Sunday, February 9, 2014

What if your disaster gets out classed (or people forget)

What happens if you are in the process of recovering from your disaster and a larger (more sexy) disaster occurs?

I was in the Philippines recently deployed as a volunteer response team member  for ShelterBox.  I was assigned a mission to do follow up from the Bohol 7.1 earthquake, which got upstaged by Typhoon Yolanda. The Philippines largest Earthquake in 23 years upstaged by the strongest Typhoon ever.
Many of the people of Bohol that I talked with felt that after only three weeks the aid agencies left for the bigger (sexier) disaster. 

In defense of the aid agencies the death toll was 200 vs 6000+ dead and they didn't leave, they moved appropriate (in most cases) assets to the bigger event.

So how do you keep the focus on your disaster? Maybe you can't; but you can prepare to do what you can.

Have a plan before it happens, have the players ready to begin recovery as soon as something happens.
Have the political players in the loop early to keep the focus on your event.
Have your Public Affairs folks working to keep getting the message out, covering the local response angle.

Try this test. Write down places and events that are disasters right now.  Then go to one of the international aid groups and see where they are? What are they doing? Did you realize that happened? Was on going? People were suffering?

Now imagine that is your disaster and most people have forgotten about it?


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Life goes on around you

Destroyed home in Loon, Bohol

I returned from the Philippines last Saturday and have been thinking about what to share,
and there are a couple of things of interest for this blog. 

My past disaster experiences have been in the immediate aftermath of the event.  But for this deployment we are two months on from the event and in a different case 3 months on. 

When I arrived in Cebu it was apparent that this was not a disaster area.  I left and went to Bohol Island with my partner to do follow up on the 7.1 Earthquake in October(3 months on).  We checked into our hotel in the main city, no cracks, no damage to see.  

But 1.5 hours up the road it was a different story. Buildings down, bridges down, large landslides, it was a mess.  As we worked through the disaster area verifying there were still people in need, I kept seeing people along the main road digging a trench by hand.  Finally I asked someone what part of the recovery that was; oddly enough it was a project to bring high speed Internet to Loon (city we worked in) that had started before the quake.  

This popped up again when I was working in the port to clear our containers through customs and the port.  They were back to business as usual; we were still in disaster mode.  All around us life was getting back to normal.
So what happens when you are still working on your disaster and life 10-40 miles away is normal? Some things to think about:
  • Don’t let them forget you are still working on recovery, don’t rub their face in it, but do let them know things aren’t back to normal
  • Do ask for help; I did at the port I told the people helping me I was bring in aid for their countrymen, it did move things along (I still had to pay, but it moved along).
  • Report out on what has been done and what is left to do. (If you are following ShelterBox you will see we do that on a regular basis.  We plan to be working in the Philippines until April on this disaster, we need to remind people it happened and 6,000 + people lost heir lives and millions lost homes and businesses).

That’s all for now
It’s not over till you say it is