A Syncretic Approach Towards a Meta-Integrative Platform for Effective Disaster Management

A Syncretic Approach Towards a Meta-Integrative Platform for Effective Disaster Management

S. Venkatesan (College of Engineering and Science, Victoria University, Victoria, Australia), A. Rajabifard (Department of Infrastructure, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia), N.T.K. Lam (Department of Infrastructure, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia), E.F. Gad (Faculty of Engineering and Industrial Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia), H.M. Goldsworthy (Department of Infrastructure, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia) and G. Griffin (Department of Infrastructure, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/ijgee.2014010104


Disaster management is widely recognised as a complex task. Despite well-established techniques, each disaster continues to frustrate the government and the community. A number of issues and challenges have been reported in the literature following a disaster. These include: a lack of awareness, authoritative support and direction, preparation and planning; ineffective response, ineffective communications and miscommunications, inadequate recovery and policy vacuum besides many other factors. Developing effective disaster management strategies to combat the known issues should also consider emerging drivers of change such as globalisation, climate change, and technological development, social construct of communities, global finance and education. In addition, fundamental hazard modelling techniques and real time modelling of a disaster cannot be ignored as they are central to the accuracy of information required during pre and post disasters. In recent times spatial information has been considered as the fourth element of decision making. Further the need to develop adaptive capacities and empower communities is also well stated. Despite the recognition of such complex issues, requirements, and increased knowledge, the pace of development seems to be inadequate. This is mainly due to the lack of an approach that can integrate the myriad of issues with the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders such as governments, practitioners and the community. Recognising the need to develop an informed decision making process, this paper reviews the challenges and issues based on current practice. A review of relevant new knowledge that can improve current practice is also undertaken. Based on these reviews it is identified that a spatially enabled platform can be developed to overcome the aforementioned issues related to disaster management. A preliminary roadmap in which the `stakeholder position' is considered as the vital point of integration is presented. It is anticipated that the roadmap will provide governments with the direction needed for future planning, policy development, implementation and control. Future developmental needs of the platform are also presented.
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2. Background

Figure 1 presents the increase in number of disasters worldwide since the 1900s (Source: EM-DAT http://www.emdat.be/country-profile). The increasing trend since the 1900s and the more significant upward trend around the 1980s are apparent. Some critics argue that since the 1980s disaster information has been well documented leading to the upward trend. Despite this criticism, many events require no reference to the readers: e.g. the devastating tsunami in 2004 that damaged most Asian coastlines, the Fukushima disaster in 2011, bushfires in Australia, hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Apart from the financial damage and loss of lives, disasters leave a huge emotional imprint on the survivors. Although most governments have developed new frameworks, action plans and have formed apex bodies of national disaster or emergency management, most of the challenges and issues remain unresolved.

Figure 1.

Trends in natural disasters between 1900 and 2011

3. Challenges And Issues In Disaster Management

One of the foremost issues to be highlighted is the scale of disasters in relation to management aspects. Mener (2007) mentions that during the 9/11 attacks, the emergency responses were effective even though there was significant confusion and chaos. On the contrary events such as hurricane Katrina and Andrew left the system paralysed and ineffective. A much higher scale of devastation can be attributed to the 2004 tsunami and the Fukushima event. A particular coastal town in the Southern part of India was almost wiped out due to the 2004 tsunami. Local authorities had to seek help from state and central government services. The situation was so unbearable and overwhelming that even some well-trained relief workers and some volunteers needed counselling, as many have not experienced such situations in the past (ST060088, 2013). Nine years on the town has recovered and normal life seems to be in order. However plans or preparations to mitigate against a similar disaster (if it eventuates) are not widely publicised. Similar situations exist in the neighbouring country of Sri Lanka as well. The enduring image of a house swept to sea (flashed widely in the media) post the Fukushima disaster clearly captured our inability to cope with mega scale disasters. It is not our intention to criticise a country or a government but the scale of a disaster can sometimes be so large and overwhelming that even technologically and operationally advanced countries have problems coping with the challenges.

Apart from the scale of disasters which is beyond our control in many instances, we analyse the challenges in disaster management from the perspectives of three key stakeholders: governments (includes all levels such as central, state and local), practitioners (includes academics, researchers and responders) and the community (includes individuals, families, social groups and business groups). Although there is an overlap between the three key stakeholder positions or multiple representations; we define the stakeholder position in relation to the role, responsibility and expectation of an individual.

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