This manual is a simple introduction to emergency management. It gives the background to natural and human-made emergencies and disasters and it will guide you:
- to prepare for emergencies at agency and community levels
- to make it easier to understand the larger reference books for those new to this field
- to ensure uniform terminology and consistent language for all those working towards a safer world
- to provide ideas, information, games and tools for those wishing to organise an introductory workshop on emergency preparedness.
The tsunami of 26 December 2004 in Asia and East Africa followed on the heels of earthquakes in Turkey and India. Within the following year there were floods in India and the USA, and earthquakes in Indonesia, Pakistan and India. A series of cyclones in the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay of Bengal destroyed New Orleans and thousands of lives, leaving millions homeless, tens of thousands missing, and thousands of acres of land damaged ecologically by sea water swamping. Then there was the Japanese tsunami. As I write, the news is reporting on the devastation caused by super storm Sandy in the Caribbean and US East Coast. Concurrently in Burma 4,600 homes are destroyed and 26,000 people are displaced. The DR Congo is still in a bad way along with many other countries.
In living memory there has not been a decade to match the last. In global terms Asia is consistently hit the hardest by natural emergencies and disasters. Now the whole world is taking emergency preparedness and the development of early warning systems seriously.
There is much evidence to show that emergency preparedness prevents or mitigates the impact and cost of disasters, while the road to recovery is travelled faster. This booklet is intended to help that process by offering simple guidelines for those individuals or groups with responsibilities for drafting emergency preparedness plans. The activities can be done individually by the readers, or in small groups within the context of emergency preparedness planning workshops.
The ideas and suggestions presented by the author have been gained from working in natural and conflict-related disaster areas and from many workshops backed by hundreds of collective years of experiences from workshop participants. These people are remembered fondly and thanked profusely for their contributions to make the world a safer place.
Sadly, there is always more enthusiasm for preparedness after an emergency than before it. We must learn the lessons from the awful events of the last decade and move into a new era of preparedness. Although unlikely that tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanoes can be prevented from emerging, we can become better warned of and better prepared for future emergencies than we were for the earlier ones. The Chinese symbols for ‘disaster’ are shared in the symbols for ‘danger’ and ‘new beginning’. So even in the worst situation there is a glimmer of optimism and the opportunity to make a fresh start.