Emergency preparedness focuses on addressing the causes of the emergency with a view to avoiding its recurrence or mitigating its impact and strengthening resilience, especially on vulnerable households and communities, and building up local capacity to address the crisis (including pre-positioning of relief items to shorten the time of the response). These efforts are often linked to early warning systems, especially in natural disaster prone areas. Disaster preparedness includes the continuous collection and analysis of relevant information and activities in order to prepare for and reduce the effects of disasters such as:
• predicting hazards by identifying and mapping key threats;
• assessing the geographical distribution of areas vulnerable to seasonal threats; defining which groups and communities are more at risk;
• assessing strengths and coping mechanisms of vulnerable groups and their capacity to respond to a threat; and
• identifying gaps in government preparedness plans and advocating with policymakers to ensure that plans are developed that aim to reduce the disaster’s impact on vulnerable populations.
Emergency preparedness plans are developed in order to minimize the adverse effects of a disaster, and to ensure that the organization and delivery of the emergency response is timely, appropriate and sufficient. Such preparedness plans should be part of a long-term development strategy and not introduced as a last-minute response to the unfolding emergency. In the case of
HIV/AIDS, such preparedness means that all relief workers would have received a basic training, before the emergency, in HIV/ AIDS, as well as sexual violence, gender issues, and non-discrimination towards HIV/AIDS patients and their caregivers. It also implies that adequate and appropriate supplies specific to HIV are pre-positioned. These are crosscutting issues which are relevant to all sectors.
A disaster preparedness plan should put in place certain elements in order to bring about a successful response:
• a solid needs assessments that will allow relief agencies to jointly determine who does what and where, under the umbrella of a comprehensive humanitarian action plan;
• staff properly trained and emergency response tools available on time;
• common tools for natural disasters and complex emergencies;
• funding mechanisms that ensure money is readily available, and
• information management network available to key decision-makers.