Disaster management is a process or strategy that is implemented before, during or after any type of catastrophic event takes place. This process can be initiated whenever anything threatens to disrupt normal operations or puts people's lives at risk. Governments at all levels as well as many businesses create their own disaster plans that make it possible to overcome various catastrophes and return to functioning normally as quickly as possible.
Four Key Elements
There are four essential parts to disaster management: prevention, preparation, relief and recovery. Not all catastrophes can be prevented, but many types can be avoided, and the effects of others can be mitigated. Preparation might include long-term plans for readiness as well as processes that can be done quickly when a disaster seems imminent, such as when a hurricane is expected to make landfall soon. Relief involves action during and immediately after a catastrophe has taken place. Recovery includes repairing, rebuilding, restoring or replacing whatever was damaged, injured or lost because of the disaster.
One of the keys to disaster management is defining the types of catastrophes that could possibly disrupt the day-to-day operation of a business, city, region or country. Among the many types of events that might occur are natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes as well as those such as fires, bombings, mass failures of public utilities and the rapid spread of disease. Identifying those potential disasters makes it possible to create contingency plans, assemble supplies and create procedures that can be initiated if and when a particular disaster happens. A truly comprehensive disaster management plan encompasses a wide range of possibilities that can easily be adapted if one disaster causes other types of disasters to occur.
Preparation and Reaction
Governments and businesses need to continue functioning during emergency situations, so disaster management plans are often multi-layered to account for as many potential scenarios as possible. A typical disaster plan for a local or regional government is likely to address such matters as evacuating people from the affected region, arranging temporary housing, distributing food and providing medical care. It also is not unusual for a plan to work toward containing, neutralizing or eliminating the cause or causes of the disaster if at all possible.
Disaster management also often addresses the issue of communication. Many disasters can cause communication networks to fail, so a competent plan will include the quick setup of alternative communication capabilities that do not rely on the switches, towers and hubs that are usually part of telephone and cellular communication networks. By making use of short-wave transmissions that are supported by satellite technology, for example, communication can continue to flow from the area affected by the disaster.
As part of the crisis management component of a disaster plan, it is not unusual for some type of disaster kits to be created. The kits might include food and clothing for people who have been affected. Kits might also include first aid supplies and basic medication that could help treat headaches, fevers and other minor ailments. In some cases, the kits might include items such as sleeping bags or other necessities that will help displaced people cope after the disaster.
Creating an effective disaster management plan is often easier said than done. As many cities, countries and organizations have learned, emergency plans that had been thought to be comprehensive have turned out to be partially effective at best. This has caused many companies and government agencies to revisit all aspects of their plans and run computer simulations to identify their weaknesses and refine them so they can be carried out with more speed and efficiency.