The Indian subcontinent is among the world’s most disaster-prone areas. As per the current seismic zone map of the country, over 59 per cent of India’s land area is under threat of moderate to severe seismic hazard. Out of the total geographical area of 329 million hectares (mha), more than 40 mha is flood prone. On an average every year, 75 lakh hectares of land is affected, 1600 lives are lost and the damage caused to crops, houses and public utilities is Rs. 1805 crores due to floods.
Disasters are, therefore, not strangers to humankind. Droughts, flood, famines, diseases, earthquakes, tsunami- humankind has seen them all. And, yet survived, that is the miracle of human existence- the ability to adapt to circumstances and overcome hardships. This has been well proved during the recent floods in Chennai when people reached out to each other in a tremendous effort of humanity. However, disaster management cannot be left to human effort alone. Some element of preparedness and planning is necessary to handle disasters both on the part of governments and the community because when disaster actually strikes, the time to prepare would have passed. Care shouldn’t start in the emergency room. Organizations like the National Institute of Disaster Management Authority are mandated to prepare pre-disaster management plans.
Creating awareness among the public is equally important as sometimes a little knowledge can go a long way in mitigating the bad consequences of a disaster. People, especially in disaster prone areas, can be trained to anticipate disaster and to deal with it in case the disaster actually happens. Effective communication is the keyword. The recent floods in Odisha are an ideal example of how a well-thought out communication strategy can assist in disaster management.