Tag Archives: natural disasters

The Netherlands | Minister Ploumen to attend disaster risk reduction conference

What can be done to minimise the damage caused by natural disasters worldwide? This will be the key issue at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan from 15 to 17 March.

The Dutch delegation to Sendai, led by Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen, will contribute to a framework agreement for disaster risk reduction for the next 15 years. In addition, Dutch expertise and experience in the area of disaster prevention will be presented at the conference. Ms Ploumen will also join Princess Margriet on a visit to the tsunami-ravaged area near Sendai.

This gathering is the first of four major UN conferences being held this year to develop the post-2015 development agenda. Member states aim to agree a framework for mitigating the impact of disasters for the next 15 years. Ms Ploumen: ‘Water plays a major role in 70% of disasters worldwide. Flooding and drought claim thousands of victims each year. With its extensive knowledge and experience in water management, the Netherlands can play an important role in preventing disasters.’

In Sendai Ms Ploumen will propose establishing a coalition of low-lying countries to enable nations with river delta problems to join forces and share their experiences and expertise. One of the options is to set up a pool of experts in the area of disaster prevention and mitigation in delta regions. Dutch scientists have assisted in the development of the Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer, an open-data website where relief workers, government agencies and companies can access global flood risk data. Ms Ploumen has invited her fellow ministers to talk about disaster prevention in urban deltas, where the impact of flooding and other natural disasters is even greater.

Princess Margriet to visit tsunami site

On 16 March, Ms Ploumen and Princess Margriet will visit an area near Sendai that sustained extensive damage during the tsunami. The minister and the princess will see how future disasters can be prevented by applying the build-back-better principle. The Dutch delegation includes representatives of Royal HaskoningDHV, Deltares applied research institute and the Red Cross who, as experts in the field, are closely involved in disaster-risk reduction around the world. The schedule also includes a meeting with a women’s organisation dedicated to innovative disaster prevention. The media are welcome to join the delegation on this field trip.

The Netherlands’ priorities for the conference in Sendai are public-private partnerships, prevention, attention for the most vulnerable and accountability. With these concerns in mind, Dutch water envoy Henk Ovink and ambassador for sustainable development Kees Rade have set their sights on greater cooperation between countries, businesses and emergency relief organisations, and more innovative funding for disaster prevention. The delegation also includes representatives from the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, the Ministry of Security and Justice, the business community and knowledge institutes.

The Netherlands has a great deal to offer in disaster prevention. The Disaster Risk Reduction team supports countries all over the world in their efforts to prevent or reduce the impact of water-related disasters. Prominent examples are the Dutch contributions in New York after hurricane Sandy and in New Orleans after Katrina, but the DRR team is also working in Mexico on a master plan for flood prevention. In the Philippines, the team is developing a plan to protect the coastal area near the city of Tacloban and in Serbia they are evaluating the water management system. With the recent launch of the Dutch Surge Support (DSS) team, the Netherlands now has the capability to provide assistance and expertise at every stage of a disaster, including the critical first phase. For instance, they can advise on how to bring people to safety quickly during a flood.

USA | Results from the second annual National Health Security Preparedness Index

Today, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and more than 35 development partners, released its second report of the National Health Security Preparedness Index (NHSPI). The NHSPI graded the nation’s preparedness for natural disasters, terrorism, and disease pandemics at 7.4 out of 10.

This year’s index includes updated data and new content, especially in the areas of Health Care Delivery and Environmental Health.

In the midst of the global and national response to Ebola, examining the country’s preparedness takes on heightened significance. The situation in West Africa reminds us of the many infectious diseases and other disasters with potential for widespread health consequences domestically and internationally. The National Health Security Preparedness Index™ (NHSPI™; the Index™) provides a fresh way to measure and advance the nation’s readiness to respond to large scale emergencies of all kinds.

The second annual release of the NHSPI™ on December 9, 2014, reveals the next version of this evolving tool. The 2014 Index includes an expanded and revised structure, additional measures, and updated data, adding richness to the preparedness picture that the NHSPI™ attempts to capture. Guided by stakeholder input, the NHSPI™ Project Team focused on enhancing two key areas in 2014: healthcare delivery and environmental and occupational health. The 2014 Index links 194 measures across six domains and 18 sub-domains to more fully portray the U.S. and states’ preparedness.

The Index is an important tool for practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and communicators. Though too early in development for use in trend analysis, current versions of the NHSPI™ can help states, sectors, and response systems support quality improvement, inform decisions, enhance collaboration and engage new partners. The Index can be a strong driver of conversations about the shared responsibility for health security.

The NHSPI™ was inspired by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and developed by a coalition of 35 preparedness and response partner organizations facilitated by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO). The NHSPI will continue to evolve in 2015 and beyond under new leadership from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The Foundation is planning multiple activities to continue to grow the Index, including: engaging and incorporating other sectors that influence health security preparedness into the Index, incorporating model analysis and validation studies to inform Index improvement, and developing new web-based features and tools. The Foundation has engaged the University of Kentucky (UK) to help manage this important project.

Future activities to enhance the Index will likely include: continuing to advance the model, engaging new sectors influencing health security preparedness, undertaking validation studies, and developing new tools and website features to further promote the Index’s use. Following the Index’s transfer from CDC to RWJF, the new NHSPI™ program management operations will be housed at the University of Kentucky.

Learn more about your state’s preparedness progress and share your feedback on the Index at www.nhspi.org

Mr Leung (third right) tours the simulation training modules.

China | Launch of Hong Kong Jockey Club Disaster Preparedness and Response Institute

Mr Leung (third right) tours the simulation training modules.
Mr Leung (third right) tours the simulation training modules.

Following is the speech by the Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, at the launching ceremony of the Hong Kong Jockey Club Disaster Preparedness and Response Institute this evening (August 20):

Dr Li, Mr Stevenson, colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to join you today to celebrate the launch of the Hong Kong Jockey Club Disaster Preparedness and Response Institute.

Life is full of challenges and risk. Even though Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world, disasters and accidents can and do occur. Last week, a pregnant woman was killed by a falling tree in the Mid-Levels and we were all deeply saddened by the tragic accident. We definitely do not want to see similar incidents happening again and this reminds us of the importance of disaster preparedness and response to our community.

With climate change also comes change in weather patterns – this is something the whole world needs to deal with. Here in Hong Kong, just in the last week or two, we have experienced heavy rainfall in a short span of time. We are in the middle of the typhoon season. Our topography means that landslips can occur at such times, as well as flooding in low-lying areas. We have very good systems in place to deal with all of these weather incidents, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas.

Our densely populated and highly urbanised community, coupled with an open immigration policy, means that we are also vulnerable to outbreaks of infectious disease. We remain vigilant against the current Ebola virus scare, and we speak with the sad wisdom that comes from dealing with the SARS outbreak in 2003, not to mention avian flu and swine flu.

Here in Hong Kong, we have learnt much and already done much to prepare for emergencies or disasters. Preparedness plans and emergency strategies have been drawn up to cover various scenarios. We provide training, and stage drills to test our responses and actions in real-time situations. Thankfully, with the dedication of health-care personnel, law enforcement agencies and civil servants, as well as the co-operation of the community, we have been able to overcome many difficult moments in the past.

Yet, given the serious consequences of a disaster, and no matter how thorough our preparations are, we should never be complacent. That is why the establishment of the Disaster Preparedness and Response Institute – the first in Hong Kong – is so important. And here I must offer my heartfelt thanks to the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust and the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine for making it happen. Well done.

The Institute will provide comprehensive and detailed training for personnel involved in disaster management. It will provide a platform to enhance co-ordination between clinical and non-clinical responders, and will help build a common language among all agencies and professionals. It is a visionary undertaking that will contribute greatly to the provision of safe, high-quality disaster services for the community.

Disaster response cannot be effective if carried out in a piecemeal and disconnected manner – especially in today’s fast-changing and interconnected world. Close partnership with relevant players is essential to ensure a well co-ordinated disaster response.

I congratulate the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine on lining up experts and partners from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong, as well as from reputable overseas universities including Harvard and Oxford University, among others. The Institute has also established contacts with the Security Bureau and the Department of Health of Hong Kong Government, both of which have extensive expertise and experience to share.

I look forward to and welcome future co-operation and exchanges between the Institute and the Government to enhance disaster preparedness and response in Hong Kong.

In the long run, I am sure the Institute will not only help enhance our own skills and understanding, it will also help establish Hong Kong as a local and regional training centre in disaster preparedness and emergency response. Hong Kong has a fine record of helping our compatriots and neighbours in times of trouble; the Institute will add a new dimension and greater depth to such efforts.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I take this opportunity to wish the Institute an excellent start and convey my gratitude to all who have tendered their time and effort that has led to the launch of the Institute today.

Thank you.

Western Australia | Helping communities withstand natural disasters

Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan joined the Western Australian Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis today to announce that over $2 million in Commonwealth funding is being made available to improve community preparedness for natural disasters.


This is part of more than $6 million the Commonwealth is providing to Western Australia through the current National Partnership Agreement on Natural Disaster Resilience.


Mr Keenan said the funding partnership between the Commonwealth and Western Australian governments would strengthen disaster resilience across Western Australia through

state-wide and community level projects.


“Although many natural disasters are unpredictable, we can all be better prepared. It is only by working together we can reduce the potentially destructive impacts of future disasters such as bushfires and cyclones,” Mr Keenan said.


Mr Francis said the funding was available to organisations across Western Australia to help attract, support and retain emergency management volunteers and to improve the ability of local communities to deal with disasters.


“These grants can be used for a wide range of projects such as upgrading firefighting facilities, building new emergency access roads and drainage works to cope with extreme flood events,” Mr Francis said.


Grants are available through the State Emergency Management Committee (SEMC).

  • Grant applications for the 2014-15 Natural Disaster Resilience Program open on 1 August 2014 and close on 30 September, 2014
  • Applicants are required to match funding applied for through dollar and/or in-kind contributions
  • More information available at  https://www.semc.wa.gov.au

Queensland | Take care of vulnerable residents

Natural disasters affect everyone, but for vulnerable residents an emergency event is particularly challenging.

The State Emergency Service (SES) is encouraging residents to get to know their neighbours and assist other residents who may have difficulties during natural disasters.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Commissioner Lee Johnson said residents who spoke English as a second language, were new to the area, had a disability, or were elderly or isolated may appreciate help from their neighbours.

“Get together with your community and make a plan for floods, storms, cyclones and fires, including how you will assist vulnerable residents,” Mr Johnson said.

“For example, if one of your neighbours has hearing difficulties, ensure that someone in the community makes contact with them when a weather warning is issued or cancelled.

“Offer to help residents who are physically unable to secure loose items and keep them in mind if a flood is predicted. They may need help evacuating or shifting belongings above the water line.

“A community that works together is a stronger, more resilient community and more likely to recover quickly following a natural disaster.”

Mr Johnson said there were also resources available online to help vulnerable community members.

“Emergency services and the Red Cross have developed the Emergency REDiPlan, designed to assist people with a disability to prepare for an emergency,” he said.

“Fact sheets on topics like, floods, cyclones and emergency evacuations are available in 20 languages for residents who don’t use English as their primary language.”

For further information and tips on how to Get Ready and to register for your own personalised step-by-step plan visit www.qld.gov.au/getready

Queensland | Resilient Australia Awards winners named

The Queensland Alliance for Mental Health (QAMH) and a combined initiative of Queensland councils have been named the Queensland winners of the Resilient Australia Awards at a ceremony in Kedron this morning.

Minister for Police and Community Safety Jack Dempsey said 10 community groups and government and emergency service organisations were presented with a range of awards recognising innovative practices and achievements in resilience across the nation.

“These groups help make our communities safer, stronger, more resilient and better prepared to manage any emergency situation and I congratulate them on their achievements,” Mr Dempsey said.

“The award recipients ranged from non-profit groups to local councils which created extraordinary programs and initiatives that engaged the community and encouraged people to prepare their homes, help their neighbours and educate themselves on natural disasters.

“These programs helped transform groups of volunteers into well-supported and organised units, brought communities together and ensured that residents were well-informed before, during and after an event.”

Mr Dempsey said the QAMH and the Queensland councils were well deserving of their wins.

“QAMH identified the impact natural disasters had on the mental well-being of the community and developed Resilient Places, a program encouraging mental health recovery through the provision of resources and grants for community events aimed at building resilience at a community level,” he said.

“Seventeen local councils, supported by the Local Government Association of Queensland, delivered the Community Development and Engagement Initiative, a project responsible for around 250 events and activities which encouraged resilience and helped rebuild communities following natural disasters.”

Mr Dempsey said the major Queensland winners would go on to contend the national Resilient Australia Awards, putting Queensland’s ideas on a national stage.

“We wish the Queensland winners all the best at the national level of judging,” he said. “Last week was Get Ready week and it was pleasing to see so many communities band together to prepare for the upcoming storm season.
I’m sure some of the ideas sparked last week will form next year’s batch of awards.”

The awards are an initiative of the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department.