Disaster management and emergency preparedness are critical concepts that always need to be kept in mind, to say the least. Having an action and recovery plan can very well save numerous lives in the case of either manmade or natural disasters. We have all witnessed the effects that a crisis can have on a business, community or nation, either on TV or at the scene. While disaster management isn’t directly related to the risk reduction of such situations, learning how to prevent them is just as vital. But when you narrow it all down, what exactly does disaster management cover? Our Disaster Management 101 guide aims to shed light on the meaning of this notion, as well as tips, services, companies, career opportunities and organizations.
Of course, our guide only serves as an introduction to disaster management. Those who are keen on the process should look into expanding their knowledge through an institute or by getting a master’s degree in the field. In this regard, we will also cover the basics of training for disaster management. Nevertheless, it is encouraged that all individuals have at least this fundamental information about disaster management, with project steps and thorough advice. Choose to be informed and gain basic knowledge of disaster management below.
Definition: What is Disaster Management?
A quick glance at Wikipedia or Google pictures will give you a pretty obvious idea of what disaster management is. To understand the big picture, it helps to break down the concept into two distinct segments: disasters and management. Disasters can be natural (landslides, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, an earthquake or other situations related to the environment) or manmade (fires, war, terrorism, etc.) As a result, the ‘management’ part refers to handling situations like those mentioned above. The concept applies to both local and global levels, from small businesses to entire countries. As far as companies are concerned, it is estimated that around 60% in the United States currently do not have disaster management plans established.
There are several aspects to take into consideration when discussing disaster management, but the four main segments of the cycle are:
This system is also key to the phases of disaster management, which we will speak more about in a dedicated section of our guide.
As you can see, it is essential to prepare for disasters and even take measures to prevent them. It is impossible to prevent all disasters, especially those that occur naturally, but we can prepare accordingly to minimize damage.
Prevention: How to Reduce the Risk of Disasters
When approaching disaster management, it is essential to regard preventative measures. There are plenty of online resources that can point you in the right direction, or you can even visit an information center to learn more. The Disaster Planning provided by UNESCO describes a few tips for preventing disasters:
- Inspecting buildings
- Establishing maintenance measures
- Installing automatic fire and water detection systems
- Taking precautions during key periods
- Protecting data through secure power
- Ensuring key information
On a global scale, governments have adopted a global plan for reducing the risk of natural disasters. The Hyogo Framework for Action spanned across 10 years and was adopted in 2005, at the Second World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe. The HFA covers these 5 main priorities:
- Prioritizing reduction of disaster risk
- Early warning and upgrading information on risks
- Creating resilience and safety culture
- Key sector risk reduction
- Reinforcing response preparedness
The Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction took place in March 2015 and agreed on the Sendai Framework. The agreement covers 15 years and has similar priorities with the Hyogo Framework, with several additions:
- Increasing investments in disaster risk reduction
- Improving awareness and understanding of disaster risk
Phases of Disaster Management
When broadly speaking of disaster management, there are several core phases that have been identified. These phases can be applied to any level of disaster management, from homes, offices and neighborhoods to cities and even countries.
Almost any agency, office, center or state authority has outlined their disaster management projects based on the following main phases.
1. Prevention or Mitigation
The first phase of disaster management is mitigation or prevention. Its main aim is to prevent disasters and emergencies or try to reduce their impact as much as possible. As a small example, purchasing insurance for a location is considered to be an action of prevention or mitigation.
As expected, preparedness refers to the steps taken to prepare for a disaster or emergency. This phase takes place before a disaster and goes hand in hand with mitigation. For instance, establishing a fire escape plan helps individuals be prepared.
The response phase of disaster management represents taking the proper, safe measures when a disaster hits. With the resources and plans put together in the mitigation and preparedness phases, individuals should be able to act accordingly in case of an emergency. It is critical that the first two phases are well established, so the response takes place as quick as possible.
As we can’t prevent all disasters, recovery is a necessary part of any disaster management plan. These include all stages of recovering from disasters, such as rebuilding and repairing damage.
Disaster Management Services
Services for disaster management can be provided either by private companies or international organizations, like the Red Cross. Disaster management services are strongly connected to the four phases of the main plan and should be treated hand in hand. A few examples of disaster management services and products are:
- Rapid response kits for disasters
- Disaster management plans
- Response tools
- Financial support for disasters
- Recovery opportunities
Response kits and similar products can be purchased from a wide range of disaster management companies, as well as guidance for disaster management plans. Recovery options and financial support can be obtained from organizations. We’ll go through both of these categories below.
Examples of Disaster Management Companies
As far as disaster management companies are concerned, there are plenty of options for various areas. What is significant when looking into such companies is that you search for one near your building. For example, if you live in the UK, it will be unnecessary to consider companies or hospital options in the United States.
A few popular disaster management companies are:
- Blake Emergency Services (UK)
- Emergency planning
- Security programs
- Incident response
- Pinkerton (International)
- Natural disaster response
- Recovery possibilities
- Real-time alerting
- Early Alert (International)
- Real-time emergency management
- Preparedness plan
- Response and recovery plans
However, a few companies have shined through the efforts put into rehabilitating communities after disasters. Even though these companies are not based on disaster management, they greatly contributed to the recovery phase for areas in need. On this note, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation organizes citizen awards for best community resilience and disaster response. Some of the finalists in recent years were:
- Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce
- Las Vegas Sands Corporation
- Citi Foundation
- Cornerstone OnDemand, Inc.
- Farmers Group
Disaster Management Planning Tips
Even on an individual level, there are an abundance of steps that you can take for being prepared in case of disaster. These tips can greatly aid you in being prepared for the worst, no matter where you are.
No matter how safe your neighborhood might be, there are always disaster risks that you should keep in mind. Do a bit of research in your area and see what the risks are. Is there a history of hurricanes in your city? Were there any tornadoes in recent years? Your preparations will also be based on the types of disasters that your area is prone to.
Stock Up on Supplies
We all know about safety kits and stocks of supplies for disasters, but how many of us really have them ready for any situation? Try to have a response kit and basic supplies nearby. They should already be put together, so you don’t rush around creating the kits when you need to respond to the disaster. A few items that should be among your supplies are:
- Fresh water
- Canned food
- Portable radio
- First aid kit
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has prepared a full list of supplies for families, which can be accessed here.
Plan for Family & Pets
Not everybody will be able to escape a disaster as quick as you can. Infants, senior citizens, children and pets should all be considered when planning for a disaster. Find the best ways in which you can help them evacuate the building promptly.
If possible, try to go through your disaster management plan once or twice, with your co-workers or family. For instance, you can carry out a fire drill and see if all your evacuation options are valid and can work for everybody involved. If you spot any weaknesses, do your best to replace them with reliable options.
Courses & Training in Disaster Management
If you want to take disaster management to the next level and truly master it, you can consider training or other educational programs. If you’re on a tight schedule, you can always take an online course. One of the most well-known disaster management courses is the Online Certificate Course on Disaster Management provided by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Those residing in the Netherlands can look into the Disaster Management Course at the Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation at the University of Twente.
Residents of the United Kingdom can benefit from the Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management Course at the University of Leicester. The Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs at Fordham University offers a Disaster Management Training Course. The Asian Disaster Preparedness Center has a thorough training schedule with frequent updates for those who live on this continent.
As you can see, the options for being informed and prepared are numerous. All you have to do is search for the programs and courses in your area and schedule your participation.
Disaster Management Jobs
The most sought-after job in this field of activity is Emergency Management Director. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary in 2014 for this position was $64,360 per year, with roughly $30.94 per hour. An Emergency Management Director requires +5 years of experience in a similar position and, at least, a Bachelor’s degree. As of 2014, there were 10,500 of these jobs in the United States, while the job outlook until 2024 is 6%. A few of the attributions are:
- Leading disaster response and recovery
- Maintaining communication with public authorities
- Keeping in touch with government agencies and nonprofit organizations
Careerealism also points out the following positions related to disaster management:
- Floodplain management specialist
- Fire inspector and investigator
- Technological hazards program specialist
For a more information on this topic, please consult the Emergency Management Job Market Data page provided by FEMA.
National and International Disaster Management Organizations
The good part about disaster management is that there are quite a few organizations (both national and international) that can lend a helping hand in case disaster strikes. Some of the most reputed international organizations are the:
- International Emergency Management Society
- International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
- International Recovery Platform
- International Association of Emergency Managers
- United Nations
- International Association for Preparedness and Response
In the United States, some of the most prominent national disaster management organizations are:
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- Citizen Corps
- Salvation Army
- Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (COE)
A few other useful lists for disaster management organizations are provided by the World Confederation for Physical Therapy, the Global Corps and the National Association of Independent Schools. You can click on any one of the links provided in this section of our guide for more information about these organizations.
As a final note, please do your best to prepare for any disaster. They usually come when you expect it the least, and you should have everything put in place to keep yourself and your family safe.