DISASTER MANAGEMENT

 

September 11 attacks or the spread of Anthrax or the rising fear of a Nuclear Disaster, the emergence of the term Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Disaster (CBRN) is becoming a challenging issue infront of Governments of the World. Central to such preparation and response planning are the roles of districts, states, local -self Governments, National Government Departments, which includes activities ranging from global intelligence gathering to local emergency response. Beginning in the mid-1990s and accelerating rapidly since September 2001, all levels of Government have focused on improving their capabilities to foresee, intercept, prepare for and respond to these CBRN disasters.

Many Government Agencies, non-governmental organizations and individuals charged with emergency preparedness, response and management are being encouraged all over the World to intricate emergency Plans into training, education and public awareness campaigns. These days, Governments and Industries are enabling themselves to co-operate and find solutions to this blazing problem.

CBRN is an initiation for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear disaster. The term is used worldwide to refer to incidents or weapons in which any of these four hazards have presented them. In the fifties the expression ABC (Atomic, Biological and Chemical) was in use and was modified during the cold war to NBC (Nuclear, biological and chemical). Later the term R (radiological) was introduced as a consequence of the “new” threat radiological weapon (also known as the “poor man’s atomic bomb). CBRN agents are commonly referred as weapons of mass destruction. A wide range of these agents are available, but there are problems related to their manufacture, storage and disposal.

A CBR device functions by wind dispersal. During that instance the evacuation of people and control of ventilation turn out to be a main concern. The methods that are followed are prevention, detection, preparedness and response. Justifiably in order to protect the populace from any eventualities of CBRN attacks, there is a requirement of co-ordination between various Government agencies, Industries, Non-governmental organizations and departments like transport, home, environment, health etc, which would work in close cooperation as an assistance provider to the civilian authorities. There are two main issues, which in the intervening time have increased the risk of CBRN viz. trafficking and dual-use nature of CBRN materials. Hence there is a need for a number of national and multilateral legal instruments to come forward to stop the access of CBRN materials as pillars of prevention and agree to a uniform policy package on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) security. The world needs to have all necessary tools at hand to counteract this menace and spread awareness about the grave nature of CBRN threat. There is a requirement for discussion on these issues with proper documents prepared and adopted by various institutions as well as the National Government to present the Indian endeavor to address risks of CBRN disaster.

Chemical, Biological and Nuclear emergencies having potential of becoming a disaster may occur due to accidental spill, terrorism activities as well as use of chemical and nuclear warfare agents. It is difficult to predict when such activities will occur or whether the target will be military or a civilian unit. It has been observed in past that it occurred when it was least expected. In some countries the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has been identified as the nodal agency in the country in respect of human made radiological emergencies in the public domain. For example, a Crisis Management Group (CMG) has been functioning since 1987 in DAE, India. In the event of any radiological or nuclear emergency in the public domain, the CMG is immediately activated and will co-ordinate between the local authority in the affected area and the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC). The CMG comprises of senior officials drawn from various units of DAE like the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Heavy Water Board (HWB) and the Directorate of Purchase and Stores (DP&S). It also includes senior officials from the regulatory authority and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

In general chemical and biological agents are considered to be cheaper and easier to produce. Radioactive materials that could be used for such contamination are available from a wide range of relatively non-secure facilities, including hospitals, medical and research laboratories, universities, waste dumps and so forth. The use of biological weapons become more eminent as apart from the natural transnational movement of these pathogenic organisms, their potential use as biological warfare and bio-terrorism has become far more important now than ever before. Small Pox and Anthrax are the most common agents and has the ability to cause widespread calamity. These types of incidents trigger human panic. These biological agents mainly bacteria, virus, toxins, fungi are living organisms and their toxic products can kill or incapacitate people, livestock and plants. These agents can be dispersed by spraying them into air, infecting animals that carry disease to humans and by contaminating food and water. Potentially hundreds of human pathogens could be used as weapons; however public health authorities have identified only a few as having the potential to cause causalities leading to civil disruptions.

The United Nations had closely been associated with CBRN disasters through its different programmes and specialized agencies. It was acknowledged later that there was a need to tackle the consequences of nuclear and biological related disasters, which has spurred the development of wide ranging international co-operation in science, humanitarian assistance and technology. National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India have proactively taken steps in the direction of institutionalization of the framework for “all hazard” emergency response in disasters culminated into the formulation of the National Guidelines on Medical Preparedness and Mass Causality Management, Nuclear and Radiological Disaster Management, Chemical Disaster Management etc. World Health Organization has been associated with Medical, Biological and Radiological Disasters for long. It was in the year 1989 WHO first raised concerns that local medical scientists had incorrectly attributed various biological and health effects to radiation exposure during the Chernobyl incident. Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) has been spreading awareness about Nuclear Disasters for long and one example is at Jitapur, Maharashtra, India where this public sector enterprise is actively working to set up a nuclear plant keeping all concerns into account & carefully finding the mitigation strategies. In Fiscal year 2009, USAID and Office of U.S Foreign Disaster Assistance responded to 63 disasters in 49 countries to assist nearly 55 million disaster-affected people. In Africa, OFDA disaster responses included assistance to populations affected by complex emergencies, food insecurity, ammunitions explosion, cholera and measles outbreaks.

There are new CBRN detection tools which will help us to use our ability to employ adequate detection methods, use modern and effective decontamination technologies and equipment, deal efficiently with decontamination wastes and do all of these in a safe manner. It’s a challenge for the Research Teams to come up with more innovative solutions to better equip and protect the community from these types of disaster.

Hence solutions need to be found for response strategies at the personal levels to these types of attacks or accidents. Though it needs some effort but a small step to aware and to empower ourselves with knowledge about disasters and its management could give us more days to live life and make a safer world for us as well as for the future generations.

Thanks and Regards,

Mainak Majumdar
Assistant Director (Disaster Management) in India’s Industry and Business organization at New Delhi
Specialist in Disaster Management and Environmental Sciences

E-mail: mainakmajumdar9@gmail.com
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