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9. What IC needs to do when a disaster strikes

9.1 Sequence of actions

Fig-8 shows the normal sequence of local/district office actions at the beginning of an emergency.

While the 'preliminaries' listed below must be completed rapidly, the first priority is to assure the safety of staff and the ability of the local/district office to function and provide whatever support needed to the victims. If the office itself has been affected, check the safety of the office (if accessible), determine whether any staff needs assistance, and check the functionality of office systems. If necessary, establish a temporary office in other available premises which is safe. Call all important departments and hold a meeting to assess the situations and probable action points.

Figure 8

9.2 Preliminaries to be done 'immediately' in all cases

The following are things a local/district office should do within a few hours after receipt of information concerning a new disaster or emergency situation that could call for assistance:

  • Activate any existing or inter-agency emergency plan: redeploy staff and reorganise the office as conditions require; check the functioning of telecommunication and information management systems. Seek extra help from other tehsils of the same districts or nearby district, if needed.
  • Contact representative officer of the Chief Inspector of Factories Office and State Pollution Control Board, Controller of Explosives in the areas concerned to: ensure the right information like type of chemical, released amount, characteristics, likely area of impact; arrange for them to undertake an initial rapid assessment; agree arrangements and a schedule for reporting
  • Contact the Civil Hospital of the district to: coordinate arrangements for health assessments and a concerted response among members of the district crisis group members.
  • For security risks contact the Police department and agree on security measures to be taken; ensure that security provisions and telecommunication meet the required minimum standards and that all staff are properly briefed/trained.
  • Look up and review basic information on the affected areas, the impact of previous disasters and lessons learned from the subsequent relief and recovery processes in those areas. (Information for all disaster-prone areas should be compiled as part of preparedness and should be available in the district headquarters.)
  • Ensure the real press releases to: avoid rumors and ensure that electronic media should help to the local residents about do's and don'ts.

9.3 Points to remember

  • Stick to facts, and put them in context-
  • here is no such thing as 'off-the-record'. Everything you say and do can be reported. Be careful what you say in the presence of journalists, even after a formal interview is finished and at social gatherings
  • Never make disparaging or critical remarks about local authorities or international partners
  • Do not mention weaknesses they might be all that is reported
  • Your key point should be in the first paragraph
  • The text needs to be brief (maximum one A4 page)
  • The title and the opening line are the most important part: they need to grab attention and encourage people to read on
  • Avoid referencing academic work or text, refer to people or researchers
  • Use a language that is appropriate for the audience
  • If you are working with a particular newspaper or radio/television station, you may need to do some research about their editorial style
  • Translate materials into local languages. Have regular resource persons/ journalists available to do this.

9.4 Emergency, health and rehabilitation services

Advise and assist the health department and other organisations, if required, in providing emergency services, maintaining/re-establishing normal health care services, and in planning and organising services for displaced people, nutritional rehabilitation where needed, and physical rehabilitation for disabled people. Assist the MoH and other authorities in obtaining necessary technical information and advice in case of a chemical incident or radiation accident.

9.5 Population Displacements

People may become displaced when: their homes and/or livelihoods are destroyed by a sudden disaster, their means of livelihood are undermined by crisis; or they are subjected to unbearable discrimination or persecution. They are entitled for civil protection and the assistance of the local government. Proper camp of stay and medical should be ensured for the victims.

 

Arrangement for drinking water, food, medicines, clothing, safety from theft and robbery, should be ensured. The lighting, security, and pests should be in the priority of the IC.

 

Population displacement is a big challenge hence care should be taken that the members of the response team should be safe, hence they should have personal protective equipments (PPEs) as shown in right.

The camp for the displaced victims or population should be near and clean and must have provisions for other necessary amenities.

9.6 Managing stress

A certain level of stress can be positive and motivating and can lead to increased performance to the IRT members. Excessive cumulative stress results in poor performance, sickness and eventually 'burnout' (physical and mental exhaustion).
Violent and unexpected incidents can cause trauma to the affected population. They overwhelm a person's normal coping skills. The effects may be immediate or delayed and may require treatment. IC should ensure trauma care on priority.
Different individuals react differently and have different capacities to cope with stress.

9.7 Personal emergency kits

IC should make necessary arrangements in the high risk area that residents should be equipped with the following basic emergency survival preparedness kit and in case of displacement residents of the affected areas should move with the following items:

  • Prescription medications for oneself and family members (also note if these are to be taken with food, water, milk, etc)
  • Eyeglasses and/or contact lenses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Copies of important family documents stored in a portable, waterproof container.
  • These could include insurance policies, birth certificates, identification (passport ID page), bank account records, etc.
  • Cash, travelers checks and change
  • Emergency first aid reference material
  • Sleeping bag or blanket for each person (additional bedding in cold climate)
  • Complete change(s) of clothing including long sleeve shirts, pants and shoes.
  • Household chlorine bleach (unscented without additives) and an eyedropper. This can be used as a disinfectant (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) in extreme situations to treat water
  • A fire extinguisher
  • Strike anywhere matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine personal hygiene products
  • Mess kits, one per person, including paper cups and plates, plastic utensils, and towels
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children.

Depending on the personal requirements, the emergency preparedness survival kit may include some, none, all or more of the items listed above.

 

 
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