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Human Response to natural hazards

Response is the action taken by individuals, countries and regions before and after hazardous events.

Individual Response
These are actions individual take in response to hazards.
There are approaches to reducing the impact of hazards:
1. Awareness of the hazard: this includes volcano monitoring, earthquake prediction, hurricane forecasting.
2. Control of the human activity threatened by it: this includes land usr zoing, construction regulations, education a
nd preparedness.

National Responses
All caribbean countries are aware of the need to make preparations to minimise the impacts of hazards. An Offoce
of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management has been established in Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Barb
ados and Trinidad and Tobago.

Case study: Jamaica's Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emrgency Management

Established in 1973, this pernanent disaster management organization is committed to preventing or reducing the
impacts of natural hazards in Jamaica. Its professionally trained staff work with local communities and other natio
nal and international organizations to reduce people's vulnerability to natural hazards. Achievements so far includ
*Establishment of a National Emergency Operations Centre to take control when the country is affected by an evet.
*Development of disaster management plans and establishment of oarish disaster committees to coordinate activit
ies at the local level.
*Relocation of persons at high risk from natural hazards to disaster shelters in each community
*Coordination of post disaster assessments and clean up activities
*Establishment of community flood warnings systems
*Development websites and printed material to provide information to people so that they can be better prepared

Regional responses
In 1981, following severe floods and hurricane damage, the Pan Caribbean Disaster Prevention and Preparation P
roject was established. In 1991, this became the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA). There a
re currently 16 participating States within the Caribbean. CDERA's motto is 'Managing Disasters with Preparedne
ss'. The institution was reorganised in 2009 and was given a new name. It is now called CDEMA, the Caribbean Di
saster Emergency Management Agency.

The following are CDEMA's main functions:

*Make an immediate and coordinated response to any disastrosevent in the participating states. This includes man
-made disasters such as oil spills and aircraft accidents as well as
natural hazards
*Reduce vulnerability of individuals to natural disasters by providinginformation and guidance.
*Collate accurate information about disasters in the region.
*Provide training for disaster management personnel.
*Maintain a dynamic website to provide up-to-date information, for example weather forecasts.

CDEMA responds to events that are beyond the capacity of the affected country or countries, e.g. Hurricane Ivan in
Grenada 2004.

Managing natural hazards: floods, landslides, volcanoes and earthquakes

It is possible to identify two distinct approaches to managing natural hazards:

1. Physical approaches-these involve attempts to prevent hazards occurring or building structures to preve
nt or reduce their impacts.
2. Behavioural approaches-these involve adapting people's behaviour so that they become less vulnerable. Exa
mples include warnings and forecasts, evacuation, education and awareness, land-use zoning, hazard mapp
ing and insurance.

Physical approaches in reducing the flood hazard

Flooding, a common hazard in the Caribbean, is usually caused by torrential rainfall associated with tropical storm
s or hurricanes. A number of physical techniques have been used to contain floodwaters and reduce their impacts
on people and property.
 Check dams - these are small dams, usually formed of rock or timber, that are built across small chann
els and gullies to slow down the flow of water.
 Gabions - wire cages filled with rocks can help to support and strengthen river banks
 Levees - raised river embankments that can increase the capacity of a river channel, making flooding of a
djacent land less likely.
 Paved drains - wide and deep paved drains are common sights alongside roads in towns. While these
may be dry for most of the year, they are capable of containing large volumes of water during heavy rai
Hazard Mapping
Hazard maps can be used to provide information that can influence people’s behaviour and reduce their vulnerabili
ty to natural hazards such as flooding, landslides and volcanic eruption. Based historic events and scientific survey
s, zones different levels of risk can be identified. Governments may decide to restrict developments in high ris
k zones or devised detailed evacuation plans. By identifying the areas at greatest risk, actions can be taken to redu
ce the likely impacts of an event.

For example, on Montserrat, the southern half of the island is an exclusion zone, where no admittance is permitte
d apart from for scientific monitoring.

How can the hurricane hazard be reduced?

 Land-use zoning: hurricane damage tends to be focused on low-lying coastal areas and alongside rivers w
here flooding is a major hazard. National governments can devise land-use plans to keep vulnerable gro
ups and expensive land uses away from these areas.
 Building regulations: new building can be constructed with strong walls, doors, window and roofs to withst
and strong winds
 Communications: telephone and electricity lines can be kept well away from coastal areas or installed unde
 Levees and embankments: these can be constructed to reduce the flood risk and sea walls can be built to pr
otect against storm surges
 Tree: planted along coastal areas, trees (eg mangroves) help to break up power of waves and reduce the im
pact of a storm surge
 Hurricane tracking, prediction and evacuation: this is often the most effective approach

The Disaster Management Cycle

Disaster Impact

Action to increase capacity
of a community for prompt Response
and effective response The immediate emergency

Risk Reduction
Forward-looking action is
taken to prevent disasters or
mitigate the effects of
hazards in the future eg Recovery
construction standards Action to assist
communities/nation to return
to pre-disaster level of

Action to redistribute economic
losses (there should be a long-term
link between disaster related
activities and national activities)

Governments and other organizations should plan ahead so that hazards can be well managed. After a hazard plan
ning and management can ensure that the next event causes less damage to life and property.