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Disaster Management: Understanding the basics


Basics of Disaster Management

Disaster Management is one of those topics in the UPSC syllabus that can be done without putting much efforts. These can be called as a few of the low hanging fruits in UPSC and the candidates must complete this section and attempt questions from this section as comprehensively as possible. It will be a three-article series where in this article, we will discuss the basics of disaster management and in the next articles, we will discuss international efforts in disaster management, and disaster management in India.


Before discussing disaster management, let us first know

What is a disaster?

  • According to the UN, Disaster is a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society at any scale due to hazardous events interacting with conditions of exposure, vulnerability and capacity, leading to one or more of the following: human, material, economic and environmental losses and impacts.
  • Alternatively, disasters can be referred as serious disruptions to the functioning of a community that exceed its capacity to cope using its own resources.


Types of disasters

Disasters can be classified into the following categories:

  • Natural disasters: These can further be divided into the following sub-categories:
    • Climatic events: cyclones and storms (associated sea erosion), floods and drought, and
    • Geological events: earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides and avalanches.
  • Disasters caused by environmental degradation and disturbance of the ecological balance;
  • Disasters caused by accidents: These, again, can be further classified into: industrial and nuclear mishaps and fire related accidents;
  • Disasters caused by biological activities: public health crises, epidemics etc;
  • Disasters caused by hostile elements: war, terrorism, extremism, insurgency etc;
  • Disasters caused by disruption/failure of major infrastructure facilities including communication systems, large-scale strikes etc; and
  • Disasters caused by large crowds getting out of control.


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What is disaster management?

  • Disaster Management can be called as a set of strategic planning and procedure that is administered and employed to protect critical infrastructures from severe damages when natural or human made calamities and catastrophic even occur.


Phases of disaster management

Pre-crisis: Preparedness

  • This is the period when the potential hazard risk and vulnerabilities can be assessed and steps taken for preventing and mitigating the crisis and preparing for actual occurrence.
  • These include long-term prevention measures like
    • construction of embankments to prevent flooding,
    • creating or augmenting irrigation facilities and adopting water shed management as drought proofing measures,
    • increasing plantations for reducing the occurrence of landslides,
  • Crisis can also be mitigated through various short-term measures, for example,
    • better enforcement of building codes and zoning regulations,
    • proper maintenance of drainage systems,
    • better awareness and public education to reduce the risks of hazards etc.


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During Crisis: Emergency Response

  • When a crisis actually occurs, those affected by it require a speedy response to alleviate and minimize suffering and losses.
  • The primary activities could include: evacuation, search and rescue, followed by provision of basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, medicines and other necessities essential to bring the life of the affected community back to a degree of normalcy.



  • Recovery: This is the stage when efforts are made to achieve early recovery and reduce vulnerability and future risks. It comprises activities that encompass two overlapping phases of rehabilitation and reconstruction.
  • Rehabilitation: Includes provision of temporary public utilities and housing as interim measures to assist long term recovery.
  • Reconstruction: Includes construction of damaged infrastructure and habitats and enabling sustainable livelihoods.


Disaster Risk Reduction Framework

The disaster risk reduction framework is composed of the following fields of action.

  • Policy towards Risk Management
  • Assessment of Risk including Hazard Analysis and Vulnerability
  • Risk Awareness and Preparation of Plans for Risk Mitigation
  • Implementation of the Plan
  • Early Warning Systems
  • Use of Knowledge


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