1.3.5 Emergency preparedness and response

In previous sections of this manual, the approach to disasters and disaster management were discussed in detail.

In this section the focus is on “environmental impact” – who needs to do what and when? Who is accountable? How are responsibilities delegated and to whom?

For the sake of easy reference:


  • Disaster is a progressive or sudden widespread or localised, natural or human caused occurrence which causes or threatens to cause death or injury, damage to property, infrastructure or environment, disruption of life of a community and its magnitude exceeds the ability of those affected to cope using only their own resources.
  • Disaster management is a continuous and integrated multi-sectoral and multidisciplinary process of planning and implementation of measures aimed at disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery and rehabilitation.
  • Risk is a probability of a hazard occurring or threatening to occur
  • Prevention means activities to provide outright avoidance of the adverse impact of hazards and means to minimise related environmental, technological and biological disasters.
  • Mitigation means structural and non-structural measures undertaken to limit the adverse impact of natural hazards, environmental degradation and technological hazards.
  • Preparedness means activities and measures taken in advance to ensure effective response to the impact of hazards, including the issuance of timely and effective early warnings and the temporary evacuation of people and property from threatened locations.
  • Response means measures taken during or immediately after an incident or a disaster in order to bring relief to affected communities or individuals
  • Recovery means efforts, including development aimed at creating a situation where-
    • Normality in conditions caused by a disaster is restored;
    • The effects of a disaster are mitigated; or
    • Circumstances are created that will reduce the risk of a similar disaster occurring
  • Capacity is a combination of all the strengths and resources available within a community, society or organisation that can reduce the level of risk, or the effects of a disaster.
  • Hazard is a potentially damaging physical event, phenomenon or human activity that may cause the loss of life or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation.
  • Disaster risk reduction is the conceptual framework of elements considered with the possibilities to minimize vulnerabilities and disaster risks throughout a society, to avoid (prevention) or to limit (mitigation and preparedness) the adverse impacts of hazards, within the broad context of sustainable development.
  • Environmental Impact Assessments are studies undertaken in order to assess the effect on a specified environment of the introduction of any new factor, which may upset the current ecological balance.
  • Environmental degradation is the reduction of the capacity of the environment to meet social and ecological objectives, and needs.
  • Geographic Information System is an analysis that combines relational databases with spatial interpretation and outputs often in form of maps. A more elaborate definition is that of computer programmes for capturing, storing, checking, integrating, analysing and displaying data about the earth that is spatially referenced.


In terms of the Disaster Management Act, 57 of 2002, each organ of state must have a disaster management plan and review and update it regularly. Planning for disasters leads to organisational preparedness and readiness in anticipation of an emergency or disasters.

This means that overall accountability lies with the local government who should work in close collaboration with local industries to identify, assess and prepare for potential emergencies and disasters.

Planning Framework for Disaster Management Plans for Municipal Departments and other municipal entities.

In terms of Section 52 of the Bill (Act 2002) each department/relevant service within the municipality is responsible for the preparation of a disaster plan as well as any other municipal entity. The plan must be submitted to the disaster management centre for inclusion in the municipal disaster plan as well as to the IDP Manager for inclusion in the municipal IDP (Integrated Development Plan).

Typical aspects addressed in any plan are the following:

  • Planning Framework/Introduction
  • The way in which the concept and principles of disaster management are to be applied in its functional area;
  • Its role and responsibilities in terms of the national, provincial, district or municipal disaster management frameworks;
  • Risk and Vulnerability Assessment leading to a needs analysis
  • Evaluation and description of Infrastructure / Organisation available e.g. Disaster Management Resources Database (Its capacity to fulfil its role and responsibilities)
  • Prevention through risk elimination e.g. Remove hazards / alternative processes (Particulars of its disaster management strategies)
  • Mitigation through risk reduction e.g. Engineering solutions / Legislative compliance / Safety culture
  • Preparedness planning for risks that cannot be eliminated (Risk Management) (Contingency strategies and emergency procedures in the event of disaster, including measures to finance these strategies)
    • Contingency Planning based on risks and vulnerabilities – e.g. Fire / Chemical spills / Engineering aspects
    • Emergency organisation, internal and external – Emergency management structure and allocation of responsibilities- Standard Operating Procedures
    • Response planning (role and responsibilities regarding emergency response) – Emergency response teams (groups with special responsibilities during emergencies)
    • Notification and Activation – Stand-by lists / Emergency numbers
    • Recovery plans Its role and responsibilities regarding post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation; – e.g. Business continuity / Disaster Recovery for IT systems – Can lead to reconstruction and redevelopment projects and programmes
  • Lines of communication (Protocols) and liaison Internal and external communication lines (Who informs who, who reports to whom). (Each department must co-ordinate and align the implementation of its plan with those of other organs of state and institutional role players; and regularly review and update its plan.)
  • Awareness and Education Before (Prevention, Mitigation and Preparedness) During (Notifications and advisories) After (Advisories, Public information and education) – Return to “Before”
  • Evaluation and Maintenance

Plans and job descriptions are static. Organisations are required to perform emergency drills on a regular basis in order to test the plans and structures and to continuously improve on them.

It the following section, roles and responsibilities are described. This is presented so you as a student can gain some insight into the complicated relationships which need to be established and managed.

As you work through this section, imagine yourself in a situation like the Tsunami in Indonesia and performing some of the duties in those frameworks.