Keys to International Emergency Management: Resilience and Private Sector Cooperation

On the third and final day of IDCE 2012 the talk is still about resilience, however now the focus is on international resilience rather than community specific preparation. The two instances are of course related; however international disaster management relies heavily on Non-Governmental-Organizations (NGOs) and the private sector.

First and foremost international disaster efforts must identify their most readily apparent challenges. While drought, famine, and social upheaval will continue to plague the developing world, the most detrimental risk for the international relief community are urban earthquakes.

Unfortunately we have seen far too many instances of this particular type of disaster in the recent past. You have only to look at the disasters in Japan; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; and Christ’s Church, New Zealand, to realize that increased urbanization has led to an increase in urban earthquakes. International resilience must take into account that urban earthquakes will be both the most common and most detrimental disasters in the 21st century.

However, the international relief community has not yet fully embraced this realization. Emergency managers have only to look at the urban-earthquake that ravaged Port-au-Prince, Haiti to see that the disaster mitigation efforts in that scenario were outdated. The international community responded to the earthquake in Haiti similar to the way they would address a drought or social conflict. They set up shelters, provided food and clean drinking water, and even went as far as to set up schools and other social institutions.

The problem? Utilities, schooling, and other social institutions are private endeavors in Haiti. Consequently, by constructing these institutions, the international disaster relief community undercut employment opportunities from Haitians already struggling to cope with a post-disaster reality. Understandably this created resentment amongst Haitians and this resentment impeded the recovery efforts.

Again, this speaks to the need for exceptional coordination between government organizations, first responders, and the private sector. The first objective is to ensure the security of the affected citizens. For developing nations, sexual and gang related violence increases during a disaster recovery scenario. Infrastructure must be put into place that creates secure boundaries while also providing basic human services such as sanitation. However, these efforts must take into account the customs of the affected community, as in the case of Haiti, the private sector should be responsible for providing sanitation efforts.

Both government organizations and NGOs must rely on the private sector to provide the type of specialized skills necessary to encourage the recovery effort. Structural engineers, HazMat specialists, and medical professionals are all examples of private citizens whose efforts must be included in the planning process. It is vital for the long-term success of both domestic and international disaster recovery efforts that the private sector be included in the coordination and planning of disaster recovery.

 

 

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