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Disaster and Emergency Planning for Preparedness, Response, and Recovery  

David Alexander

Emergency and disaster planning involves a coordinated, co-operative process of preparing to match urgent needs with available resources. The phases are research, writing, dissemination, testing, and updating. Hence, an emergency plan needs to be a living document that is periodically adapted to changing circumstances and that provides a guide to the protocols, procedures, and division of responsibilities in emergency response. Emergency planning is an exploratory process that provides generic procedures for managing unforeseen impacts and should use carefully constructed scenarios to anticipate the needs that will be generated by foreseeable hazards when they strike. Plans need to be developed for specific sectors, such as education, health, industry, and commerce. They also need to exist in a nested hierarchy that extends from the local emergency response (the most fundamental level), through the regional tiers of government, to the national and international levels. Failure to plan can be construed as negligence because it would involve failing to anticipate needs that cannot be responded to adequately by improvisation during an emergency. Plans are needed, not only for responding to the impacts of disaster, but also to maintain business continuity while managing the crisis, and to guide recovery and reconstruction effectively. Dealing with disaster is a social process that requires public support for planning initiatives and participation by a wide variety of responders, technical experts and citizens. It needs to be sustainable in the light of challenges posed by non-renewable resource utilization, climate change, population growth, and imbalances of wealth. Although, at its most basic level, emergency planning is little more than codified common sense, the increasing complexity of modern disasters has required substantial professionalization of the field. This is especially true in light of the increasing role in emergency response of information and communications technology. Disaster planners and coordinators are resource managers, and in the future, they will need to cope with complex and sophisticated transfers of human and material resources. In a globalizing world that is subject to accelerating physical, social, and economic change, the challenge of managing emergencies well depends on effective planning and foresight, and the ability to connect disparate elements of the emergency response into coherent strategies.


Natural Hazards Governance Practices and Key Natural Hazards in Latin America and the Caribbean  

Ivis García

Along with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean is among the geographic regions most exposed and vulnerable to the occurrence of disasters. The vulnerability is explained by geography and climate, but also by prevailing poverty and inequality. Year after year, multiple disasters such as landslides, hurricanes, floods, rains, droughts, storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis, among others, threaten the region. Natural disasters reveal the deficiencies of infrastructure and essential services. In particular, they highlight the lack of an institutional framework for effective governance with clearly defined goals of how to prevent, respond to, and reconstruct after a natural catastrophe. One of the priorities of governments in the region is to achieve resilience—that is, to strengthen the capacity to resist, adapt, and recover from the effects of natural disasters. To be able to accomplish this, governments need to prepare before a natural disaster strikes. Therefore, disaster risk management is critical. A fundamental element in the strategy of increasing resilience is good planning in general—that is, to reduce inequality, manage urbanization, and invest in necessary infrastructure such as energy, sewage, and water management. Because climate change increases the risk of disasters, it is generally understood that good governance practices can prevent further global warming. Governments might achieve this, for example, by investing in renewable energy and financing other environmentally friendly initiatives. Unfortunately, most current governance models in Latin America and the Caribbean are characterized by bureaucratic structures that are fragmented into different sectors and whose actors do not have much interaction between them. With technical assistance from organizations, such as the World Bank and the United Nations, stakeholders in Latin America and the Caribbean are learning how to develop plans that encourage the collaboration of multiple sectors (e.g., transportation, housing) and improve the working relationships between various institutions (e.g. local associations, NGOs, private and public organizations). To be adequately prepared for a disaster, it is necessary to establish a network of actors that can engage quickly in decision-making and coordinate effectively between local, regional, and national levels.


Urban Planning and Natural Hazards Governance  

Ricardo Marten, Theresa Abrassart, and Camillo Boano

The establishment of effective linkages between institutional urban planning and disaster risk strategies remains a challenge for formal governance structures. For governments at all administrative scales, disaster resilience planning has required systemic capacities that rely on structures of governance, humanitarian frameworks, and budgetary capacities. However, with growing urbanization trends, humanitarian responses and Disaster Risk Management (DRM) frameworks have had to adapt their operations in contexts with high population density, complex infrastructure systems, informal dynamics, and a broader range of actors. Urban areas concentrate an array of different groups with the capability of contributing to urban responses and strategies to cope with disaster effects, including community groups, government agencies, international organizations and humanitarian practitioners. In addition, cities have running planning structures that support their administration and spatial organization, with instruments that supply constant information about population characteristics, infrastructure capacity and potential weaknesses. Processes and data ascribed to urban planning can provide vital knowledge to natural hazard governance frameworks, from technical resources to conceptual approaches towards spatial analysis. Authorities managing risk could improve their strategic objectives if they could access and integrate urban planning information. Furthermore, a collaborative hazard governance can provide equity to multiple urban actors that are usually left out of institutional DRM, including nongovernmental organizations, academia, and community groups. Traditional top-down models can operate in parallel with horizontal arrangements, giving voice to groups with limited access to political platforms but who are knowledgeable on urban space and social codes. Their still limited recognition is evidence that there is still a disconnect between the intentions of global frameworks for inclusive governance, and the co-production of an urban planning designed for inclusive resilience.


Planning Systems for Natural Hazard Risk Reduction  

James C. Schwab

Planning systems are essentially a layer of guidance or legal requirements that sit atop plans of any type at any governmental level at or below the source of that guidance. In the case of natural hazard risk reduction, they involve rules or laws dealing with plans to reduce loss of life or property from such events. In much of the world, this is either unexplored territory or the frontier of public planning; very little of what exists in this realm predates the 1980s, although one can find earlier roots of the public discussion behind such systems. That said, the evolution of such systems in 21st century has been fairly rapid, at least in those nations with the resources and technical capacity to pursue the subject. Driven largely by substantial increases in disaster losses and growing concern about worldwide impacts of climate change, research, technology, and lessons from practice have grown apace. However, that progress has been uneven and subject to inequities in resources and governmental capacity.


Integrating Access and Functional Needs in Community Planning for Natural Hazards  

Nnenia Campbell

Populations that are rendered socially invisible by their relegation to realms that are excluded—either physically or experientially—from the rest of society tend to similarly be left out of community disaster planning, often with dire consequences. Older adults, persons with disabilities, linguistic minorities, and other socially marginalized groups face amplified risks that translate into disproportionately negative outcomes when disasters strike. Moreover, these disparities are often reproduced in the aftermath of disasters, further reinforcing preexisting inequities. Even well-intentioned approaches to disaster service delivery have historically homogenized and segregated distinct populations under the generic moniker of “special needs,” thereby undermining their own effectiveness at serving those in need. The access and functional needs perspective has been promoted within the emergency management field as a practical and inclusive means of accommodating a range of functional capacities in disaster planning. This framework calls for operationalizing needs into specific mechanisms of functional support that can be applied at each stage of the disaster lifecycle. Additionally, experts have emphasized the need to engage advocacy groups, organizations that routinely serve socially marginalized populations, and persons with activity limitations themselves to identify support needs. Incorporating these diverse entities into the planning process can help to build stronger, more resilient communities.


Managed Retreat in Practice: Mechanisms and Challenges for Implementation  

Christina Hanna, Iain White, and Bruce Glavovic

Managed retreat is a deliberate strategy to remedy unsustainable land use patterns that expose people, ecosystems, and assets to significant natural (and socio-natural) hazard and climate induced risks. The term is all-encompassing, broadly capturing planned relocation in the fields of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, as well as managed retreat or realignment in coastal management and environmental planning practice. Managed retreat helps to ensure that people and the resources they value are no longer exposed to extreme events and to the adverse impacts of slow-onset environmental change. Distinct from migration and displacement, managed retreat is the strategically planned withdrawal from development in risky spaces. It can be applied at a range of spatial scales, in an anticipatory, staged, or reactive manner. Unlike traditional risk management alternatives, managed retreat affords space to natural processes and minimizes long-term maintenance and emergency management costs. While it has great promise as a sustainable disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategy, there are a number of socio-political-cultural, environmental, economic, and institutional barriers affecting its implementation, particularly in contexts with extensive existing development. There may also be significant challenges in integrating relocated and receiving communities. In practice, people are deeply connected to, and reliant upon, the security, networks and cultural values of their lands, homes, communities, and livelihoods. To realize the long-term benefits, managed retreat needs to be considered as an integrated approach that uses information, regulation, and various financial levers in a strategic manner, and recognizes the need to work alongside communities in a fair, transparent, and inclusive way.