An earthquake is known to be a sudden release of energy into the earth’s crust that creates seismic waves. They manifest themselves at the earth’s surface by shaking and sometimes displacement of the ground and can occur naturally or can be caused by humans. It is one of the few disasters where assistance from the Red Cross may not be immediately available. The 2003 earthquake caught us by surprise and exposed our major weaknesses as we were not prepared for a disaster with such a magnitude and this prompted immediate action to prepare an earthquake preparedness policy to cater for such a disaster in the future to avoid more injuries and loss. The committee came up with a number of policies to curb tragedies that come with such disasters. In preparing the policy, the committee looked into the structural or physical vulnerability of the organization where it focused on the extent to which the organization’s building could be damaged in case of an earthquake and describe a strong physical structure that will not be damaged by an earthquake. It also discussed about the human vulnerability, this is relative lack of capacity of a person or community to expect, cope with, recover and resist from the impact of an earthquake. (As cited in EL-Engebawy, M. 2010)
The Budget for the Earthquake Preparedness in Our Organization
The committee developed strategies, agreements and procedures for mobilizing and acquiring funds, supplies and equipment in the event of an earthquake. There are about 500 people that are being served by our public administration organization. Most of the population is not well trained on disaster management nor do they have background information on earthquakes or disaster management. The geographical position of the organization as well is of importance since the organization is in a geographical area that might have severe effects in case of an earthquake. The regional weather patterns as well have been noted and in conjunction with American Red Cross we have a warning alert in case of any speculations about earthquakes. There will be a staff of 15 people that will be needed to operate the emergency preparedness department. There will be technicians, who will be tracking the earthquakes signals so as to get an early warning alert, trainers who will be in charge of making sure that all the staff members are up to date with the various measures to take in case of an earthquake and the other staff will ensure that all the emergency supplies are up to date and are easily accessible.
Having emergency supplies ready and stored in accessible places is essential if an earthquake strikes. The committee came up with the following emergency supplies to cater for any earthquake emergency. They include:
- A comprehensive medical kit
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
- Extra batteries
- Flash lights
- Dust masks
- Moist towelettes
- Garbage bags
- Plastic sheeting duct tape
- A can opener
- A solar cell phone charger and whistles
The budget was approximated to $ 200,000 to cater for the supplies which were approximated to take up $ 80,000, the training and education programme will take up $20,000 and setting up the disaster management department will take up $ 100,000.
The Earthquake Policy
The goal of the earthquake policy is to promote safety, minimize and assist in speedy recovery. Earthquake preparedness should aim at ensuring that facilities, employees as well as business activities are created to meet the conditions that are emergent. The objectives of this earthquake policy are;
- To minimize potential for injury or death of employees, visitors and customers
- To reduce the expenses caused by loss and liability
- To plan for resumption in business following an earthquake
- To put tested equipment and procedures in place
- Evaluation and reduction of hazards
The committee came up with a comprehensive earthquake preparedness strategy that includes the following elements.
Earthquake, Risk and Vulnerability Assessments
The committee based their planning and implementation of these plans of managing disasters on an assessment and prioritization of the earthquake impacts and the risks that the employees will face as well as their capability to cope with and withstand these effects. The committee made an assessment of the situation and identified various factors;
Identified the characteristics, frequency and potential severity of an earthquake the organization faces. They also identified the physical and human vulnerability in case of an earthquake and anticipated how they might be affected. They also assessed the ability of the physical structure and the Humans to withstand the impact of the earthquake.
The committee established that earthquake preparedness and response depended on information, hence they decided that the disaster management department should have personnel to predetermine what in formation is needed, how it will be collected, analysed and integrated into timely decision making information. The information should be gathered before any earthquake occurs to get any warning information, during an earthquake so as to enable assessment and after to enable the organization to recover from the earthquake.
An effective disaster response requires coordination efforts among the various departments of the organization as well as other disaster management companies that include the American Red Cross. The committee was to prepare institutional policies as well as joint preparedness planning with the Red Cross Society to serve as a basis for coordination.
- Resource Mobilization
The committee developed strategies, agreements and procedures for mobilizing and acquiring emergency funds, supplies and equipments in the event of an earthquake. The committee came up with a budget to cater for the supplies and equipment and also suggested that an emergency Kitty be put up to avoid use of company money that was not intended for that purpose.
- Response Mechanisms and Strategies
The committee discovered that there were many preparedness mechanisms and strategies that would increase the effectiveness of emergency response in case of an earthquake. They include; formation of evacuation procedures as well as how to educate the employees and the people involved with the organization about the procedures formulated. The formation of an assessment team was also in order and plans to train them to deliver well in case of an earthquake. The committee also came up with measures to activate special installations, such as emergency kits and also emergency phone numbers to call.
- Public and Employee Education, Training and Rehearsals
The committee suggested training of the employees, public education campaigns to cater for the customers and visitors who may be in the organization in case of an earthquake as well as the general public surrounding the organization and rehearsals of emergency response scenarios. Employees and the public at large will be taught about the building and safety procedures as this will ensure safety. The employees will be taught to identify all the evacuation routes, medical kits and fire extinguishers in the building, how to use the items will also be part of the training and demonstrations will be given when possible. The employees will also be shown the organization’s safe places that included furniture under sturdy and along walls which are far from windows or any falling objects. The public as a whole will also be given tips on how to protect themselves. They will be taught and practice the drop, cover and hold technique. A demonstration will also be in order, in the technique, an individual drops to the ground and if possible under sturdy furniture, cover one’s head and neck and finally hold to anything that seems sturdy. The committee also thought it wise to hold earthquake drills to reinforce the emergency procedures. These will make the people in all senses to be well informed, alert and self-reliant.
- Preparedness Plans
When there is an emergency, quick and effective action is required. The preparedness plans will help in dealing with an emergency without delay even though the details of a disaster is unknown. The plans include; planning and making known to the respective employees the evacuation routes, identifying and putting in place emergency water sources, training response personnel and training people on what to do in case of an earthquake. It also involves determining roles and responsibilities for the members of the organization and also engaging in activities that ensure response systems function successfully in the event of an earthquake. All of these measures will improve the quality, effectiveness and timing of the response in the organization to earthquake disaster.
- Early Warning Signs Systems
The committee saw it best to have personnel in the disaster management department who will detect early warning signs using appropriate systems. The systems will help to detect, forecast and if necessary, issue alerts related to the earthquake signs being monitored. Early warning information will be needed to be communicated in such a way that it will facilitate decision making and timely action of response in organizations.
- Elimination of Potential Hazards
The committee established that by eliminating potential hazards, the organization will be a safer place in case of an earthquake. Getting rid of falling items that are likely to be hazardous during an earthquake is one way of making the organization a better place. These can be done by securing all cabinets, cabinet doors, avoiding storage of heavy items that could fall over very high. Avoid placing items near the evacuation routes and arranging the workplace so that the falling items do not trap someone. (Brown, K.)
- An Emergency Response and Recovery Plan
The committee decided that there will be an emergency response team that will assess the situation and check for any hazards. The team will also check for any injuries and render first aid if needed. The committee also prepared a plan to ensure that the organization has in place a priority list that is meant for the repair and replacement of any facilities and equipments that may be damaged. There should also be an insurance policy that includes earthquake as a peril. The organization should ensure that the insurance company will compensate in case of a loss in physical property as well as financial loss of the organization in the event of an earthquake. (IFRC, 2000)
The committee was committed to maintaining the earthquake policy budget by all means. However there are a few challenges in implementing the earthquake policy. The challenges include;
- Improper Implementation of the Policy
This may not reduce the risks and impacts of an earthquake as postulated and this may lead to losses and injuries in an organization in case of an emergency
- Cost Constraints
The budget for implementing the earthquake policy is rather high and the organization might have challenges in coming up with that amount of money. Paying for the insurance premiums as well is quite hectic and may incur a lot of costs in the organization.
- Lack of Proper Insurance Policies
Some insurance companies may refuse to offer proper coverage in the event of an earthquake. The belief of insurance companies being hard to deal with and may take a long time in compensating the organization may also have an effect on the implementation of the earthquake policy.
- Lack of Interest from the Employees and Difficulties in Mastering the Procedures
The employees may not see any risk facing them and therefore may not take the earthquake policy and preparedness procedures seriously. Other employees may find it difficult to master all the earthquake preparedness procedures well, which will require more time of training and this will more resources wasted on training.
Training of the Employees
The organization is expected to carry out the training of the employees through the formal education programs as well as the informal education schedules. The employees are to be equipped with the relevant knowledge on handling of the necessary earthquake related equipments and the use of the supplies provided by the organization in times of emergency occurrence. The main objective of training programs in relation to the employees of an organization is to ensure that the case of earthquake occurrence the employees are capable to carry out actions that not only secure the buildings but also themselves and the protection of valuable data and records of the organization and the immediate environment.
The organization carries out the informal educative programs through the organization of seminars as well as workshops. The formal educative programs focus intensely on the equipping of the employees with relevant expertise and proper documentation on completion of the programs. The employers are educated on the various techniques, tools as well as strategies that come in handy in the development of emergency based response plan that are designed to meet the specific organization’s needs. The formal training programs put emphasis on swift, calm as well as reasonable actions in case of earthquake occurrence.
The informal training programs that the organization implements takes place in terms of social enlightenment programs and social empowerment and educative events that are organized in a bid to enhance the information sharing process. The informal education programs are realized through collective discussions as well as sharing of personal experience in collective reasoning process.
The organization implements the use of social as well as recreational events to enhance the learning process in a bid to train the employees on the actual earthquake management and earthquake handling skills. The informal training process are in most cases considered more effective, however, the formal training programs are more thorough and result-oriented. Therefore, the use of formal and informal training programs is the most effective approach in employees training programs.
Training and Educating the Public on Earthquake Preparedness
The committee came to the realization that other than the employees, the public was also in need of advanced training on how to prepare for an earthquake disaster. The approach of addressing the public will take place in two phases. The first phase will include the creation of public awareness on matters to do with the occurrence of earthquakes. The second phase will dealing with the theoretical as well as the practical models of dealing with earthquake preparedness.
In the first phase, the public will be notified about the mechanisms of an earthquake. This will include a demonstration of the dangers of an earthquake to the people as well as their property. The use of both verbal as well as visual means of conveying the real effect=s of an earthquake will be employed. In the visual conveyance, the committee designed the method of using pictures as well as movies of previous earthquakes to sensitize the public.
The public is to be notified of the signs of an earthquake occurrence. The practical part of training is to include different factors of preparedness. One of these is the preparation to save the human life. The second factor will be a preparation to save property. The safety factors will be explained to the public in depth. The committee found it necessary to use an actual disaster management kit to try and influence the public to purchase one such kit. The committee will purchase all the requirements for a standard kit and use this to educate the public. The training for the actions to take will involve three crucial stages of the earthquake. The stages that the training will focus on are the periods before during and after the earthquake, and the necessary precautions to take.
Earthquakes come without warning and therefore it is very important to be prepared to avoid losses and injuries. The earthquake policy prepared by the committee was a good strategy to avoid the repeat of the 2003 earthquake that saw the organization lose their employees in the earthquake and some injured as well as loss of physical property.
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