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The World is Changing
Disasters and their impact on man world-wide are increasing at an alarming rate and the Caribbean is no exception. In the last decade, the Caribbean has experienced several disaster events ranging from natural disasters like floods, hurricanes and earthquakes, to man-induced events like industrials and transportation accidents and fire. The reasons for man's increasing vulnerability are:

  1. Rapid population growth where disaster events can claim more lives.
  2. Environmental degradation due to poor land use, deforestation, over cultivation, and over grazing. These all render the land more prone to floods and landslides.
  3. .Increasing industrialisation without the necessary safety measures.
  4. Absence of mitigation or preventative measures in development planning.

Managing Disasters
This section gives an overview of the field of Disaster Management and provides working definitions for common terminology. It also discusses the phases of the Disaster Management cycle.

Disaster Management
A collective term encompassing all aspects of planning for and responding to disasters, including both pre- and post-disaster activities. It may refer to the management of both the risks and consequences of disaster.

A disaster is a serious disruption of the functioning of a society, causing widespread human, material, or environmental losses which exceed the ability of the affected society to cope using only its own resources. Disasters are often classified according to their speed of onset (sudden or slow) or according to their cause (natural or man-made).

Class Natural Man-Made
Rapid Onset Earthquakes Fires
  Floods Technological Accidents
  Hurricanes Industrial Accidents
  Volcanic Eruptions Transportation Accidents
Slow Onset Droughts Famines
  Floods Civil Strife

Why, when and where do disasters occur?
Disasters can be meteorological, topographical, or accidental in origin.

Meterolological Drought, floods and cyclones
Topographical Earthquakes, and Volcanic Eruptions
Technological Chemical Accidents, Industrial accidents and Oil Spills

Disasters are not easily predicted. However, historical data, geographic location and meteorological and seismographic indicators can pinpoint highly vulnerable areas. Hazards Mapping and Disaster Preparedness can assist in better equipping disaster-prone communities.

Definitions you Should Know
A hazard is a rare or extreme event in the natural or man-made environment that adversely affects human life, property or activity to the extent of causing a disaster.

Risk is expected loss (lives lost, persons injured, damage to property and disruption of economic activity) due to a particular hazard.Risk is the product of hazard and vulnerability.

The vulnerability of a building, a population, or an entire country is measured by how susceptible it is to harm or loss in the face of a hazard.

The restoration of basic services and the beginning of the repair of physical, social and economic damage.

Complex Disasters
Complex disasters exist where adverse political conditions compound a disaster or emergency situation. Such situations are complicated because the breakdown of the political structure makes assistance or intervention difficult. This sort of emergency is usually associated with the problems of displaced people during times of civil conflict or with people in need caught in areas of conflict.

Disaster Management Cycle
A disaster can be viewed as a series of phases on a time continuum. The Disaster Management Cycle is made up of the following phases:

Alert, Preparedness, Response, Prevention, Mitigation and Rehabilitation.

The notice issued indicating that specific precautions should be taken because of the probability or proximity of a dangerous event.

Measures taken to reduce to the minimum level possible, the loss of human lives and other damage, through the organizing of prompt and efficient actions to response and rehabilitation.

Effective preparedness enables communities and institutions to provide a quick, organised response to disasters. disaster preparedness is designed to minimize loss of life and damage, to organise the temporary removal of people and property from a threatened location, and to facilitate timely and effective rescue, relief and rehabilitation. Public information and ongoing training activities are necessary to create a "culture" of Disaster Preparedness.

Actions carried out in a disaster situation with the objective to save lives, alleviate suffering and reduce economic losses. Actions include search and rescue and the provision of shelter, water, food and medical care.

Measures taken to reduce the loss of life, livelihood and property by disasters, either by reducing vulnerability or by modifying the hazard, where possible. Examples are:- The adoption and enforcement of building codes, The utilisation of design and construction techniques that will make critical facilities adequately resistant to damage by hazards.

Measures taken for the purpose of preventing natural or man-made phenomena from causing or giving rise to disasters or other emergency situations. Example:- Prevention measures include passing legislation that affects urban planning and citing of public works and key facilities and the institutionalisation of policies leading toward disaster reduction.

The medium and long term repair of physical, social and economic damage, and the return of affected structures to a condition equal to or better than before the disaster. Example:- Actions would include construction of permanent housing, full restoration of all services, and complete resumption to the pre-disaster state

Causes of Disasters
  • Changes in cultural practices
  • Environmental Degradation
  • Lack of public awareness and information
  • Poverty
  • Population Growth
  • Rapid Urbanization
  • War and civil strife

Any situation that has the potential for doing damage to life, property and/or the environment.

Natural Disasters Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, land, rock slides, droughts, volcanic eruptions, forest fires, tsunami and storm surge.
Technological (man induced) Hazardous material, transportation accidents explosions, epidemics, fires, collapsed buildings.
Internal Disturbances Riots, demonstrations, prison breaks, strikes, terrorism.
Energy and Material Shortages Strikes, labour problems, price wars, embargoes.
Armed Conflict Nuclear or conventional, chemical or biological warfare.