Disaster Management System

Disaster Management System


We always remember the earthquake and its destructive and fatal impacts once more at the anniversary of the Marmara Earthquake dated 17 August and 12 November 1999 in Turkey. Actually we should not ignore disasters and particularly earthquakes. Natural and human-driven disasters are becoming increasingly more risky and detrimental for the societies. When technological and industrial developments are considered together with population density and urbanisation, it is accepted that disaster risk always exists. This acceptance urges societies to be sensitive towards disasters. Admitting that disasters should be managed, societies establish disaster management systems. Perceptions of societies with respect to disasters as well as their disaster managements improve with each passing day. Turkish disaster management understanding develops in a positive manner, as well.


Disasters are the incidents which profoundly affect social life and organizational structure. Disasters, either natural or human-driven, affect individuals, institutions, properties and lead to destructions. While disaster is a repetitive natural event on one hand, it is a catastrophe resulting from the activities and behaviours of human beings on the other hand. In this respect, disasters constitute an indispensible part of the nature, life and society. The fact that societies face the risk of disasters and that a life without disasters is not possible forces the societies to develop their skills of living with disasters. The understanding that it is not possible to escape disasters,that it is compulsory to live with disasters and disasters should be managed is improving day by day.

Disaster Perception

A natural hazard turns into a natural disaster when it brings damage to the properties or leads to injury or death. In brief, when natural risks damage individuals, buildings and social, economic and political life, a natural disaster is encountered. Within this framework, a natural risk, that is a natural phenomenon such as earthquake, flood or hurricane, can be described as natural disaster in case that it affects the functioning of social system and technological products (buildings and other structures) adversely. Therefore, natural disasters are described according to not only physical dynamics or characteristics of a natural reason but also its impacts on the social system.

Explaining Natural Disasters as a ‘Man- and Society-Driven Phenomenon”

According to the approach which regards natural disasters as social phenomena rather than natural events, natural disasters occur as a result of the failure of individuals, societies and social, cultural, economic and political system to adapt to the environmental conditions. Logical outcome of explaining natural disasters as man- and society-driven phenomena is that social, cultural, economic and political systems can be improved in a manner to prevent or decrease natural disasters which threaten human life. Disasters can be prevented or decreased in number only by understanding the relations between specific policies or social, economic and political system types and environmental conditions or natural reasons. Rousseau emphasized that the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake should be thought to have been the result of urban structure and house construction on the highly seismic zones in a reckless manner. According to Rousseau, human behaviours and social factors played a key role on the impacts of the arthquake.

Disaster Phenomenon Should Be Examined in terms of Social Sciences.

According to the social approach, the phenomenon of natural disaster is not only a physical incident but also it has social, economic and political dimensions. Thus, as the other areas of the social life, natural disasters should be explained by social sciences. The first step to take in this respect should be the development of a conceptual framework that will explain the social, economic and political dimensions of the natural disaster phenomenon.

The Effects of Social Factors in the Occurrence of Natural Disasters

Natural disasters originate from the social (economic, political and cultural) system. According to this view, natural disaster is not an external power affecting the social system but is an expression of internal deficiencies and societal weaknesses. In other words, the threat does not exist outside as an earthquake, hurricane or flood; on the contrary, it exists within the social system. The effects of disasters constitute a function of the physical, social and economic resistance of the society. Thus, it is not accurate to speak of natural disasters as if they could exist irrespective of the actions and decisions of the human beings and societies. A natural hazard turns into a natural disaster as a direct or indirect consequence of human beings. Floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and other natural incidents will lead to social results only depending on the actions of the individuals and societies prior to, during and following the incident. There is no such thing as natural disaster; there are crises caused by the combination of specific physical events and specific social phenomena.
The fact that natural disasters occur mostly in the developing countries rather than the developed ones and the economic losses caused by disasters are higher in these countries when compared to developing ones is attributed to the differences in the organizational structure.

Transboundary Nature of the Disasters

Humankind has witnessed such natural events as earthquake, tsunami and typhoon throughout the history. However, the frequency of the natural events to transform into disasters due to economic and environmental factors has increased in the 21st century and the secondary disasters triggered by the natural disasters such as the nuclear leak occurring in the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan in 2011 have occupied the agendas of the countries as major problems. The magnitude and frequency of disasters and the losses caused by them reminded the humankind about the importance of the risk reduction activities aimed at preventing the transformation of such natural events as earthquake, tsunami etc. into disasters.
This process also contributed to the development of the sense of cooperation and solidarity among the countries and to the comprehension of the importance of a shared wisdom and action in such transboundary issues as disaster, environment, transport, immigration, terror and economic crisis and made the formulation of common policies compulsory. Transboundary nature of the disasters that affect not only the country in which it takes place but also other countries created the need for cooperation both in the risk reduction activities and post-disaster damage reduction and rehabilitation activities and regional and international joint works gained speed in this regard.

Disaster Management Systems

Disaster management is a management approach and specialty which determines the technical, managerial and legal works that should be carried out before, during and after the disasters in order to prevent them and reduce their damages and puts these works into practice and which ensures that relevant persons carry out an effective implementation when they encounter an incident and develops the existing system in the light of the experience obtained from each incident.
As a result of the destructive and devastating effects of disasters which lead to loss of life and property, societies have needed to take preventive measures and struggle against disasters. Such countries as Japan which frequently encounter all kinds of destructive and fatal disasters have learned how to live with disasters and made living with disasters almost a life style. This situation brought forth the idea that hazards and disasters should be managed. Civil defence, crisis management and disaster management understandings came into existence with respect to the struggle against hazards and disasters. If disasters can be managed properly and efficiently in the societies, their damages can be reduced. Disaster management systems consist of modern disaster management system, integrated disaster management system and society-based disaster management system.

Modern Disaster Management System

Modern disaster management system defines activities related to the disaster management on the basis of the realisation of the disaster. Accordingly, there are some works that should be carried out before and after disasters. Since natural disasters repeat in the regions where they occur, it is possible to see these works in a successive cycle. Preparedness, emergency response, recovery and damage reduction are four basic stages which require separate specialties and complement one another in the course of time. This model only indicates that there must be at least four sets of works in a society in the management of disasters.

Integrated Disaster Management System

Integrated disaster management system suggests that all resources should be used together in a coordinated manner in the struggle against disasters, in other words, all resources are managed from a single centre. This is an approach which regards disaster as an integrated process and targets to see the whole picture.     Therefore, integrated disaster management system is also referred to as complete disaster management system. Integrated disaster management system is a comprehensive concept which requires the management of all institutions and organisations of the society as well as their resources in line with a single joint goal for the steering, coordination and implementation of the works that should be carried out in the damage reduction, preparedness, rescue and first aid, recovery and reconstruction phases of a disastrous incident with the aim of preventing disasters and reducing their damages.

Society-Based Disaster Management System

Society-based disaster management system adopts the idea that society should be a part of the disaster management system. It should take part in all of four phases of the disaster management. Works with respect to the disasters should not be limited to the public institutions; citizens, non-governmental organisations and society should play active roles in the works related to the disasters. Since individuals come to harm due to disasters, they should be made responsible for managing disaster risks, they should take the first emergency actions in the case of disasters and assume responsibility of re-establishing a safer and more secure society. Pre-disaster, during disaster and post-disaster protection methods should be taught to the public.

Accountability and Audit of Disaster-related Activity

The South East Asia disaster in 2004 revealed once again that disasters constitute one of the biggest humanitarian, environmental, economic and social challenges and new policies are needed to be resilient against them. New disaster policies towards disaster risk reduction have already been developed by the UN resolutions. These policies need to be addressed in a coordinated effort at the international level.

In parallel with these developments, the INTOSAI primarily created a Task Force on the Accountability and Audit of Emergency Aid after the South East Asia disaster occurred in 2004, and then the Working Group on Accountability for and the Audit of Disaster–related Aid (AADA) was set up in 2007. Within the scope of INTOSAI Working Group AADA, the Turkish Court of Accounts (TCA) took responsibility for and prepared the Guidelines which are included among INTOSAI standards as “ISSAI 5510 Audit of Disaster Risk Reduction”. While preparing the ISSAI 5510, the Turkish Court of Accounts (TCA) organised an international parallel/coordinated audit on disaster risk reduction with the aim of providing inputs for the draft versions of ISSAI 5510 and testing and improving its content. Besides, ISSAI 5520 on  the audit of disaster-related aid was prepared by SAI of Indonesia within the Working Group on AADA. The aim of ISSAI 5520 is to provide guidance and good practice for SAIs on the audit of disaster-related aid.

We know that the SAIs play a critical role in promoting accountability and transparency by reporting to the parliaments on the efficient, effective and cost-effective implementation of, inter alia, disaster policies.

It is beyond doubt that strong cooperation and sense of mission among all the participating SAIs and the ECA which also acted as the Chair of INTOSAI WG AADA, in particular, have played a crucial role in the success of these works.


There are steps that should be taken for the improvement of the disaster management understanding in any country. In order to strengthen the modern disaster management, society-based disaster management and integrated disaster management understandings, deficiencies in the legislative regulations and organisational structure should be completed. The disaster phenomenon should be examined from the point of view of the social sciences and with an interdisciplinary approach. Importance should be attached to education and training activities for raising the awareness of the public with respect to disasters. Funds should be provided for reduction of disaster damages and preparation activities and disasters should be taken into account during the planning and cost calculation phases of constructions and productions.

It is clear that global issues such as disasters can only be addressed at the global scale. With this basic awareness, individual SAIs, not only exerted institutional efforts at national level, but SAI’s also tried to create global awareness and impact through coordinated effort.

Last but not least, accountability and audit of disaster-related activity are very essential for all countries. Thus, ISSAI 5510 Audit of Disaster Risk Reduction and ISSAI 5520 Audit of Disaster-related Aid should be implemented by SAIs.

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