What is disaster management?
The Red Cross and Red Crescent societies define disaster management as the organisation and management of resources and responsibilities for dealing with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies, in particular preparedness, response and recovery in order to lessen the impact of disasters.
A disaster is any event, natural or man-caused, which creates an intense negative impact on people, goods and services, and/or the environment, and exceeds the affected community’s internal capability to respond, prompting the need to seek outside assistance.
Types of disasters
There is no country that is immune from disaster, though vulnerability to disaster varies. There are four main types of disaster.
- Natural disasters: including floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and volcano eruptions that have immediate impacts on human health and secondary impacts causing further death and suffering from (for example) floods, landslides, fires, tsunamis.
- Environmental emergencies: including technological or industrial accidents, usually involving the production, use or transportation of hazardous material, and occur where these materials are produced, used or transported, and forest fires caused by humans.
- Complex emergencies: involving a break-down of authority, looting and attacks on strategic installations, including conflict situations and war.
- Pandemic emergencies: involving a sudden onset of contagious disease that affects health, disrupts services and businesses, brings economic and social costs.
Any disaster can interrupt essential services, such as health care, electricity, water, sewage/garbage removal, transportation and communications. The interruption can seriously affect the health, social and economic networks of local communities and countries. Disasters have a major and long-lasting impact on people long after the immediate effect has been mitigated. Poorly planned relief activities can have a significant negative impact not only on the disaster victims but also on donors and relief agencies. So it is important that physical therapists join established programmes rather than attempting individual efforts.
Local, regional, national and international organisations are all involved in mounting a humanitarian response to disasters. Each will have a prepared disaster management plan. These plans cover prevention, preparedness, relief and recovery.
- Disaster prevention
- Disaster preparedness
- Disaster relief
- Disaster recovery
The need for disaster management
Disasters are defined as a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society. They involve widespread human, material, economic or environmental impacts, which exceed the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources. These outline the role of the physical therapist in disaster prevention, preparedness, relief and recovery. They provide guidance for member organisations in their efforts to develop their own roles and prepare for efficient responses when natural disasters or other major crises strike.
The aim is to ensure that physical therapists are more directly engaged at an organisational level as well as on the ground, so that they can provide services to affected individuals and communities, save lives, reduce the risk of long-term injury and improve outcomes for survivors.