A community based programme for disaster preparedness. Fritz Balkau
Local communities often lack the refl exes to take effective action when disaster strikes. If we could reach out to communities before disasters and inform them of what to do ‘just in case’, then the impacts could be dramatically reduced.
Following some major accidents in the 1980s, UNEP worked with an international consortium to develop a community process ‘Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at Local Level’, generally known as ‘APELL’. This identifi es and creates awareness of risks in a community, initiates measures for risk reduction, and fosters preparedness for the population at large.
APELL achieves its aims through community participation in emergency planning, via a structured dialogue between representatives of the source of the hazard (e.g. a land-owner), local authorities (the emergency services, e.g. fi re and /or police) and community leaders (who inform their constituencies). This dialogue is achieved through a ‘Co-ordinating Group’ which reviews the hazard situation and then proposes some measures to address the risks. The outcome is an emergency plan to which the community has provided substantial input and which is understood by ordinary citizens. Being prepared also leads naturally to action to prevent accidents—ie. risk reduction.
Community involvement in disaster planning has been used successfully in many places worldwide. France, India and the USA, for example, have regulations to ensure that communities are consulted about disaster risks, and school education in Argentina includes emergency preparedness. Some major companies now have a more open approach to local communities. But further promotion and implementation are needed in many countries and activity sectors.
Success factors for community participation include:
- A neutral facilitator to bring the various social partners together
- Transparency in hazard information
- Regular rehearsal of the contingeny plan, and community participation in rescue drills
- A governmental framework for community information and coordination of rescue services
Some of the situations where the process has been successfully employed are shown in the brochure APELL Worldwide. http://www.uneptie.org/pc/apell/publications/ apell-brochures.htm
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