
    Telephones - Fully charged cell phone with extra battery and a traditional (not cordless) telephone set
    Cash (with some small notes) and Credit Cards - Banks and ATMs may not be available for extended periods
    Toys, Books and Games
    Important documents - in a waterproof container or watertight re-sealable plastic bag
— insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, ID Books, etc.
    Tools - keep a set with you during the storm
    Vehicle fuel tanks filled
    Pet care items
— proper identification / immunisation records / medications
— ample supply of food and water
— a carrier or cage
— muzzle and leash

Pet Plan
 Before the Disaster
·         Make sure that your pets are current on their vaccinations.  Pet shelters may require proof of vaccines.
·         Have a current photograph
·         Keep a collar with identification on your pet and have a leash on hand to control your pet.
·         Have a properly-sized pet carrier for each animal - carriers should be large enough for the animal to stand and turn around.
·         Plan your evacuation strategy and don't forget your pet!  Specialised pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics and friends and relatives out of harm's way are ALL potential refuges for your pet during a disaster.

If you plan to shelter your pet - work it into your evacuation route planning

During the Disaster
·         Animals brought to a pet shelter are required to have:  Proper identification collar and rabies tag, proper identification on all belongings, a carrier or cage, a leash, an ample supply of food, water and food bowls, any necessary medications, specific care instructions and news papers or trash bags for clean-up.
·         Bring pets indoor well in advance of a storm - reassure them and remain calm.
·         Pet shelters will be filled on first come, first served basis.  Call ahead and determine availability.

After the Disaster
·         Walk pets on a leash until they become re-oriented to their home - often familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and pets could easily be confused and become lost.  Also, downed power lines, reptiles brought in with high water and debris can all pose a threat for animals after a disaster.
·         If pets cannot be found after a disaster, contact the local SPCA to find out where lost animals can be recovered.  Bring along a picture of your pet if possible.
·         After a disaster animals can become aggressive or defensive - monitor their behavior.

Don't forget your pet when preparing a family disaster plan

• Proper identification including immunization records
• Ample supply of food and water
• A carrier or cage
• Medications
• Muzzle, collar and leash 

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