Inculcating a Culture of Preparedness for Disaster Management in First Responders, Communities and Schools
To inculcate a culture of preparedness among the community and first responders and facilitate the State Governments in reviewing adequacy and efficacy of the disaster management plans of the State, selected District/s and Major Accident Hazard (MAH) Units; and to identify gaps in resources, communications and systems, NDMA, in coordination with vulnerable States, took the initiative of conducting Mock Exercises on various types of natural and manmade disasters. This has also helped in inculcating a culture of preparedness and generated awareness. Institutionalizing the DM framework and conducting mock exercises has also been undertaken in schools.
Mock Exercises are conducted in this systematic step-by-step approach :
- Step 1. Holding a Coordination and Orientation Conference. During this Conference the aims and objective of the exercise are explained to the participants and their roles are delineated.The conduct of the Table Top and Mock Exercise is explained and dates for Table Top and Mock Exercise are finalised.
- Step 2.Conducting the Table Top Exercise. key stakeholders first present their status of preparedness. The worst case scenarios are thereafter simulated from preparedness to early warning to rescue and relief phases of Disaster Management (DM) through injects for various key stakeholders.The response of each stakeholder is elicited followed by detailed discussions. Independent observers are detailed and safety during the Mock Exercise is taken into consideration.
Step 3. Conducting a Mock Exercise. Observers are briefed on their roles. Thereafter, they take over and start painting situations in a bottom-up approach with specialized inputs from nodal agencies. The situations are conceptualized to derive certain lessons and find gaps, if any, in the resources/systems. Mobilization of resources takes place on orders of respective department heads to mitigate the situation. The concept of Incident Response System to manage the disaster is practised. At the end of the mock exercise, a detailed debriefing takes place to consolidate the good practices and lessons learnt.
Table Top Exercise. Preparations for the Table Top Exercise start by conceptualizing and preparing scenarios in a bottom up approach. This is done by surfing the internet, getting relevant information from the States/UTs, consulting concerned experts, gathering information from stakeholders and field visits after the Coordination Conference; and recounting experiences. Scenarios are also formulated to derive certain lessons and discover critical gaps in manpower, systems, communication and equipment. At the Table Top Exercise, initially the key stakeholders, such as DM Secretary, Collector, District Medical Officer, SSP, District Fire Officer, Chief Inspector of Factories and GMs of concerned industries for Chemical (Industrial) Disasters make presentations delineating the emergency response plan of their departments. Thereafter, Senior Specialist (Training and Capacity Development) conducts the Table Top Exercise by describing the scenarios and eliciting responses from concerned stake holders through injects. The Exercise is professionally conducted by enlarging its scope and span, according to what the situation demands.
Injects are given to cater to all stakeholders,the aim being to test the system under pressure. The reactions of stakeholders are deliberated in detail with the opinion of the DM Secretary/Collector/GM of Industrial units also being sought. Senior Specialist, NDMA facilitates the conduct, ensuring participation of every stakeholder. Thereafter, details of actions to be taken by the State/District/Industries between the Table Top and Mock Exercises are distributed. Observers are nominated by the State from outside the district, where the Mock Exercise is being conducted.Director of Factories of the State similarly nominates observers from other similar type of industries from within/outside the district.
Mock Exercise. Before the Mock Exercise, observers detailed by the State and CIF are briefed by the Senior Specialist, NDMA on their roles and responsibilities. They are given a format for observation. A form of self assessment is also given to all stakeholders. The exercise starts with simulations such as smoke coming from an affected area, shaking being depicted by the sound of sirens and earthquakes being felt at the community level. Reactions of the first responders from the community upward actually take place by moving resources (men, machines, material and equipment). Additional simulations are created by the observers.
The district machinery comes into motion after the community/representative reports to them as per SOP. In the case of a Chemical (Industrial) Disaster, firstly the ‘on site’ emergency is activated and responses of the workers at the operational level, supervisory level, in the control room, at the main gate, fire services and at the management level are reviewed. When the emergency gets enlarged to an ‘off site’ one, the Collector/DC, takes over as Incident Commander. The Incident Command Post is established and all concerned stake holders report there to finalise the course of action, on the directions of the Incident Commander. Media persons also take part in the Exercise. Establishment of temporary relief camp/s and nomination of hospitals (Government and Private) for receiving casualties is ordered by the Collector/DC/Incident Commander. The Evacuation of the affected population is also ordered by the Collector/DC. PHC/medical posts are established at critical places to give first aid and for ‘triage’, to prioritize evacuation of casualties.The Exercise is developed by moving various resources physically from outside the district, if required. After the Mock Exercise, a Media briefing is organized and media persons are allowed to field questions pertaining to the exercise.Thereafter, a Debriefing Session takes place where the Observers give their unbiased, free and frank observations and stakeholders offer their versions of various actions taken by them and their learning experience. The good practices, gaps and weaknesses are thus identified in a transparent manner.
Mock Exercises in Schools
The Mock Exercises in Schools are conducted in two steps:
Step 1:It is conducted as a presentation. The School DM Framework, making of School DM Committee, outline DM Plan, suggested School DM team composition and how the Mock Exercise would be conducted are all delineated. A short documentary on School Safety is also shown.The Principal, Vice Principal, selected teachers, prefects, monitors and the school head boy/girl attend the meeting that is usually held in a hall.
Step 2:The Mock Exercise is conducted on the designated disaster.Independent observers are detailed for each class from within the school/neighbouring schools. In the Mock Exercise, the first responders of the school, such as evacuation teams, SAR teams, first aid teams, etc. are checked for their actions, with the aim of empowering the schools, to face such disasters on their own before the specialist response from the district reaches them.A School Control Room is also activated. The Principal/Vice-Principal is usually the Incident Commander.A detailed debriefing takes place after the Mock Exercise. Thereafter, an Action Report is sent to the school for follow up action.
Mock Exercises, whether in the District, in an industry or in a school, have elicited tremendous response. The state of preparedness gets tested and gaps get identified in resources (manpower or material) communication and systems.