The Payoffs of Disaster Preparedness

8 Oct

Last week’s cluster of disasters – typhoons Ketsana, Parma and Ondoy and the 7.6 temblor that rocked Padang, Indonesia – reinforced the need for robust disaster preparedness and mitigation programs for the world’s densest locations. The focus of disaster preparedness has largely been on Asia.

74% of natural disaster deaths in 2006 occurred in Asia

While this region may be at the forefront of the issue, a boost to funding and bolstering of readiness – starting in Copenhagen – will have positive effects from Sydney to Mexico City.

As with urban resilience, most plans for disaster preparedness follow the model of the UN’s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and the 2005 Hyogo Framework: identify risks, design appropriate measures, and implement.

The Asian Development Bank, among other groups, has a sophisticated model (at right) that pairs a risk assessment specialist, a geoscientist and a GIS expert. Importantly, the UN, ADB and other groups in this field acknowledge the importance of continuing education and addressing ongoing environmental degradation.

vietnamrescue

A Child is Rescued from Flooding in Central Vietnam

Governments should recognize that the importance of emergency readiness lies in its cost-to-reward ratio. Convincing evidence shows that comparatively simple measures, affordable by developing nations, can have a huge payoff. The UNISDR notes that Gulf Coast residents who collectively spent $2.5 million on hurricane protection avoided nearly $500 million in damages. It further found that a comparatively inexpensive cyclone warning system in Bangladesh that utilizes volunteers with megaphones has reduced storm deaths by a hundredfold since 1970.

As Copenhagen approaches, countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines should go in prepared to argue for the proven effectiveness and financial viability of disaster preparedness analysis and implementation.

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