Inherent within disaster management is developing response, and an essential element of response is contingency planning. Generally, contingency planning is defined as an anticipatory emergency preparation to be followed in an anticipated or eventual disaster, based on risk assessment, availability of human and material resources, community preparedness, local and international response capability, etc. That definition sets the framework as we put on our thinking hats on. As we brace ourselves for the oncoming monsoon rains and the potential for floods again, the question at the back of our minds will be – how do we set up for the worst? Jointly and severally, all the stakeholders involved with disaster management need to come up with a contingency plan on how to deal with and minimize the risks of these natural disasters to lives and properties.
Contingency planning sessions could construct mitigating measures to control damage on development through such natural calamities. Lessons learned in preceding disaster response operations could provide the basic guidelines in ensuring present contingency plans are on the desirable track. Following completion of the contingency plan, as soon as disaster strikes, the event triggers operationalisation of the contingency plan itself which has been formulated with agreed upon common strategy. (i) Over the years, there has been a paradigm shift in disaster management from disaster response to disaster risk reduction, reflected in the proactive action prior to the arrival of the calamity. In developing contingency plans, worst case scenarios are worked on to meet needs for planning ahead for calamity risk reduction.
Red Cross and Red Crescent societies through their mandate and humanitarian assistance principles are periodically drawn into managing severe emergencies including natural disasters. In ensuring organizational readiness and that adequate arrangements are made in anticipation of an emergency, the common management tool comprise response and contingency planning. Well thought out planning could greatly assist in ensuring rapid and effective delivery of resource needs of whatever disasters wherever that may be.
In order to realize a satisfactory level of preparedness for timely and effective response to a natural disaster, disaster response plan entails identifying disaster risks, vulnerabilities, impact, organizational resources and capacities. It further involves determining roles and responsibilities, and formulating policies and procedures and planning activities. This is at the broader perspective and it allows identifying gaps and needs. Contingency planning focus more on addressing the responses and actions geared for specific disaster scenarios. (ii)
Since contingency planning deals with individual specific events which are known risks at the local, national or regional levels, formulation necessitate the involvement of stakeholders at the associated levels. Contingency plans mesh well with operations management in terms of handling anticipated resource requirements, available resources, and shortfalls or gaps.
With extreme weather disasters becoming the emerging feature this decade, and the horrific experience of Typhoon Morakot (Philippines, Taiwan) and the Istanbul flash floods still fresh in our minds, any flood risks alert should not be taken with a pinch of salt. Preparedness warrants that expecting the worst i.E. Flood prone areas expected to have higher that normal risk of flooding in different places and at greater magnitude than previous experience. Scenarios developed for the possible natural disaster will indicate the potential impact of such event. Flooding, for instance, often destroys houses and other properties resulting in the displacement of the flood affected population. Hence contingency planning could anticipate both food and non-food relief provision to alleviate human suffering resulting from the displacements. Those displaced suffer loss of household belongings and assets to the floods. Contingency plans look into emergency shelter requirements with the objective of protecting those affected from avoidable risks and vulnerabilities from the elements.(iii)
(i) PDCC Kalinga approves disaster contingency plan. 12 Jun 2009. Philippine Information Agency (PIA)
(ii) International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies. Contingency Planning & Disaster Response Planning.
(iii) Flood Contingency Plan for 2007 Main Rainy Season in Ethiopia. August 2007. Addis Ababa.