CAPF Essay: Disaster Management

By Naveen Singh|Updated : March 31st, 2020

Disaster Management: Meaning & Types

1. Meaning of Disasters:

A disaster is a sudden, calamitous event that disrupts the functioning of a community, region, or society which causes human, material, as well as economic or environmental losses and impacts. In contemporary literature, disasters are seen as a result of poor risk management with respect to environmental hazards and vulnerability. People who experience or live through a disaster can suffer from emotional, psychological and physical distress.

Broadly, disasters can be classified into two types: Natural disasters and man-made disasters. Natural as well as human-made disasters affect many lives each year.

2. Natural Disasters & Mitigation Strategies:

A natural disaster is caused by natural factors or phenomenon that causes injury and loss to human life. The rapid growth of population and increased concentration of human life in a natural environment has intensified the frequency and severity of such disasters. Some other recognized factors are deforestation, climate change, unplanned growth, unstable landforms, etc. Some of the natural disasters include:

  • Earthquake: An earthquake is the shifting of earth plates that result in tremors ranging from few seconds to minutes. Within seconds, mild tremors can turn violent and cause hazards to human life. An earthquake can be tectonic (plates), volcanic (volcano), collapse (mining) and explosion (missile testing). Mitigation measures in case of the earthquake should be to shut off utilities and evacuation of buildings. Building earthquake-resistant buildings can also be effective for low-frequency earthquakes.

  • Cyclone: A cyclone is a violent tropical storm often seen as a group of gusty winds that rotates about the centre of low atmospheric pressure, which moves, at a speed of twenty to thirty miles. Mitigation measures include following the evacuation plan, gathering emergency supplies in advance, avoiding driving and walking etc.

  • Volcano: A volcano is the rupture of a planetary-mass object that allows lava, ash, steam and hot gases to come out. Mitigation measures include avoiding potential active volcanic regions for building houses, preparing emergency evacuation plans, wearing goggles and sunglasses in case volcanoes are in proximity, staying indoors if ash has not settled etc.

  • Drought: A drought occurs when there is a lack or no rains for an extended period of time resulting in water shortage, crop damage, depletion of groundwater. It usually takes place slowly and continues over months. Droughts are triggered by deforestation, global warming, or by diverting rivers. Mitigation plans include accurate prediction, monitoring, impact assessment response in the form of better water management and conservation.
  • Flood: A flood occurs when a river or a large amount of rainfall overflows into dry land. Floods are one of the most common natural disasters in many countries including India. It is often caused by heavy rainfall, overflowing of man-made dams, tropical cyclone etc. Mitigation measures include prediction, monitoring, shut down of electricity, following evacuation plans etc.

  • Tsunami: Most Tsunamis are caused by a large-scale earthquake occurring on the seafloor causing the seawater to violent move to the land. This can be caused by an unwater landslide as well. Mitigation strategies for tsunami include community preparedness, timely warnings, and effective response.

  • Wild Fires: A wildfire can happen in forests, vegetation, hills, etc. Lightning, burning campfires, or cigarettes, hot winds, and even the sun can cause ignite a wildfire. Precautionary measures include protecting building areas from wildfires, periodic inspection of houses in forests etc.

  • Landslides: Landslide is the movement of mass rock, debris, or earth down a mountain slope under the direct influence of gravity. There can be geological, morphological and physical factors that can cause landslides. Mitigation strategies include proper inspection of landslide-prone areas and sharing warning signs.

3. Man-Made Disasters & Preventive Measures

Man-made disasters are caused by unchecked human actions that are hazardous for the environment and human life. In most of the cases, human-induced disasters are the result of excessive use of technology. War and attacks can also be put into the category of man-made disasters. Man-made disasters are also called as anthropogenic hazards. These adversely affect humans and other organisms.

Man-made disasters include industrial accident and C.B.R. (Chemical, Biological and radiological) accidents, transport accidents, and pollution-related disasters.

1. Industrial Disasters: Industrial accidents can be of two forms viz. fire and explosion.

  • Fire: Fire can occur in urban as well as rural areas and the reasons are diverse. In case of fires, certain intervention methods are needed depending upon the cause of the incident itself. The cause can be material that triggers fires and meteorological conditions (wind). For mitigating fires, buildings should have fire evacuation plans should, alarm (security) and fire-prevention equipment should be in place and firemen squad should be properly trained.

  • Explosion: Explosive devices and material are highly portable owing to the use of technology. Explosives can easily be blasted from remote locations as well as suicide bombers. Explosions can be very destructive for the property as well as human life. There are some steps that can be taken before, during and after the explosion to mitigate the risk. This includes the supply of emergency kits, evacuation plans, reporting suspicious belonging in public places, avoiding touching and sniffing suspicious material etc.

2. C.B.R Disasters: This includes chemical, biological and radiological accidents occurring in any area. Types of CBR are:

  • Chemical disasters: Chemical substances can be highly dangerous to man and the environment. It occurs due to an unintentional release of harmful gas into the environment. The Bhopal Gas Tragedy is was one such chemical accident and considered to be the worst accident to date. Mitigation measures for chemical disasters include good knowledge of industry-related hazard documents, preparation of emergency plans, skilled personnel, and regulatory bodies.

  • Biological disasters: Biological disasters can occur in the form of an epidemic or pandemic. For such disasters, the origin or cause is organic matter and is conveyed by biological vectors. Epidemic such as Cholera, Plague, affect disproportionately large populations within a specific location or region. Whereas pandemic is the epidemic that spreads across a large region e.g. Swine Flu. Biological disasters can be avoided by maintaining personal hygiene, community sanitation, health education, first aid and CPR training, insurance plans etc.


  • Radiological disasters: The use of nuclear energy for power generation, medicine, industry, agriculture, defence purposes has made us vulnerable to radiological disasters also. India has been considered more vulnerable in this regard given its climate conditions. Mitigation strategies include preparedness for radiological emergencies, radiation surveys, assessment of wind, weather, preventive equipment at designated places, training of personnel etc.

Vulnerability Atlas Of India

  • About 60% area is vulnerable to Earthquakes
  • 8% - Cyclones
  • 12% - Floods
  • 68% of land under cultivation is prone to Drought.

Natural hazard causes injury or loss of life, damage to property, social or economic disruption and environmental degradation. For India, the major hazards are Earthquakes, Landslides, Drought, Cyclones, Floods, Forest fires and other Fire accidents. According to the World Bank report, India's direct loss due to disaster is around 2% of its GDP. Also according to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) in 2010, India ranked second after China for natural disasters.

The vulnerability atlas prepared by the Building Materials and Technology Promotion Centre (BMTPC) shows that there are many areas which are prone to multiple hazards. The rapid increase of population and urbanization along with prone areas and other developments have increased the level of exposure to hazards.


Disaster Management:

Disaster management is a multidisciplinary area which includes forecasting, warning, search and rescue, relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation. It is also a multi-sectoral task as it involves administrators, scientists, planners, volunteers and communities. CRITICAL NEED IS THE CO-ORDINATION OF ALL THE ACTIVITIES BETWEEN THEM. For developing countries, disaster management is a major concern as it directly influences the economy, agriculture, food and sanitation, water, environment and health. Disasters also have social, economic and psychological dimensions. So appropriate strategies are necessarily been developed.

Managing Disasters In India

According to World Bank report- 'Natural Hazards, Unnatural Disasters', floods and storms are the most widespread while droughts are prevalent. These disaster areas are the home for most hungry in the world. 

The Hyogo Framework of Action (HFA) of 2015 by UNISDR to which India is a signatory advocate mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into socio-economic development planning and activities by adopting five priorities for action through a five-fold process.

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  1. Political process: It includes countries to develop policies, legislative and institutional frameworks and also allocate resources for its prevention.
  2. Technical process: It includes science and technology for assessing, monitoring, identifying disasters and develops early warning systems.
  3. Socio-educational process: It includes awareness and skill development; also safety and resilience in all levels.
  4. Development process: It includes the integration of disaster risk in all sectors of development planning and programs.
  5. Humanitarian process: It includes factoring disaster risk reduction in disaster response and recovery.

The Disaster Management Act, 2015 lays down institutional, legal, financial and coordination mechanisms at central, state, district and local levels. This setup ensures the paradigm shift from the relief centric approach to the one which greater emphasis is on preparedness, prevention and mitigation. By enacting the law, the National Disaster Management Authority was established under the chairmanship of PM. State and District DM authorities are also established.

Challenges In Disaster Management

According to the Global Assessment Report of the UNISDR, India is a highly vulnerable region due to its population and geographical features. These disasters may wipe out the hard earned gains (development) of those areas. The main challenges facing disaster management are;

  1. Fragile Institutions: The National Policy on Disaster Management, prepared by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), approved in 2009 was formulated with a vision to build a safe and disaster resilient India. Central, state and district level authorities are established. Also, the Disaster Response Fund and Disaster Mitigation Fund were set up. But all these are not active and well operated. Good governance and effective administration are the dynamic processes of effective interface with communities at risk. The process must have transparency and accountability. We must explore ways to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of delivery of services, minimizing inordinate delays, red tape, pressure for excluding real victims and accommodating false claimants. The instrument of good governance like Right to information and legal options like Public interest litigation can be used to ensure justice wherever necessary.
  2. Weak compliance of policies: The follow-up actions expected from nodal agencies in preparing plans and corrective actions to address the critical gaps in the existing policies are not initiated. Community-based organizations and NGO's can play an important role in creating a level playing field for victims affected by disasters.
  3. Systemic inefficiencies influencing process: The random audits of proposals on affected areas and fixing the accountability for financial losses on erring officials is the reason.
  4. Need to adopt innovative systems, techniques and technologies: Some of them are Geographical Information System (GPS), Global Positioning System (GPS), Global Pocket Radio Service (GPRS), Remote Sensing, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP), Radio over Internet Protocol (ROIP), Scenario Analysis & Modeling, Digital Elevation Models and Bathymetry for tsunami, Early warning systems, Doppler radar etc. Information in the local dialects will be more helpful. A judicious mix of traditional knowledge with technology is required.

Post Disaster Impact Assessment And Funding Mechanism

Hazards are natural but disasters are unnatural. It depends on the resilience of society towards it. Geo-climatic and socio-economic vulnerabilities and bad development practices make India prone to disasters. These disasters have a huge impact on our economy. We amounted around $30 billion for the past 35 years. The trend is increasing year after year.
Making qualified assessment reports.

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Way Forward:

Disaster is a development issue. It needs to be addressed with much importance. It has a sudden and long term impact on the economy. So the policy shift is needed to ensure the stability of the economy. There must be plans for long term recovery.

The 73rd and 74th amendments paved the way for constitutional status for the urban local bodies and Panchayat institutions to play a greater role in matters of immediate concern.

The crisis management group, the control room for an emergency, funding mechanisms, etc. play an important role in disaster management.

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