Department of Disaster Management readies itself to better tackle potential disasters

Department of Disaster Management (DDM) is the focal agency that manages any natural disasters in Bhutan. It facilitates and coordinates relief works and distribution of relief materials as and when required.

It also coordinate with other sectors in implementing recovery and reconstruction and build partnership with both national and international agencies for knowledge sharing and obtaining support and resources for the relief and reconstruction activities.

According to DDM, it facilitates in the formation of DM committees and teams, and designs and implements various disaster preparedness, mitigation, mass public education and awareness strategies and programs. The department also coordinates with all the relevant agencies involved to prepare and implement Disaster Management Plans at every level (dzongkhag, dungkhag, thromde and gewog).

Moreover, DDM has also set up the Early Warning Systems in vulnerable areas based on vulnerability or risk assessments. It has facilitated in the set up and operationalization of Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) at the dzongkhag and national levels. DDM also provides relevant training related to search and relief operation.

Talking about the challenges, DDM pointed out that in absence of a National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC), it hinders the delivery of effective and efficient relief and response operation during disaster times. In addition, under-staffing as well as lack of managerial and technical capacity also hampers the effective and efficient functioning of works.

“Disaster management is a new discipline, and therefore, there is a need to create adequate awareness and advocacy on disaster management issues at all levels,” a DDM official said.

Disaster management is also hindered by inadequate capacity at various levels for planning and implementing the DM activities. The disaster information/data, multi-hazard zonation and vulnerability maps, which are pre-requisite for planning DRR activities, are also lacking.

Despite of various challenges, the department has also made various achievements in 2014 to 2015. They have formulated various guidelines, implemented a National Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for 2009 and 2011 earthquake.

“The assessment on the non-structural mitigation measures in schools in Haa, Paro, Wangdue, Punakha, Chukha, Sarpang and Tsirang are completed,” said the official, adding that the translation of Environmental Management Framework is also completed.

DDM has also formed a search and rescue (SAR) team and conducted basic training in 16 dzongkhags (including four thromdes). SAR equipment support has been distributed to RBP, all 20 dzongkhags, clusters scold of 5 dzongkhags and second round of basic equipment is distributed to Trashigang, Lhuentse, Zhemgang, Trongsa and Mongar.

“We have developed a National disaster database (Disaster Management Information System). We have also conducted 3 regional ICS training for disaster focal persons,” the official said.

DDM also implemented various regulation and policy strategies, implemented DM training/capacity development programs and they have conducted workshops on disaster preparedness and response for safe schools through mock drills.

“More importantly, we have achieved mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) into plan, policy and development activities (section 69-72 of DM Act).” DDM has a plan to conduct disaster preparedness and sensitization for dzong fire safety in 2 dzongkhags (Mongar and Chukha), to develop comprehensive DM project for the education sector and formulation of non-structural mitigation manual for the schools.

DDM also creates awareness and distributes IEC (Information, Education and Communication) materials in all 20 dzongkhags, schools, line ministries and to the general public.

“We also have a plan to develop disaster management plan for Thimphu Thromde and to finalize the contingency plan for Thimphu Thromde,” DDM official said. “We will continue windstorm research and come up with manuals for proper construction.”

DDM will bring development in Dzongkhag DM and Contingency Plan. DDM also planning to organize regional workshop on past disaster and training on the seismic risk reduction initiatives and they will be setting up National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) and District Emergency Operation Centre (DEOCs) and emergency communication network.

As per the DM Act of Bhutan 2013, Section 129, it states that if a person who makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to a disaster or its severity or magnitude leading to panic shall, on conviction, be liable for petty misdemeanor.

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