Inculcating a Culture of Preparedness for Disaster Management in First Responders, Communities and Schools
To inculcate a culture of preparedness among the community and first responders and facilitate the State Governments in reviewing adequacy and efficacy of the disaster management plans of the State, selected District/s and Major Accident Hazard (MAH) Units; and to identify gaps in resources, communications and systems, NDMA, in coordination with vulnerable States, took the initiative of conducting Mock Exercises on various types of natural and manmade disasters. This has also helped in inculcating a culture of preparedness and generated awareness. Institutionalizing the DM framework and conducting mock exercises has also been undertaken in schools.
Mock Exercises are conducted in this systematic step-by-step approach :
Step 1. Holding a Coordination and Orientation Conference. During this Conference the aims and objective of the exercise are explained to the participants and their roles are delineated.The conduct of the Table Top and Mock Exercise is explained and dates for Table Top and Mock Exercise are finalised.
Step 2.Conducting the Table Top Exercise. key stakeholders first present their status of preparedness. The worst case scenarios are thereafter simulated from preparedness to early warning to rescue and relief phases of Disaster Management (DM) through injects for various key stakeholders.The response of each stakeholder is elicited followed by detailed discussions. Independent observers are detailed and safety during the Mock Exercise is taken into consideration.
Step 3. Conducting a Mock Exercise. Observers are briefed on their roles. Thereafter, they take over and start painting situations in a bottom-up approach with specialized inputs from nodal agencies. The situations are conceptualized to derive certain lessons and find gaps, if any, in the resources/systems. Mobilization of resources takes place on orders of respective department heads to mitigate the situation. The concept of Incident Response System to manage the disaster is practised. At the end of the mock exercise, a detailed debriefing takes place to consolidate the good practices and lessons learnt.
Firming up the DM Calendar. The States are asked to send their requests for the number of mock exercises to be conducted in the State in the ensuing year and on specific disasters, to which the States may be vulnerable. The consolidated proposal for the conduct of Table Top and Mock Exercises is made thereafter, taking into consideration the risk and vulnerability profiles of the States. The more vulnerable States/UTs are given preference. After interaction with the States, the draft calendar of Table Top and Mock Exercises is prepared and after approval of the Hon’ble Vice Chairman, NDMA, this is sent to concerned Chief Secretaries of the States/UTs where the Mock Exercises are to be conducted.
Orientation-cum-Coordination Conference. As per the approved calendar, the Orientation-cum-Coordination Conference takes place at a mutually decided place and date. This conference is attended by Senior Specialist (Training and Capacity Building) from NDMA. It is occasionally attended by the Chief Secretary of the State and generally by the Revenue-cum-DM Secretary, Secretary Health, DG Police/IG (Law and Order), Chief Fire Officer, DG Health Services and Collector/DC, SSP, District Medical Officer, Fire Officer, Supply Officer, RTO, Civil Defence, Communication Officer/DGM MTNL/BSNL, NGOs, Home Guards, representatives of Armed Forces, Para Military Forces located in the area, representatives of the IMD, CWC and other technical institutions and the concerned Commandant NDRF Battalion. In cases of industrial (chemical) disasters, Chief Inspector of Factories/Director of Factories and Boilers, the concerned Joint and Deputy Chief Inspectors of Factories, Inspectors, and MD/Chief of Operations of shortlisted industries take part. The objective, scope, roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder and coordination between them during emergencies are delineated. Participants and media coverage campaign for general awareness are also firmed up. Dates of the Table Top and Mock Exercises are finalized and the State and District nodal officers are nominated along with their contact details. The district/s and industries where a Mock Exercise is to be conducted are decided during the conference, if this has not already finalized. After the conference, the Senior Specialist, NDMA visits the area where the Mock Exercise is undertaken to formulate the scenarios.
Table Top Exercise. Preparations for the Table Top Exercise start by conceptualizing and preparing scenarios in a bottom up approach. This is done by surfing the internet, getting relevant information from the States/UTs, consulting concerned experts, gathering information from stakeholders and field visits after the Coordination Conference; and recounting experiences. Scenarios are also formulated to derive certain lessons and discover critical gaps in manpower, systems, communication and equipment. At the Table Top Exercise, initially the key stakeholders, such as DM Secretary, Collector, District Medical Officer, SSP, District Fire Officer, Chief Inspector of Factories and GMs of concerned industries for Chemical (Industrial) Disasters make presentations delineating the emergency response plan of their departments. Thereafter, Senior Specialist (Training and Capacity Development) conducts the Table Top Exercise by describing the scenarios and eliciting responses from concerned stake holders through injects. The Exercise is professionally conducted by enlarging its scope and span, according to what the situation demands.
Injects are given to cater to all stakeholders,the aim being to test the system under pressure. The reactions of stakeholders are deliberated in detail with the opinion of the DM Secretary/Collector/GM of Industrial units also being sought. Senior Specialist, NDMA facilitates the conduct, ensuring participation of every stakeholder. Thereafter, details of actions to be taken by the State/District/Industries between the Table Top and Mock Exercises are distributed. Observers are nominated by the State from outside the district, where the Mock Exercise is being conducted.Director of Factories of the State similarly nominates observers from other similar type of industries from within/outside the district.
Mock Exercise. Before the Mock Exercise, observers detailed by the State and CIF are briefed by the Senior Specialist, NDMA on their roles and responsibilities. They are given a format for observation. A form of self assessment is also given to all stakeholders. The exercise starts with simulations such as smoke coming from an affected area, shaking being depicted by the sound of sirens and earthquakes being felt at the community level. Reactions of the first responders from the community upward actually take place by moving resources (men, machines, material and equipment). Additional simulations are created by the observers.
The district machinery comes into motion after the community/representative reports to them as per SOP. In the case of a Chemical (Industrial) Disaster, firstly the ‘on site’ emergency is activated and responses of the workers at the operational level, supervisory level, in the control room, at the main gate, fire services and at the management level are reviewed. When the emergency gets enlarged to an ‘off site’ one, the Collector/DC, takes over as Incident Commander. The Incident Command Post is established and all concerned stake holders report there to finalise the course of action, on the directions of the Incident Commander. Media persons also take part in the Exercise. Establishment of temporary relief camp/s and nomination of hospitals (Government and Private) for receiving casualties is ordered by the Collector/DC/Incident Commander. The Evacuation of the affected population is also ordered by the Collector/DC. PHC/medical posts are established at critical places to give first aid and for ‘triage’, to prioritize evacuation of casualties.The Exercise is developed by moving various resources physically from outside the district, if required. After the Mock Exercise, a Media briefing is organized and media persons are allowed to field questions pertaining to the exercise.Thereafter, a Debriefing Session takes place where the Observers give their unbiased, free and frank observations and stakeholders offer their versions of various actions taken by them and their learning experience. The good practices, gaps and weaknesses are thus identified in a transparent manner.
After Action Report. Based on the outcome of deliberations of the debriefing, a final report on the Exercise is prepared by Senior Specialist (TCD) and put up along with photographs and press cuttings. The Report, after approval by the Vice-Chairman, is sent to the Chief Secretary of the State as lessons learnt for taking follow up remedial/corrective actions.
District Level Mock Exercises by NDRF
Mock Exercises are essential to test the efficacy of Disaster Plans and preparedness level. It fosters greater cohesion and coordination amongst all the stakeholders. Government of India has decided to conduct district level Mock Exercises on various disasters through NDRF with active participation of state authorities, district administration and other stakeholders. These exercises will be conducted in all the districts of the country in a phased manner. In the first phase, 154 districts have been identified for conducting district level mock exercises by NDRF during 2020-21 and the Calendar for the same has been circulated to all the States/UTs. Remaining districts will be covered during second and third phase during the year 2021-22 and 2022-23 respectively. These district level MEs have already commenced w.e.f October 2020.
Mock Exercises, whether in the District, in an industry or in a school, have elicited tremendous response. The state of preparedness gets tested and gaps get identified in resources (manpower or material) communication and systems.
Mock Exercises conducted by NDMA during the: