The high density of cities and human settlements make them particularly vunerable to disasters and hazards. Not a week goes by without news of a disaster, natural or man-made, effecting huge losses on humans and the environment as a whole.
Disasters are becoming more complex, where a range of multiple factors in the social, cultural and natural spheres are increasing the risks associated with disasters.
The well known saying on health, of "Prevention is better than cure", can very much be applied to disaster management as well. It is increasingly becoming apparent that planning and preparedness, prevention, mitigation, response and relief, and recovery, to tackle disasters are critical in order to reduce the negative impacts and effects of such events.
The role of communities and individual families in taking appropriate action to mitigate the impacts of disasters has been emphasized, as local governments and emergency services realize that response to an emergency situation can be hampered by the disaster itself, and relief can best be delivered by those closest at hand. community-based disaster management is now becoming an integral part of any local or national disaster management planning,
Lessons in disaster management are emerging, albeit unfortunately after a disaster has struck:
- Build local community capacity
It is important to support and build local capacities for people to mitigate and prevent disasters, and cope with post-disaster impacts. Such capacities will also enable communities to cope better with those few disasters which are unavoidable.
- Create partnerships and alliances
There are a number of organizations and groups that are involved, or need to be involved, in disaster management. It is important to build participatory alliances and partnerships among these entities in order to map out responsibilities and activities.
- Share and exchange information
Knowledge embedded in different organizations and groups need to be recorded and shared among all of them, and used for different purposes. This is particularly true of universities and research institutions in the region where disasters occur. Regular learning opportunities are critical for communities to understand, experience and prepare themselves for a disaster.
- Develop learning and decision-making tools
existing knowledge and understanding of disasters, man-made and natural has to be used to develop learning and decision-making tools that can be used for disaster mitigation, including the creation of disaster maps, mitigation plans etc.