Managing disasters


I APPLAUD the Prime Minister for making a bold statement to revamp the emergency and disaster management system in this country.
Managing disasters and emergencies in the geographically isolated and remote districts in this country is a very challenging and arduous tasks.
The National Disaster Office over the years has been overlooked by successive governments and to date the National Disaster Centre is under-staffed and incapacitated but continues to do its best to respond to disasters despite the setbacks. I served the National Disaster Centre for 16 years as a young man and travelled to many remote districts, braving harsh weather with the heart to serve the people of this country.
I know that trying to effectively manage disasters and emergencies in this country is very challenging.
In PNG we have a complicated decentralised system of government and disaster management is a decentralised function, meaning that each province is supposed
to have a provincial disaster emergency office established and equipped with resources to become the first respondent to any disaster or emergency.
The NDC plays a pivotal role in planning, coordinating and providing disaster-risk management training to help provincial disaster officers respond and coordinate disaster response work effectively. If they require further assistance they should seek help from the Centre.
The Centre basically plays the advocacy and coordination role at the national level, working with line agencies and seeking assistance from the national Government and donors through disaster management cluster groupings to help the affected provincial government with their response activities.
The NDC has been very active over the years with training and advocacy on disaster risk management and some provinces are well structured and prepared to respond to disasters and alert communities as first respondents.
For example, provinces like Morobe, West New Britain, Milne Bay, Oro and East New Britain are well organised and resourced by their respective provincial government with vehicles, rescue boat, storage yard and funds to responds effectively to disasters and emergencies.
Emergency and disaster management is not about response and relief activities. It is a collective term encompassing all aspects of planning for and responding to emergencies and disasters, including both pre and post-event activities.
It refers to the management of both the risks and the consequences. It is more than just response and relief; it requires proactiveness.
In most occasions we react when a situation arises but it is always wiser to be more proactive and disaster risk management is about being proactive so we lessen the effect of the disaster by enabling our people to become more resilient. The idea to revamp the entire disaster management system and adopt the emergency concept employed by Queensland state government may sound good but will not blend well with our existing government structures and arrangements.
We cannot afford to revamp the entire system when we see that things are not working right.
It requires us to come out of our comforts zone and face the reality and see that disasters occur unpredictably and we have to be prepared at all times.
In every aspects of development planning we must consider disaster risk reduction and always prepare to respond effectively when disasters arise.
Our PNG disaster management system and structure are compatible with our provincial government system.
Therefore, the government should not consider revamping the entire disaster and emergency management system but strengthen the existing structure by reviewing and amending the outdated Disaster Management Act 1984 which is not consistent with contemporary disaster management practices.

Thomas K. Ninkama
Port Moresby