Monday, November 11, 2013

Quantifying Damage - Response by Numbers

Credit: Noel Celis / AFP / Getty Images

What is there to say that hasn't already been said? A tragedy has befallen the Philippines archipelago, as of 6am Monday 11/11/13 the NDRRMC is reporting:

  • 255 Individuals have died | 71 Injured | 38 Missing
  • 9,679,059 Persons Affected
  • 23,190 Homes impacted (13,473 destroyed | 9,717 damaged)

A greater level of detail can be found here:

And while the statistic that 10,000 lives have possibly been lost is dominating headlines, the fact remains that you can point to a document that several federal agencies stand behind with a concrete number 4 days after an event of historic proportions that says otherwise.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the Dept. of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Dept. of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the rest of the agencies that populate these reports are an example of the power timely information can have following an event. While the numbers are in flux as this is an ongoing humanitarian emergency, the information that has been made available is very detailed and provides insight that many response organizations are not used to having at this stage. Usually emergency response is typified by a vacuum of reliable information…Day 4 of response to Yolanda seems to be bucking that trend with agencies providing a comprehensive level of information on a range of aspects central to response and aiding in the creation of situational awareness.

Situational Awareness is key to decision-making and resource allocation and its absence is one of the issues that is repeatedly brought up when emergency management and nonprofits talk about the how to enhance response and early recovery operations. Situational awareness is dictated by how quickly information is funneled up from the ground to create a picture of how events have impacted an area. The detailed information coming from heavily impacted provinces in the Philippines has and continues to be incredible. And while numbers help to give a snapshot of what's going on, it's breaking that information down into data that aid organizations can use that remains illusive. 

With the understanding that numbers aren't representative of the whole story, imagine if counties could produce detailed situation reports days following an event and how that could impact response efforts. At it stands, unless a disaster is federally declared prior to and event or while it's ongoing, gathering the necessary information to support a federal declaration request can take weeks. If municipalities had the ability to compile comprehensive damage information similar to what’s coming out of the Philippines, the speed at which a Governor could submit a declaration request could be considerably shortened and ultimately expedite the delivery of federal aid when applicable.

While numbers can tell you that 90% of the structures in a community have have been destroyed, they can't tell you how best to go about cleaning up or rebuilding a sense of community. For all the advances in technology that create greater efficiencies in communications, coordination, and reporting, the work done to clean up and build back following a disaster remains firmly on the shoulders of people.

In lieu of being on the ground, I hope that aid will begin to flow quickly to the areas of greatest need and those who need help receive it.

No comments :

Post a Comment