Can you manage a disaster? - Hindustan Times

Can you manage a disaster?

Hindustan Times | BySyed Amir Ali Hashmi, New Delhi
Jul 07, 2010 10:42 AM IST

Disaster Management is all about dealing with natural and manmade disasters. One can apply in both government and non-government organisations. Read on.

The terrorist attack on New Delhi not so long ago or the 26/11 attack on Mumbai are still fresh in our mind. Well, such situations or disasters test the preparedness of the nation. The scenes where the injured were being picked up and sent to hospital by the people present at the site, and not by specialised personnel of private or government agencies, who could have been rushed to the site following the disaster, shows that we have not given much emphasis to disaster management. However, the situation is gradually changing. Talk to Brigadier (Dr) BK Khanna, senior specialist (training and capacity development),

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National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), New Delhi, and he tells you that India has moved from the times when the Army was the chief responders to any disaster situation and the administ- ration depended on it heavily.

“I remember as a Major in 1982, we had gone to one of the districts in now Uttarakhand, where we were supposed to provide aid in case of a disaster. The commanding officer asked the District Magistrate about the disaster management plan and he replied that the district had a secret file on disaster management.

When asked if we could peruse it, he broke the seal and showed the file, which had one page and on it was written, ‘In case of emergency, call Army’,” recalls Brigadier (Dr) Khanna. We have come a long way since, and now the districts have their disaster management plans (DMP).

General awareness has also increased among the community. Now quite a few know that prevention, mitigation and preparedness measures can minimise the effect of disasters. “We cannot prevent hazards, like earthquake, floods, but we can definitely prevent hazard from turning into disasters. Hence the emphasis on the mitigation and preparedness measures. But India has to go a long way, before we can say that we are prepared to face the disasters squarely. NDMA has made the beginning; the vision would get realised when the community gets to know (about) their roles and responsibilities,” he says.

We require a large number of disaster experts to spread this message. Every organization needs disaster management professionals. “One of the effects of any disaster is economical and everyone has to have a plan ready for that. And only a professional in disaster management can help in this. So every company needs professionals,” says Brig (Dr) Khanna. “In fact, in the near future every department, organisation and institution will require DM experts, as everyone will have to make DM plan for each and every building and conduct mock exercises. Therefore, the scope is good,” he points out. “Hence, the (importance of) training of the youth in universities. Some of the universities like GGSIP University, New Delhi, have started MBA in Disaster Management, which is a weekend course for two years. The classes are conducted on Saturdays and Sundays. Indian Red Cross conducts a one-year postgraduate course in DM. Similarly, Sikkim Manipal has MSc in DM. The other universities which I know having DM as a course are Gorakhpur, Pune, Punjabi, Punjab and Meerut,” he says.

One can join the academic and research institutions as teachers, be employed as safety and DM experts in industrial units especially in most accident hazards units, work as consultants on DM in schools/colleges/ malls/ institutions/ hotels/resorts/ golf courses. Besides they can work with NGOs, both national and international, and lastly work in Government jobs. NGOs and international organisations such as World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), United Nations Organisations (UNO), Red Cross, UNESCO also offer various opportunities. “It is a futuristic area of employment and early birds will have better scope of (growth in) career.

In India, we do not have many research scholars in DM as of now; budding scholars can fill this gap. The challenges in the career are many. How a person converts an opportunity into his/her favour depends on his/her capabilities,” he says.

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What's it about?
Disaster Management (DM) is about dealing with natural and manmade disasters. Jobs are to be found both in government and non-government organisations (NGO) and it involves tackling disaster and then rebuilding the society. In public sector, it is called emergency services and in private sector it is called business continuity planning. There are many areas that often get affected by natural calamity or manmade disasters making DM the top priority for the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India

Clock Work
In case of calamity, one has to be on one’s toes all the time. However, in normal days the job is like any other 9-5 job.
9 am: Reach office
10 am: Go through the files and discuss policy issues
1.30 pm: Lunch
2 pm: Back to work
4 pm: If required go to the concerned government offices
5.30 pm: Wind up the day’s work
6 pm: Leave for office

The Payoff
With experience of 4-5 years one can expect Rs 30,000-50,000 per month. International NGOs can give Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.25 lakh per month. Project manager in government agencies can get around Rs 35000 per month. In National Institute of Disaster Management, State Government run institutes, or in other institutions salaries are according to the post, such as that of an assistant professor, associate professor, professor, senior professor etc.

Post retirement people can also work as consultants with consultancy companies such as E&Y, PwC, Morgan Stanley etc where they can get Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.5 lakh per month.

Mental and physical fitness to handle all types of circumstances
Ability to take timely actions
Alertness and ability to implement plans
Ability to take responsibilities
Good communication skill
Good organising capability
Team spirit

How do i get there?
The courses are offered at the certificate, undergraduate, postgraduate degree and diploma levels. The courses generally talk about management of emergency situation, response to the needs of the people and the area, distribution of food and medical care etc. For certificate courses and UG programmes you need to pass Higher Secondary Certificate Examination (10+2), and for the PG courses a graduate degree in any field

Institutes & urls
. Indira Gandhi National Open University (New Delhi),
. University of North Bengal (Darjeeling),
. International Centre of Madras University (University of Madras),
. Disaster Management Institute (Bhopal),
. The National Civil Defense College (Nagpur),
. National Institute Of Disaster Management,

Pros & cons


Satisfaction is the best feeling that you get as you help people in cases of emergency or disasters. In fact, this feeling makes all other aspects trivial.


Market has started to recognise the profession


You might have to work in areas that have no infrastructure or communication facilities that can aid in your rescue works


You will have to work in worst conditions

It’s all about saving lives

A senior teacher talks about the challenges and opportunities

What makes this profession interesting and challenging?
It is related to saving lives of people. Satisfaction that you get from it is the most important thing that you can get in any profession. This is the profession where your intervention helps in protecting lives and disbursement of relief means less impact on humans and economy. Rebuilding lives, reconstruction, rehabilitation are some of the important aspects in the sector. People hardly get such opportunities of helping people in need; you can work in MNCs but the satisfaction that this job gives has no equal.

It is challenging as you work in difficult circumstances. Mental makeup should be in keeping with it. I have worked in Orissa cyclone in 1999, Gujarat during 2001 and 2004 Tsunami. While doing our work we had to go to places that had no roads; as mobile phones were not widely used then communicating was a problem.

In many circumstances and places you have to be on your own and be self-reliant; and then you have to deal with the trauma of people and console them.

When did you realise that you want to join this field?
I was working in Nainital academy during 1990-95 when Uttarkashi and Chamoli got hit (by an earthquake) and then Latur happened. We got involved in DM. As I have Ph.D in economics I understand the economic repercussions after such disasters and it is important to deal with that also. I saw disaster has direct linkages with development . My first project in DM was in Kumaon in 1994. Later, I trained myself formally by doing diploma in Disaster Management from Israel and then from the USA.

What is the scope of work in India?
There is pradagim shift in disaster management system in India and it is moving from admistrator oriented to professional and admistration mixed approach. New people should come, and in fact people are coming. All state governments have demand for such professionals. There is a huge demand and supply gap. Best part about this profession is that professional from any sector ( IT, health, media, governance etc) can come and then specialise. Opportunities are everywhere including in, World Bank, ADB, UNDP, all UN organizations and international and national NGOs etc.

How have the things changed over the years?
It has changed a lot. The subject is now with Ministry of Home Affairs. Earlier there were no institutes for disaster management training , teaching and capacity building but now it’s not so. Today, we have good response mechanism; communication and transportation (facilities) have improved. Early warning system is there; at time of the tsunami there was no such thing but now we have one of the best systems in the world.

Prof Santosh Kumar Interviewed by Syed Amir Ali HAshmi

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