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Book Review
Policy and Planning for
Hazard and Disaster Management

The Australasian Journal of Disaster
and Trauma Studies
ISSN:  1174-4707
Volume : 2001-1

Review of:

Community Emergency Preparedness:
A manual for managers and policy makers.

by : World Health Organisation (1999)
Geneva, World Health Organisation.
ISBN: 92-4-154519-4.
Language: English (French in preparation).
Price: $US37.80.

Reviewed by: Douglas Paton
School of Psychology,
Massey University
New Zealand
Email: D.Paton@massey.ac.nz

This book provides a systematic overview of strategies for developing and applying policies, procedures and planning to mitigate disaster impact. Material is presented in six chapters, with additional appendices. The opening chapter introduces and defines the core concepts in emergency preparedness and social vulnerability as they relate to the approach to disaster reduction and readiness adopted here. The fact that this is done in relation to the core functions of communication, health, security, search and rescue, social welfare, management and lifelines facilitates the comprehensive application of the contents to all hazards and within all organisations.

The first substantive chapter is devoted to policy development. There is a strong practical focus to the discussion. Issues are illustrated and presented in ways which make it easy to adapt the content to fit the local and national context in which they will be required. The primary focus of the manual is on vulnerability assessment and emergency planning and these issues are dealt with in the next two chapters.

Chapter 3, on vulnerability analysis, provides guidelines for the systematic analysis of social vulnerability and presents clear descriptions of the analytical techniques that could be used to identify groups vulnerable to both natural and man-made hazards. While the chapter describes the relationship between hazard, risk and vulnerability mapping, it falls short of describing the means by which these analyses could be integrated and used to assist planning. Techniques, such as GIS, that could be used for this function are described and it would have been useful to have had a description of the use of this technology for the performance of the integrated analyses of all these factors.

The section on risk draws a clear distinction between technical estimates of risk and those emanating from the perceptual processes applied to the data by members of the public, but does not elaborate on the implications of this for the analysis itself.

The manual recognises the importance of being able to allocate scarce resources to the planning process. In this regard, comprehensive descriptions and worked examples of the FEMA and SMUG models of hazard prioritisation are provided.

The manual provides descriptions of key community characteristics and a brief description of their relevance for understanding community vulnerability to hazard effects, and, albeit less extensively, with their implications for the capacity of a community to respond to adverse hazard effects. This chapter would have benefited from expansion to include the benefits accruing from analyses that integrate community, hazard and risk assessment. There was no discussion of issues such as community resilience. The discussion on community capacity could have included an outline of the development of strategies designed to promote community capacity and growth within the context of community development and change. This is an important practical issue when dealing with infrequently occurring hazards in communities whose members may not always recognise the needs for disaster reduction initiatives (Paton et al., 2001).

The discussion (chapter 4) then turns to a review of the principles of emergency planning and follows this with a comprehensive guide to the implementation of each of the stages described. The material presented here provides clear guidelines for resource analysis and management, assigning management roles and responsibilities, delegation of authority, reporting relationships among (responding) organisations, and procedures for identifying and prioritising needs within response and recovery environments. A brief summary of information and decision management is included in this chapter. The coverage of this issue is more comprehensive for public information than it is for emergency contexts. The media are treated as a sub-set of the public. The manner in which the contents are presented tends to belie the complexity of decision and information management processes (Paton et al., 1999). This section would have benefited from expansion to include a brief introduction to the complexities of these processes and their implications for the implementation of strategies described elsewhere in the manual. Similarly, although the emphasis on adopting an integrated, multi-agency response is a strength of this manual, coverage would have profited from additional discussion of the practical issues involved in implementing and managing a multi-agency response involving agencies who may have little or nothing to do with one another under normal circumstances (Paton et al., 1998).

Training and evaluation issues are dealt with in chapter 5. Training needs analysis (TNA) is dealt with in a basic format, with special consideration being given neither to the specific TNA issues that arise when dealing with infrequent, complex events, often involving multi-disciplinary involvement, which generally lie outside the scope of personal and organisational experience nor to the differences in training needs inherent within the areas discussed under planning (e.g., communication, search and rescue) (Paton, et al., 1998). A cursory summary of public education issues is provided. This material would have been more appropriately placed with the chapter addressing community vulnerability.

The final chapter deals with evaluation and monitoring issues, primarily through the use of checklists and exercises (including a very brief description of the exercise development process. The manual also contains several very useful appendices covering project management guidelines, hazard description tables, emergency preparedness checklists, and guidelines for personal protection from hazard consequences.

Overall, this manual provides a comprehensive and well-organised review of core emergency management planning activities. While it contains several omissions that have significant implications for the operational implementation of the strategies discussed, the comprehensive and well illustrated coverage of core policy and planning issues renders this an important publication for all those involved in emergency management. It should be compulsory reading for all those employed or involved in this capacity.


Paton, D., Johnston, D., Houghton, B., and Smith, L.M. (1998) Managing the effects of a volcanic eruption: Psychological perspectives on integrated emergency management, Journal of the American Society of Professional Emergency Managers, 5, 59- 69.

Paton, D., Johnston, D., Houghton, B., Flin, R., Ronan, K., and Scott, B. (1999) Managing Natural Hazard Consequences: Information management and decision making. Journal of the American Society of Professional Emergency Managers, 6, 37-48.

Paton D., Johnston, D., Smith, L.& Millar, M. (2001) Community Response to Hazard Effects: Promoting resilience and adjustment adoption. Australian Journal of Emergency Management, in press.


Douglas Paton © 2001. The author assigns to the Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies at Massey University a non-exclusive licence to use this document for personal use and in courses of instruction provided that the article is used in full and this copyright statement is reproduced. The authors also grant a non-exclusive licence to Massey University to publish this document in full on the World Wide Web and for the document to be published on mirrors on the World Wide Web. Any other usage is prohibited without the express permission of the author.

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