Natural Disasters Contingency Planning

To the Editor:

We have recurring natural disasters, seasonal in their patterns, just like the floods in the monsoon season.  That’s when things could  go wrong with damages to structures, property, and even loss of life.  With natural disasters intensifying to greater scale and their destructive force getting worse, there’s a dire need to ensure that we have a Contingency Plan devised for such circumstances to be prepared for anything that could happen.  Contingency planning for natural disasters call for specific strategies and actions to deal with particular problems like floods, landslides, fires, and typhoons.  Contingency Plans include a monitoring process and phases for activating planned actions.(i)

Natural disasters can happen anywhere, anytime, with little or without warning.   Our chances of surviving natural disasters improve greatly with the application of common sense and some preparation.(ii)  Although for some countries, they are less prone to natural disasters, the present decade tells a different story of emerging trends at increasing weather-related disasters.  These trends have been attributed to climate change notably global warming.  The massive floods in Malaysia in 2006-2007, the impact of Typhoon Morakot which hit Philippines and continued its destruction in Taiwan recently are indicative of the increasing intensity these natural disasters brought.  With these recent disasters, an important question crops up.   Despite the recurring floods, the bad experience with the natural disasters and the economic loss therein, where do we stand with natural disaster safety guideline especially to the communities living in disaster prone areas?


Events such as Typhoon Morakot epitomize the unpredictable nature of our world.  Without proper Contingency Planning, many countries and communities are left vulnerable to disaster.  Contingent evacuation planning has become an operational necessity during floods to ensure safety of the vulnerable groups in the affected communities.  For most of the countries in the Asia-Pacific region, the increasing number of natural disasters poses one of the gravest threats.  Obviously, contingency planning have to move with the times, never static, always updated to accommodate new or increased risks.  The International Strategy for Disaster reduction observed that the number of storms, droughts, and floods has increased threefold over the past 30 years.  As these natural disasters increased, so did the number of those affected – a fivefold increase in the same period. (iii)


So how do communities reconcile these risks?  In developing a contingency plan to address realistic threat scenarios, all the concerned stakeholders should form strategic partnerships and maximize all resources to ensure that when activated its implementation is one concerted effort by all. 


Local authorities with limited knowledge of disaster contingency planning have the options of choosing a strategic partner with demonstrated emergency preparedness experience.  In this context, apart from the available civil society organizations experienced in humanitarian assistance, the Red Cross Red Crescent Societies have excellent resources for creating effective disaster contingency plans.  Their experience bear them in good stead as regards best practices for developing contingency plans, reducing potential damages, and especially protecting vulnerable groups (elderly, women, and children) during a crisis.



Once the contingency plan is formulated, dissemination is crucial to communicate the crisis response and actions necessary to all partners.  Rapid response and appropriate steps to manage the emergency can make all the difference during disasters.  The essence of contingency planning is that the safety and security of community members should never be left to chance.


Building capacity for contingency planning calls for collaboration between international agencies with the local authorities especially in Training of Trainers (TOT) in Contingency Planning. (iv)The cascading effect of having these trainers organize contingency planning sessions within their respective departments and states will serve to enhance the capacity on a broader platform. Apparently, there has been positive progress in there areas.  With the massive floods of 2006-2007 still fresh in our minds, there have been intense discussions on preparing contingency plans.  Working in close collaboration with the state authorities the Red Cross Red Crescent societies, together with other concerned parties have developed impressive documentations which will serve as guidance in outlining the framework of response and actions.  Where the collaboration is effective, effective governance could ensure the formulation of a common strategy in handling natural disasters.





(i)                 Wikipedia. Contingency Plan. Relief web. Unicef Contingency 2000

(ii)               Emergency Preparedness: Contingency Planning in Today’s Unpredictable World, Tuesday, January 15 2008, David McCown.

(iii)             OCHA. Resources, Contingency Planning. 


Author had extensive experience in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance with 28 years service with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Involvement included assignments to Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia-Montenegro, China, Mongolia and also emergency missions to Pakistan, Romania,and Sri-Lanka.

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