Transportation a big challenge in mass evacuation: Expert

A Staff Reporter
Filed on June 8, 2007

DUBAI — Places like Dubai should be equipped with proper transportation facilities to evacuate people in emergency situations, an international emergency expert has suggested.

At a seminar on “Emergency Response - Preparedness and Effectiveness,” Kiley J. Taylor of Zephyr Environmental Corporation, USA, said both UAE and Oman had responded rightfully by evacuating the people from areas threatened by Cyclone Gonu.

The seminar was organised by the Environmental Protection and Safety Section in the Environment Department of Dubai Municipality.

Taylor said transportation is a major challenge when mass evacuation becomes the need of the hour and preparedness to meet disasters involves physical and mental readiness as well as awareness and acceptance of the gravity of the situation.

“To manage emergencies, the authorities should work for mitigation by way of planning facilities that could later minimise recovery efforts, in addition to have preparedness, and proper response and recovery systems,” he said.

Highlighting the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, Taylor said the major players in emergency should be ready with the right resources for the incident in hand and, at the same time, be flexible enough for meeting any unexpected turn of events.

He advocated elimination of bureaucratic wrangles to avoid delays in action. “We tend to shift our efforts to prepare for the incidents that had just occurred, not the one that is to come,” he said.

Referring to contingency plan outline, he suggested that the scope and purpose should be specified much in advance and the authorities should think in terms of establishing separate sections for specific incidents such as discovery, initial response, sustained action, termination and follow up.

“The primary mission of the evacuation plan should be life-saving. At the same time, avoidance of utility disruption should be taken into consideration,” Taylor said.

He said that instead of going through the routine command systems followed by the existing authorities, it is better to resort to the time-tested Incident Command System, which can be utilised for specific incidents.

Taylor added that the basic emergency response objectives include preserving human life and health, preventing the incidents from worsening, minimising the effects on the environment, minimising property damage, and promoting prompt recovery.

He said the unity of commands between different operating authorities is pivotal in the success of emergency operations, especially in big catastrophes.

“On many occasions, the question of who has the authority and command over the operation had become a tricky problem resulting in total failure and further disasters. It was evident in the rescue operations conducted during the 9/11 incident,” Taylor pointed out.

He said that integrated communication is also very important in such situations. “There should be uniform commands and proper coordination between different players,” he said.

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