Why Aren’t We Prepared for Natural Hazards?

Natural hazards are defined as natural threats occurring in the environment that often cause negative impact on people, animals and the surroundings as well. Earthquakes, droughts, hurricanes, and tsunamis are just some examples of natural hazards. When these hazards strike, death, famine, disease and destruction soon follow. Given the advances in science and technology, we can make every effort to prepare for disasters. We might not know exactly when they would strike, but we do know they can strike anytime we are off guard, still why do calamities wreak so much havoc and take so many lives?

The State of Global Preparedness

For the recent decades, we have been witnessing increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters; the earthquakes that devastated Chile, Haiti and Japan, the deadly floods of Pakistan, the tsunamis in Asian countries and even strong hurricanes battering the U.S. and the Pacific. The frequency and the increasing intensity of these natural hazards instigated the World Bank to pledge $900 million for recovery programs and the U.N. to raise $460 for relief efforts. But still, thousands of lives are in the hands of danger, and livelihoods of the countries are still disrupted, why?

Why We Are Not Prepared?

There are several reasons why natural hazards take so many human lives and change a country’s living so much.

One is the lack of effective land use planning. When disasters such as floods, earthquakes and intensive rains strike, they wipe away homes, buildings and other infrastructures. Even vital infrastructures such as health centers, emergency centers and hospitals are at a vulnerable state. When people do not know they are putting up a home or in an infrastructure directly in harm’s way, the risk of losing both lives and livelihood increases. Lives could be lost if homes are swept away, more lives would be lost if vital infrastructures such as hospitals are destroyed.

Further worsening every disaster condition is the lack of access to “lifelines” or “survival lines”. This happens when disaster survivors cannot access potable water sources, critical care facilities and first aid. This again can be attributed to the destruction of vital infrastructures. Let’s take the earthquake in Haiti and Chile for example, where after the disaster, victims were not provided with potable water in time. Medical and emergency facilities also went online. This would cripple the process of recovery, which is vital if a country is to rise from the havoc of the disaster.

Prevention is key and it does make a difference, but some countries seemingly do not recognize the importance of prevention and disaster preparedness. According to statistics, 50 developing countries experience recurrent floods, mudslides, earthquakes, droughts, typhoons and the like, but many of them do not include disaster preparedness in their development plans nor even recognise that such events would eventually recur.

Learning from the Past

Let’s take past experiences as sources for learning and improvement. Let’s take Turkey and Colombia for example, where they built earthquake resistant buildings and enforced construction standards that ensures infrastructures wouldn’t collapse easily under the hazardous force of nature. Let us also learn from what the Japanese and the Chinese had been doing to protect their people from disasters. In these countries, training for disaster preparedness starts while young. People are prepared to deal with and survive in cases of disasters. Equipping people with the necessary skills increases survival significantly.

Making sure vital structures or lifelines remain safe and accessible for all disaster victims. During these times, people need shelter and protection they can count on.

This article is contributed by Jason Doe, author of numerous articles on emergencies, disasters, calamities and natural hazard direct. Jason Doe offer useful tips and advices on how to prepare for natural hazards and how to deal with emergency situations.