Concept of the Disaster Management

Concept of the Disaster Management

This article deals with ‘Concept of the Disaster Management.’ This is part of our series on ‘Disaster Management’, an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


  • Natural disasters and crises have been an integral part of human history. The evidence of this can be seen in the rise and fall of the Babylon and Indus Valley civilizations.
  • According to UN statistics, natural disasters kill 1,00,000 people on average and cause property damage worth billions of dollars annually. 
  • Among the top ten natural disaster-prone countries, India stands second after China.

Life Cycle of Disaster

A crisis doesn’t occur abruptly; it goes through a progression that can span from days to months or even decades, contingent upon the factors that give rise to it.

Concept of the Disaster Management

Response at Various Stages of Disaster (in General)

Concept of the Disaster Management

1. Risk Reduction

Disaster risk can be reduced by forecasting the occurrence of hazards well in time and preparing in advance for their onset.  

Methods for Risk Reduction /Mitigation

1. Disaster Mapping

Create a Disaster Map taking the following into account

  • Which disasters are occurring in the area? It can range from natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires, to human-induced disasters such as industrial accidents or civil unrest.
  • Analyze historical data to determine the frequency of disasters occurring in the area.
  • Social fragility, i.e. to what extent society is prepared to cope with disaster.
  • Vulnerable populations within the area, such as the elderly, children, people with disabilities, low-income communities, and marginalized groups.

2. Preparation of District Disaster Plans

  • Each District should prepare a District Plan involving all the stakeholders. These stakeholders include government officials, emergency management agencies, local communities, non-governmental organizations, and other critical actors involved in disaster risk reduction and response.

3. Mock Drills

  • All disaster management plans should be tested periodically through mock drills. They involve simulating emergencies and evaluating the response of disaster management plans and procedures.

4. Construction of Major Civil Engineering Structures

These include engineering solutions to prevent disasters, such as 

  • Construction of dams 
  • Diversion channels
  • Cyclone shelters
  • Shelterbelt plantations  
  • Regeneration of mangrove belts in coastal areas

5. Construction of Disaster Resistant Dwellings

  • Disaster Resistant Dwellings are designed and constructed in a manner that reduces vulnerability to various hazards, such as earthquakes, floods, cyclones, and landslides. The National Building Code of India (NBC) plays a significant role in providing guidelines for constructing disaster-resilient buildings 

6. Effective Implementation of Laws

Effective implementation of laws plays a crucial role in disaster risk reduction. Industrial disasters and urban floods often occur due to inadequate planning and weak enforcement of existing laws and regulations. Two notable examples are the Uphaar tragedy and the Bhopal Gas tragedy.

  1. The Uphaar Tragedy, which took place in 1997, involved a fire in the Uphaar Cinema in Delhi, leading to the loss of 59 lives. This incident highlighted the consequences of inadequate safety measures and poor enforcement of regulations in public spaces.
  2. The Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984: A gas leak at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal resulted in thousands of deaths and long-term health issues for survivors. This incident exposed the shortcomings in industrial safety measures.

7. Installing Early Warning System

Early Warning System and Disaster Management
  • Early Warning Systems are designed to provide timely alerts and warnings regarding upcoming disasters, allowing authorities and communities to take necessary actions to mitigate the potential impact. 
  • The importance of early warning systems has been exemplified by notable events such as the Mexico Earthquake in 2018, where a significant number of lives were saved due to the existence of such a system.
  • Recognizing the significance of early warning systems, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a global agreement adopted in 2015, also emphasizes their implementation as a critical component of disaster risk reduction strategies.
  • India has already installed an Early Warning System for Cyclones, Tsunami, Heatwaves etc. 

8. Education

  • Disaster management education needs to be integrated and institutionalized within the formal and informal education systems.
  • The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has already made significant strides in this direction. They have taken proactive steps to incorporate disaster management education into the curriculum. 

Case Study: Super Cyclone (1999) vs Cyclone Phailin (2013)

The Super Cyclone and Phailin Cyclone case studies show the importance of Disaster Risk Reduction. 

Super Cyclone (Odisha, 1999) 

  • Wind speeds of 270-300 km per hour  
  •  10,000 people killed and lakhs of livestock population. 
  • Over 2 million houses were damaged.

But this damage could have easily been reduced.

Cyclone Phailin (2013)

  • Early Warnings were given to residents near Bhubaneshwar about an impending Cyclone which struck within a week 
  • Casualties were just 50 people dead 

Recent Cyclone Varda in Tamil Nadu & Cyclone Hudhood also showed a similar trend with a death toll not exceeding 10. But the damage to infrastructure is still high. Now reaching the next level, the concern is how to address losses occurring to property – roads, bridges, housing, hospitals, electricity etc. (Note: Sendai calls for a reduction in mortality and the destruction of infrastructure).

2. Emergency Response System / During Disaster 

The Emergency Response System is a comprehensive framework encompassing various components to manage and respond to emergencies effectively.

Components of Emergency Response System

1. Acting on Early Warning System

  • Installing warning systems is not an end in itself. The effectiveness of these systems relies on the ability of the administration to swiftly respond and take appropriate action upon receiving the warning.

2. Rescue

  • Rescue operations must be carried out rapidly as the window of opportunity is usually small.  
  • Using a Disaster map, the most vulnerable points can be identified & resources can be mobilized to rescue people from those areas first. 

3. Quick Trauma Care

After Rescue, the injured must be transferred to the appropriate Trauma Care Facility within the Golden Hour (Golden Hour = first hour after sustaining injury). During this critical Golden Hour, prompt medical intervention can significantly increase the chances of survival and minimize long-term complications for the injured. 

4. Relief

As the rescue operations are on, the phase for providing relief starts. 

  • Ensure that the basic minimum necessities of life, like food, clothing, shelter, security, and basic health and sanitation facilities, are available. 
  • Trauma care and counselling should be made an integral part of the relief operations.

Recovery & Rehabilitation / After Disaster

Recovery differs in different disasters

  • The damage caused by floods, earthquakes and cyclones is much larger than other disasters, and recovery after these disasters pose a challenge. 
  • In disasters like drought, the relief phase is prolonged, and since there is no damage to the infrastructure and property, the rehabilitation is confined to the restoration of livelihoods. 
  • Industrial disasters being quite varied in nature, the rehabilitation in major ones like the ‘Bhopal Gas Tragedy’ could involve rehabilitation efforts spanning over a generation of victims.  

Recovery & Rehabilitation Process

  • The first step is to assess the damage and make a recovery & rehabilitation strategy considering economic, social, political and psychological factors.
  • Under Sendai Framework, the main principle to be followed is – BUILD BACK BETTER. The infrastructure that is to be built should be such that they can survive the next disaster. 
  • Following any major disaster, several players arrive on the scene & ensuring proper coordination among them becomes very important. Without coordination, it leads to duplication of efforts in some areas & gaps in others.   
  • Usually, it is seen that the recovery efforts tend to taper off with time. This decline in recovery effort over time needs to be arrested. 

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