Commentary

A Resilience Charter

Preamble


1.1 The purpose of this charter is to specify the responsibilities of the state and citizens in the field of resilience against disasters, crises and major public emergencies and incidents.


1.2 The future of humanity will involve very significant challenges in order to create and maintain resilience. Climate change will increase the magnitude and frequency of extreme meteorological events. Unplanned mass migrations will occur. The increasing vulnerability and dwindling redundancy of life-support systems will aggravate the effect of proliferating failure among critical infrastructure networks. Opportunities for malicious attacks will become more numerous and sophisticated in both the physical and cyber realms. As a result of these and other challenges, a new, more concerted approach to resilience is urgently required.


2. Working definitions


2.1 ‘Resilience’ is defined as the ability to absorb and resist the impact of a major adverse event and to recover promptly. Recovery involves ‘bouncing back’ or better still ‘bouncing forward’ to a state of greater safety.


2.2 ‘Disaster’ refers to an event that causes damage, destruction, interruption of services and important activities, and possibly casualties. Its impact may sudden, slow or repetitive. A ‘major incident’ is an adverse impact that requires immediate attention from emergency services and a switch from normal to emergency working patterns. In this context, ‘crisis’ refers to those situations in which extraordinary measures are required in order to ensure public safety or prevent escalating damage and losses.


2.3 ‘Safety’ refers to protection against major hazards such as storms, floods and industrial explosions. ‘Security’ involves protection against major threats, such as terrorist activity.


2.4 ‘Civil protection’ refers to the system designed to protect the public and assets against disasters and other major adverse impacts. ‘Civil defence’ refers to the system designed to protect non-combatants against armed aggression, which is nowadays usually in the form of terrorism or interference in critical activities by nefarious groups that may or may not be sponsored by rival states. Some countries prefer to treat civil protection and civil defence as a unified function of the central state.


3. The state


3.1 Every country needs a basic law that establishes its civil protection system and specifies in broad terms how the system functions. The term ‘civil protection system’ describes coordinated national, regional and local arrangements designed to plan for, manage and respond to major emergencies, and to initiate recovery from them. At all levels the system must be integral, robust and complete.


3.2 National standards should be developed to ensure that emergency plans are functional and compatible with one another, and that they ensure the interoperability of emergency services and functions. All levels of public administration should be required to produce emergency plans and maintain them by means of periodic updates.


3.3 Civil protection must be developed at the local authority level, coordinated regionally and harmonised nationally. The main functions of national government are (a) to provide leadership, direction and guidance to lower levels of public administration, (b) to provide an open, accessible hub or pole of attraction for civil protection and civil defence activities in the national realm, (c) to support local and regional initiatives to develop the system and respond to emergencies, (d) to lead training and learning initiatives in this sector, and (e) to liaise with other countries in matters of civil protection and civil defence.


3.4 Local mayors or chief executives should have a primary role in ensuring that arrangements are in place for emergency planning, management and response.


3.5 The central government must ensure that resources are adequate to respond to the kinds and levels of emergency that are envisaged in planning scenarios.


3.6 Emergency planning and management should be fully professionalised, with educational and training requirements, professional associations, credit for experience, a career path and an employment structure at all levels, from national to local. The private sector should be encouraged to follow suit.


3.7 Emergency management and response should be a civilian responsibility and should be fully demilitarised. National armed forces should be utilised only in exceptional circumstances where there can be no civilian alternative.


3.8 Regional coordination should ensure that local efforts to instil civil protection and respond to emergencies are supported by mutual assistance and resources from higher levels of government.


3.9 ‘Welfare’ can be defined as the provision of care to a minimum acceptable standard to people who are unable adequately to look after themselves. The welfare function of disaster risk reduction must be defined by the central state and practised so that adverse impacts do not accentuate inequality in society and the burden of disaster is shared equitably. Conversely, ‘welfare’ should not be interpreted as public largesse. It should consist of targeted assistance based on reasonable, ethically acceptable criteria.


3.10 All levels of government should develop business continuity plans to ensure that their essential services can continue to be delivered during crisis conditions. The business continuity plans will function in parallel to emergency response plans.


3.11 National, regional and local authority emergency plans should be complemented by compatible emergency plans for hospitals, health systems, dangerous manufacturing sites, airports, cultural heritage sites and other key installations. Plans should be networked.


4. The citizen


4.1 It is the responsibility of all citizens to consider, as far as they are able, their relationship with hazards and threats.


4.2 Volunteer work should be encouraged in disaster risk reduction and kindred fields. However, spontaneous voluntarism is not recommended. Volunteers need to be trained, equipped and their organisations need to be incorporated into the civil protection system. Government should provide support to voluntary organisations and consider legislating on employment protection (for those who are abruptly required to carry out emergency work) and accident and liability insurance.


4.3 Civil protection should be organised as a democratic, participatory system in which members of the public have a say in arrangements designed to protect them against hazards and threats.


4.4 'Community' refers to the association of citizens united by common interests that may be bound up with geographical locations of various sizes. State-sponsored civil protection should engage with and encourage community-level efforts to create and promote resilience.


5. The private sector


5.1 The providers of privatised essential services should be designated as first category responders, with a duty to ensure that the companies and sites have both functional emergency plans and viable business continuity plans.


5.2 Strong links should be developed between the emergency planners in private sector concerns and emergency planning and management departments at appropriate levels of public administration. This is especially important for the providers of all forms of critical infrastructure.


6. Foresight


6.1 When considering threats and hazards, emergency planning and preparedness must focus on both the short term (several years) and the long term (decades).


6.2 Wherever it is feasible, emergency plans should be based on scenarios. There should be flexible, systematic explorations of possible future outcomes. The assumptions that underlie them should be specified in detail and the results should be presented as a suite or envelope of outcomes, of which the upper limit is the worst plausible case - i.e., the worst impact that could reasonably be expected in a definable time-period extending over several decades.


“Reproduced with kind permission from Professor David Alexander Disaster Planning and Emergency Management: 2022 (emergency-planning.blogspot.com)

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