Many times I wonder about the foundation of our emergency response in our beloved country – Nigeria.
From the response of security agencies from herdsmen attacks to other emergencies in Lagos and other parts of Nigeria you can feel that it is not only about responding.
This same question does apply to most countries in Africa. We travel to developed countries, we witnessed how emergencies are coordinated, we wonder, we decide to replicate what we have seen such as the emergency vehicles, colorful dresses worn by the responders but we forgot to copy the underlining off camera and unseen competencies, reasons behind the efficiency and effectiveness of emergency response and disaster management.
What are we missing?
Resilience within the system
We failed to notice that all agencies of government have plans against disasters or government inability to perform called Continuity of Operations, COOP. It helps to ensure trouble-free operations through unanticipated events. Other forms of Continuity of Operations planning involve planning for individual business processes and applications to continue directly after a crisis. Planners can create systems for moving data and operations off site during crisis.
Can we safely say that our various agencies have plans, a form of preparedness for events such as widespread flood, fire to headquarters of agencies if impacted from incidents or disasters?
Involvement of the Private Sector
In developed countries the private sector are active participants in all aspect of business continuity, from mitigation, response, restore and return business back to normal. In our environment, preparation is largely at the mercy of the public sector that is also grappling with governmeent bureaucracy. Major companies in all sectors of the economy should be compelled to have safety and business continuity plans because most incidents that require the assistance of the agencies do emanate from the private sectors.
Appropriate Response Equipment
Purchases of response equipment should not be based on feeling good or recommendations from friends but should be from information collated, analyzed showing the resources requirement for response purpose. What is the information gathered saying? Ability to develop local home grown equipment to help in our environment should also be encouraged.
As part of disaster management, creating awareness, warning and passing out information prior to disaster is very critical. Disaster related news or awareness should be constant, repetitive and educative – giving out tips to avoid injuries or death, helping in reducing shocks and saving lives.
Practice – Exercises and Testing
Overseas, exercises and testing are constantly being held to develop state of readiness to mitigate and respond to emergencies based on potential threats unearthed during the information gathering stage.
You exercise the people based on policy and procedures while you test the equipment to ensure responders are familiar with the tools and can make effective use of it during emergencies.
Exercises and testing of equipment are important factors that help greatly to save lives timely.
It is a bad workman that complains about his tools.
Our own Peculiar problem
• Commitment – Yes, some state governments have shown commitment to disaster management. As a whole what is our concern when lives are lost? As I write, there is news filtering in about the death of 5 people from boat mishap in Lagos. Will this incident cause review of future water transportation? Will there be any review of the incident to avert future occurrence. A country that is losing lives in thousands within months CANNOT be said to be a nation where human lives matter.
Our commitment should be practical, with evidence of love for human lives.
• Information gathering – Policy, procedures and decisions should be based on our information gathering outcome from Risk Assessment and Business Impact Analysis. This process requires painstaking procedures which many do not want to undergo. How can we plan to avert and mitigate incidents if we do not know what we are up against and the probabilities of such threat occurring and the weakness we have within an environment?
• Decision Making – Decision making for issues relating to disaster management should emanate from the information gathering efforts. What is the data or information telling us?
Decisions should not be on the basis of the wish of our friends and marketers of response equipment.
• Exercising and Testing on regular basis shows the commitment of top leaders to the ideals of disaster management. It shows that the process has been accepted and management is providing the required funding as appropriate.
Many states do not engage in any form of exercising or testing, therefore response to incidents or disasters will always be below average.
• Training and retraining of staff in both intellectual act of planning and management of disaster at strategic level is very important coupled with the tactical team who will work on actual rescue assignments.
We should not only copy what we see when we travel abroad, but we need to know the underlining principles which is the knowledge of BUSINESS CONTINUITY. Those assigned to manage disaster in our various State Emergency Management Authority (SEMA) and National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) without this concise knowledge of Business Continuity, which should guide decision making process; allowing concerned officials to undertake assignments in a methodological way, will always work haphazardly, using unplanned approach that we are all witnessing across the nation.
Philip Keshiro, MD/CEO Disaster Recovery Technologies Limited & DRI Nigeria.
GSM 08054561141. keshirophilip@dri-nigeria; firstname.lastname@example.org