Disaster Management

Rail e-Security Solutions

Disaster is a sudden, calamitous event bringing great damage, loss, and destruction and devastation to life and property. The damage caused by disasters is immeasurable and varies with the geographical location, climate and the type of the earth surface/degree of vulnerability. This influences the mental, socio-economic, political and cultural state of the affected area. Generally, disaster has the following effects in the concerned areas,

  • It completely disrupts the normal day to day life
  • It negatively influences the emergency systems
  • Normal needs and processes like food, shelter, health, etc. are affected and deteriorate depending on the intensity and severity of the disaster.

It may also be termed as "a serious disruption of the functioning of society, causing widespread human, material or environmental losses which exceed the ability of the affected society to cope using its own resources."

Thus, a disaster may have the following main features:-

  • Unpredictability
  • Unfamiliarity
  • Speed
  • Urgency
  • Uncertainty
  • Threat

Thus, in simple terms we can define disaster as a hazard causing heavy loss to life, property and livelihood.
e.g. a cyclone killing 10,000 lives and a crop loss of one crore can be termed as disaster.


Generally, disasters are of two types – Natural and Manmade. Based on the devastation, these are further classified into major/minor natural disaster and major/minor manmade disasters. Some of the disasters are listed below,

Major natural disasters

  • Flood
  • Cyclone
  • Drought
  • Earthquake

Minor natural disasters

  • Cold wave
  • Thunderstorms
  • Heat waves
  • Mud slides
  • Storm

Major manmade disaster

  • Setting of fires
  • Epidemic
  • Deforestations
  • Pollution due to prawn cultivations
  • Chemical pollution
  • Wars

Minor manmade disaster

  • Road / train accidents, riots
  • Food poisoning
  • Industrial disaster / crisis
  • Environmental pollution


Risk is a measure of the expected losses due to a hazardous event of a particular magnitude occurring in a given area over a specific time period. Risk is a function of the probability of particular occurrences and the losses each would cause. The level of risk depends on:

  • Nature of the Hazard
  • Vulnerability of the elements which are affected
  • Economic value of those elements


It is defined as "the extent to which a community, structure, service, and/or geographic area is likely to be damaged or disrupted by the impact of particular hazard, on account of their nature, construction and proximity to hazardous terrain or a disaster prone area."


Hazards are defined as "Phenomena that pose a threat to people, structures, or economic assets and which may cause a disaster. They could be either manmade or naturally occurring in our environment."

The extent of damage in a disaster depends on:

  • The impact, intensity and characteristics of the phenomenon and
  • How people, environment and infrastructures are affected by that phenomenon

This relationship can be written as an equation:

Disaster Risk = Hazard +Vulnerability


Crisis Management

Overview of the Disaster Risk Management Programme [2002-2007]

Government of India [GoI], Ministry of Home Affairs [MHA] and United Nations Development Programme [UNDP] have signed an agreement on August 2002 for implementation of "Disaster Risk Management" Programme to reduce the vulnerability of the communities to natural disasters, in identified multi–hazard disaster prone areas.

Goal: "Sustainable Reduction in Natural Disaster Risk" in some of the most hazard prone districts in selected states of India".

The four main objectives of this programme are:

  • National capacity building support to the Ministry of Home Affairs
  • Environment building, education, awareness programme and strengthening the capacity at all levels in natural disaster risk management and sustainable recovery
  • Multi-hazard preparedness, response and mitigation plans for the programme at state, district, block and village/ward levels in select programme states and districts
  • Networking knowledge on effective approaches, methods and tools for natural disaster risk management, developing and promoting policy frameworks

Programme Phases

The programme has been divided into two phases over a period of six years. Phase I [2002-2004] would provide support to carry out the activities in 28 select districts in the states of Bihar, Gujarat and Orissa. In phase II [2003-2007], the Programme would cover 141 districts in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Sikkim, West Bengal, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamilnadu, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.

Special Focus: 38 Earthquake prone cities having more than half a million population.


Safety Tips

Earthquakes usually give no warning at all.

Prepare your family

Before the earthquake

Now is the time to formulate a safety plan for you and your family. If you wait until the earth starts to shake, it may be too late. Consider the following safety measures:

  • Always keep the following in a designated place: bottled drinking water, non-perishable food (chura, gur, etc), first-aid kit, torchlight and battery-operated radio with extra batteries.
  • Teach family members how to turn off electricity, gas, etc.
  • Identify places in the house that can provide cover during an earthquake.
  • It may be easier to make long distance calls during an earthquake. Identify an out-of-town relative or friend as your family's emergency contact. If the family members get separated after the earthquake and are not able to contact each other, they should contact the designated relative/friend. The address and phone number of the contact person/relative should be with all the family members.
Safeguard your house
  • Consider retrofitting your house with earthquake-safety measures. Reinforcing the foundation and frame could make your house quake resistant. You may consult a reputable contractor and follow building codes.
  • Kutchha buildings can also be retrofitted and strengthened.
During quake

Earthquakes give no warning at all. Sometimes, a loud rumbling sound might signal its arrival a few seconds ahead of time. Those few seconds could give you a chance to move to a safer location. Here are some tips for keeping safe during a quake.

  • Take cover. Go under a table or other sturdy furniture; kneel, sit, or stay close to the floor. Hold on to furniture legs for balance. Be prepared to move if your cover moves.
  • If no sturdy cover is nearby, kneel or sit close to the floor next to a structurally sound interior wall. Place your hands on the floor for balance.
  • Do not stand in doorways. Violent motion could cause doors to slam and cause serious injuries. You may also be hit be flying objects.
  • Move away from windows, mirrors, bookcases and other unsecured heavy objects.
  • If you are in bed, stay there and cover yourself with pillows and blankets
  • Do not run outside if you are inside. Never use the lift.
  • If you are living in a kutcha house, the best thing to do is to move to an open area where there are no trees, electric or telephone wires.
If outdoors
  • Move into the open, away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires. Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops.
  • If your home is badly damaged, you will have to leave. Collect water, food, medicine, other essential items and important documents before leaving.
  • Avoid places where there are loose electrical wires and do not touch metal objects that are in touch with the loose wires.
  • Do not re-enter damaged buildings and stay away from badly damaged structures.
If in a moving vehicle:
  • Move to a clear area away from buildings, trees, overpasses, or utility wires, stop, and stay in the vehicle. Once the shaking has stopped, proceed with caution. Avoid bridges or ramps that might have been damaged by the quake.
After the quake

Here are a few things to keep in mind after an earthquake. The caution you display in the aftermath can be essential for your personal safety.

  • Wear shoes/chappals to protect your feet from debris
  • After the first tremor, be prepared for aftershocks. Though less intense, aftershocks cause additional damages and may bring down weakened structures. Aftershocks can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake.
  • Check for fire hazards and use torchlights instead of candles or lanterns.
  • If the building you live in is in a good shape after the earthquake, stay inside and listen for radio advises. If you are not certain about the damage to your building, evacuate carefully. Do not touch downed power line.
  • Help injured or trapped persons. Give first aid where appropriate. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. In such cases, call for help.
  • Remember to help your neighbours who may require special assistance-infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
  • Listen to a battery-operated radio for the latest emergency information.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings.
  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe. Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches or gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave the area if you smell gas or fumes from other chemicals. Open closet and cupboard doors cautiously.
  • If you smell gas or hear hissing noise, open windows and quickly leave the building. Turn off the switch on the top of the gas cylinder.
  • Look for electrical system damages - if you see sparks, broken wires, or if you smell burning of amber, turn off electricity at the main fuse box. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box, call an electrician first for advice.
  • Check for sewage and water lines damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets. If water pipes are damaged, avoid using water from the tap.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • In case family members are separated from one another during an earthquake (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), develop a plan for reuniting after the disaster. Ask an out of state / district relative or friend to serve as the "family contact". Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number(s) of the contact person (s).


Safety Tips

Before the Cyclone Season
  • Keep watch on weather and listen to radio or TV. Keep alert about the community warning systems – loudspeakers, bells, conches, drums or any traditional warning system.
  • Get to know the nearest cyclone shelter / safe houses and the safest route to reach these shelters.
  • Do not listen to rumours.
  • Prepare an emergency kit containing:
    • A portable radio, torch and spare batteries;
    • Stocks dry food – Chura, Chhatua, Mudhi, gur, etc.
    • Matches, fuel lamp, portable stove, cooking utensils, waterproof bags
    • A first aid kit, manual, etc.
    • Katuri, pliers, small saw, axe and plastic rope
  • Check the roof and cover it with net or bamboo. Check the walls, pillars, doors and windows to see if they are secure. If not, repair those at the earliest. In case of tin roofs, check the condition of the tin and repair the loose points. Cover the mud walls with polythene or coconut leaves mats or straw mats on a bamboo frame. Bind each corner of the roof with a plastic rope in case of thatched roof.
  • Trim dry tree branches, cut off the dead trees and clear the place/courtyard of all debris, including coconuts and tree branches.
  • Clear your property of loose materials that could blow about and cause injury or damage during extreme winds.
  • If your area is prone to storm surge, locate safe high ground or shelter.
  • Keep important documents, passbook, etc. in a tight plastic bag and take it along with your emergency kits if you are evacuating.
  • Identify the spot where you can dig holes to store food grains, seeds, etc. in polythene bags.
  • Keep a list of emergency addresses and phone numbers on display. Know the contact telephone number of the government offices /agencies, which are responsible for search, rescue and relief operations in your area.

If you are living in an area where CBDP exercises have taken place, ensure:

  • Vulnerability list and maps have been updated
  • Cyclone drill including search & rescue, first aid training have taken place
  • Stock of dry food, essential medicines and proper shelter materials maintained

Upon a cyclone warning

  • Store loose items inside. Put extra agricultural products/ stock like paddy in plastic bags and store it by digging up a hole in the ground, preferably at a higher elevation and then cover it properly. Fill bins and plastic jars with drinking water.
  • Keep clothing for protection, handy
  • Prepare a list of assets and belongings of your house and give information to volunteers and other authorities about your near and dear ones.
  • Fill fuel in your car/motorcycle and park it under a solid cover. Tie bullock carts, boats securely to strong posts in an area, which has a strong cover and away from trees. Fallen trees can smash boats and other assets.
  • Close shutters or nail all windows. Secure doors. Stay indoors, with pets.
  • Pack warm clothing, essential medications, valuables, papers, water, dry food and other valuables in waterproof bags, to be taken along with your emergency kit.
  • Listen to your local radio / TV, local community warning system for further information.
  • In case of warning of serious storm, move with your family to a strong pucca building. In case of warning of cyclones of severe intensity, evacuate the area with your family, precious items and documents and emergency kit. Take special care for children, elders, sick, pregnant women and lactating mothers in your family. Do not forget your emergency food stock, water and other emergency items. GO TO THE NEAREST CYCLONE SHELTER.
  • Do not venture into the sea for fishing.
On warning of local evacuation

Based on predicted wind speeds and storm surge heights, evacuation may be necessary. Official advice may be given on local radio / TV or other means of communication regarding safe routes and when to move.

  • Wear strong shoes or chappals and clothing for protection.
  • Lock your home, switch off power, gas, water, and take your emergency kit.
  • If evacuating to a distant place take valuable belonging, domestic animals, and leave early to avoid heavy traffic, flooding and wind hazards.
  • If evacuating to a local shelter or higher grounds carry the emergency kit and minimum essential materials.
When the cyclone strikes
  • Disconnect all electrical appliances and turn off gas.
  • If the building starts crumbling, protect yourself with mattresses, rugs or blankets under a strong table or bench or hold on to a solid fixture (e.g. a water pipe)
  • Listen to your transistor radio for updates and advice.
  • Beware of the calm `eye'. If the wind suddenly drops, don't assume the cyclone is over; violent winds will soon resume from the opposite direction. Wait for the official "all clear".
  • If driving, stop – but well away from the sea and clear of trees, power lines and watercourses. Stay in the vehicle.
After the cyclone
  • Do not go outside until officially advised it is safe.
  • Check for gas leaks. Do not use electric appliances, if wet.
  • Listen to local radio for official warnings and advice.
  • If you have to evacuate, or did so earlier, do not return until advised. Use a recommended route for returning and do not rush.
  • Be careful of snake bites and carry a stick or bamboo
  • Beware of fallen power lines, damaged bridges, buildings and trees, and do not enter the floodwaters.
  • Heed all warnings and do not go sightseeing.


Safety Tips

This guide lists simple things you and your family can do to stay safe and protect your property from floods.

Before flooding occurs.
  • All your family members should know the safe route to nearest shelter/ raised pucca house.
  • If your area is flood-prone, consider alternative building materials. Mud walls are more likely to be damaged during floods. You may consider making houses where the walls are made of local bricks up to the highest known flood level with cement pointing.
  • Have an emergency kit on hand which includes a:
    • A portable radio, torch and spare batteries;
    • Stocks of fresh water, dry food (chura, mudi, gur, biscuits), kerosene, candle and matchboxes;
    • Waterproof or polythene bags for clothing and valuables, an umbrella and bamboo stick (to protect from snake), salt and sugar.
    • A first aid kit, manual and strong ropes for tying things
When you hear a flood warning or if flooding appears likely
  • Tune to your local radio/TV for warnings and advice.
    • Keep vigil on flood warning given by local authorities
    • Don't give any importance to rumours and don't panic
    • Keep dry food, drinking water and clothes ready
  • Prepare to take bullock carts, other agricultural equipments, and domestic animals to safer places or to higher locations.
  • Plan which indoor items you will raise or empty if water threatens to enter your house
  • Check your emergency kit
During floods
  • Drink boiled water.
  • Keep your food covered, don't take heavy meals.
  • Use raw tea, rice-water, tender coconut-water, etc. during diarrhoea; contact your ANM/AWW for ORS and treatment.
  • Do not let children remain on empty stomach.
  • Use bleaching powder and lime to disinfect the surrounding.
  • Help the officials/volunteers distributing relief materials.
If you need to evacuate
  • Firstly pack warm clothing, essential medication, valuables, personal papers, etc. in waterproof bags, to be taken with your emergency kit.
  • Take the emergency kit
  • Inform the local volunteers (if available), the address of the place you are evacuating to.
  • Raise furniture, clothing and valuables onto beds, tables and to the top of the roof (electrical items highest).
  • Turn off power.
  • Whether you leave or stay, put sandbags in the toilet bowl and over all laundry / bathroom drain-holes to prevent sewage back-flow.
  • Lock your home and take recommended/known evacuation routes for your area.
  • Do not get into water of unknown depth and current.
If you stay or on your return
  • Stay tuned to local radio for updated advice.
  • Do not allow children to play in, or near, flood waters.
  • Avoid entering floodwaters. If you must, wear proper protection for your feet and check depth and current with a stick. Stay away from drains, culverts and water over knee-deep.
  • Do not use electrical appliances, which have been in floodwater until checked for safety.
  • Do not eat food, which has been in floodwaters.
  • Boil tap water (in cities) until supplies have been declared safe. In case of rural areas, store tube well water in plastic jars or use halogen tablets before drinking.
  • Be careful of snakes, snakebites are common during floods.

Fire Accidents

High-Rise Fires

  • Calmly leave the apartment, closing the door behind you. Remember the keys!
  • Pull the fire alarm near the closest exit, if available, or raise an alarm by warning others.
  • Leave the building by the stairs.
  • Never take the elevator during fire!  
If the exit is blocked by smoke or fire:
  • Leave the door closed but do not lock it.
  • To keep the smoke out, put a wet towel in the space at the bottom of the door.
  • Call the emergency fire service number and tell them your apartment number and let them know you are trapped by smoke and fire. It is important that you listen and do what they tell you.
  • Stay calm and wait for someone to rescue you.
If there is a fire alarm in your building which goes off:
  • Before you open the door, feel the door by using the back of our hand. If the door is hot or warm, do not open the door.
  • If the door is cool, open it just a little to check the hallway. If you see smoke in the hallway, do not leave.
  • If there is no smoke in the hallway, leave and close the door. Go directly to the stairs to leaveNever use the elevator.
If smoke is in your apartment:
  • Stay low to the floor under the smoke.
  • Call the Fire Emergency Number which should be pasted near your telephone along with police and other emergency services and let them know that you are trapped by smoke.
  • If you have a balcony and there is no fire below it, go out.
  • If there is fire below, go out to the window. DO NOT OPEN THE WINDOW but stay near the window.
  • If there is no fire below, go to the window and open it. Stay near the open window.
  • Hang a bed sheet, towel or blanket out of the window to let people know that you are there and need help.
  • Be calm and wait for someone to rescue you.

Kitchen Fires

It is important to know what kind of stove or cooking oven you have in your home – gas, electric, kerosene or where firewood is used. The stove is the No. 1 cause of fire hazards in your kitchen and can cause fires, which may destroy the entire house, especially in rural areas where there are thatched roof or other inflammable materials like straw kept near the kitchen. For electric and gas stoves ensure that the switch or the gas valve is switched off/turned off immediately after the cooking is over. An electric burner remains hot and until it cools off, it can be very dangerous. The oven using wood can be dangerous because burning embers remain. When lighting the fire on a wooden fuel oven, keep a cover on the top while lighting the oven so that sparks do not fly to the thatched roof. After the cooking is over, ensure that the remaining fire is extinguished off by sprinkling water if no adult remains in the kitchen after the cooking. Do not keep any inflammable article like kerosene near the kitchen fire.

Important Do's in the Kitchen:
  • Do have an adult always present when cooking is going on the kitchen. Children should not be allowed alone.
  • Do keep hair tied back and do not wear synthetic clothes when you are cooking.
  • Do make surethat the curtains on the window near the stove are tied back and will not blow on to the flame or burner.
  • Do check to makesure that the gas burner is turned off immediately if the fire is not ignited and also switched off immediately after cooking.
  • Do turn panhandles to the centre of the stove and put them out of touch of the children in the house.
  • Do ensure that the floor is always dry so that you do not slip and fall on the fire.
  • Do keep matches out of the reach of children.
Important Don'ts
  • Don't put towels, or dishrags near a stove burner.
  • Don't wear loose fitting clothes when you cook, and don't reach across the top of the stove when you are cooking.
  • Don't put things in the cabinets or shelves above the stove. Young children may try to reach them and accidentally start the burners, start a fire, catch on fire.
  • Don't store spray cans or cans carrying inflammable items near the stove.
  • Don't let small children near an open oven door. They can be burnt by the heat or by falling onto the door or into the oven.
  • Don't lean against the stove to keep warm.
  • Don't use towels as potholders. They may catch on fire.
  • Don't overload an electrical outlet with several appliances or extension cords. The cords or plugs may overheat and cause a fire.
  • Don't use water to put out a grease fire. ONLY use baking soda, salt, or a tight lid. Always keep a box of baking soda near the stove.
  • Don't use radios or other small appliances (mixers, blenders) near the sink.


  • Do keep the phone number of the Fire Service near the telephone and ensure that everyone in the family knows the number.
  • Do keep matches and lighters away from children.
  • Do sleep with your bedroom closed to prevent the spread of fire.
  • Do you know that you should never run if your clothes are on fire and that you should - "STOP – DROP-ROLL."


  • Stay alert and awake. Many debris-flow fatalities occur when people are sleeping. Listen to a Weather Radio or portable, battery-powered radio or television for warnings of intense rainfall. Be aware that intense, short bursts of rain may be particularly dangerous, especially after longer periods of heavy rainfall and damp weather.
  • If you are in areas susceptible to landslides and debris flows, consider leaving if it is safe to do so. Remember that driving during an intense storm can be hazardous. If you remain at home, move to a second story if possible. Staying out of the path of a landslide or debris flow saves lives.
  • Listen for any unusual sounds that might indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together. A trickle of flowing or falling mud or debris may precede larger landslides. Moving debris can flow quickly and sometimes without warning.
  • If you are near a stream or channel, be alert for any sudden increase or decrease in water flow and for a change from clear to muddy water. Such changes may indicate landslide activity upstream, so be prepared to move quickly. Don't delay! Save yourself, not your belongings.
  • Be especially alert when driving. Embankments along roadsides are particularly susceptible to landslides. Watch the road for collapsed pavement, mud, fallen rocks, and other indications of possible debris flows.
What to Do if You Suspect Imminent Landslide Danger:
  • Contact your local fire, police, or public works department. Local officials are the best persons able to assess potential danger.
  • Inform affected neighbors. Your neighbors may not be aware of potential hazards. Advising them of a potential threat may help save lives. Help neighbors who may need assistance to evacuate.
  • Evacuate. Getting out of the path of a landslide or debris flow is your best protection.
Media and Community Education Ideas:
  • In an area prone to landslides, publish a special newspaper section with emergency information on landslides and debris flows. Localize the information by including the phone numbers of local emergency services offices, the Red Cross, and hospitals.
  • Report on what city and county governments are doing to reduce the possibility of landslides. Interview local officials about local land- use zoning regulations.
  • Interview local officials and major insurers. Find out if debris flow is covered by flood insurance policies and contact your local emergency management office to learn more about the program.
  • Work with local emergency services to prepare special reports for people with mobility impairments on what to do if evacuation is ordered.
  • Support your local government in efforts to develop and enforce land-use and building ordinances that regulate construction in areas susceptible to landslides and debris flows. Buildings should be located away from steep slopes, streams and rivers, intermittent-stream channels, and the mouths of mountain channels.
After the Landslide:
  • Stay away from the slide area. There may be danger of additional slides.
  • Check for injured and trapped persons near the slide, without entering the direct slide area. Direct rescuers to their locations.
  • Help a neighbor who may require special assistance - infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities. Elderly people and people with disabilities may require additional assistance. People who care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency situations.
  • Listen to local radio or television stations for the latest emergency information.
  • Watch for flooding, which may occur after a landslide or debris flow. Floods sometimes follow landslides and debris flows because they may both be started by the same event.
  • Look for and report broken utility lines to appropriate authorities. Reporting potential hazards will get the utilities turned off as quickly as possible, preventing further hazard and injury.
  • Check the building foundation, chimney, and surrounding land for damage. Damage to foundations, chimneys, or surrounding land may help you assess the safety of the area.
  • Replant damaged ground as soon as possible since erosion caused by loss of ground cover can lead to flash flooding.
  • Seek the advice of a geotechnical expert for evaluating landslide hazards or designing corrective techniques to reduce landslide risk. A professional will be able to advise you of the best ways to prevent or reduce landslide risk, without creating further hazard.
Media and Community Education Ideas:
  • In an area prone to landslides, publish a special newspaper section with emergency information on landslides and debris flows. Localize the information by including the phone numbers of local emergency services offices, the American Red Cross chapter, and hospitals.
  • Report on what city and county governments are doing to reduce the possibility of landslides. Interview local officials about local land- use zoning regulations.
  • Interview local officials and major insurers regarding the National Flood Insurance Program. Find out if debris flow is covered by flood insurance policies from the National Flood Insurance Program and contact your local emergency management office to learn more about the program.
  • Work with local emergency to prepare special reports for people with mobility impairments on what to do if evacuation is ordered.
  • Support your local government in efforts to develop and enforce land-use and building ordinances that regulate construction in areas susceptible to landslides and debris flows. Buildings should be located away from steep slopes, streams and rivers, intermittent-stream channels, and the mouths of mountain channels.
Before a Landslide: How to Plan:

Develop a Family Disaster Plan. Please see the "Family Disaster Plan" section for general family planning information. Develop landslide-specific planning.

Learn about landslide risk in your area. Contact local officials, state geological surveys or departments of natural resources, and university departments of geology. Landslides occur where they have before, and in identifiable hazard locations. Ask for information on landslides in your area, specific information on areas vulnerable to landslides, and request a professional referral for a very detailed site analysis of your property, and corrective measures you can take, if necessary.

If you are at risk from landslides:
  • Talk to your insurance agent.
  • Develop an evacuation plan.
  • Discuss landslides and debris flow with your family. Everyone should know what to do in case all family members are not together. Discussing disaster ahead of time helps reduce fear and lets everyone know how to respond during a landslide or debris flow.

Indian railways is one of the busiest rail networks in the whole world. In a single day it runs around 14,500 trains across various terrains covering 63,140 kilometers that transports millions of passengers. It is also participating in a Trans-Asian railway link project. Looking for greater financial success it has deployed information technology in its various commercial activities. However its disaster management plan is far from being an efficient one, every time a crisis has occurred that the lack of an efficient mechanism has come to fore. This paper looks at Indian Railways present disaster management plan and proposes different strategies in using information technology for disaster preparedness and response. It proposes the setup of a disaster management network that has both private and public interface.

Disaster Management Concept and Meaning

Rail e-Security Solutions

An Introduction to Disaster Management

Concept and Meaning

A disaster is a consequence of a sudden disastrous event which seriously disrupts the normal function of the society or the community to the extent that it cannot subsist without outside help.

A disaster is not just the occurrence of an event such as an earthquake, flood, conflict, health epidemic or an industrial accident; a disaster occurs if that event/process negatively impacts human populations.

 Disasters combine two elements: hazard, and the vulnerability of affected people. "A disaster occurs when a hazard exposes the vulnerability of individuals and communities in such a way that their lives are directly threatened or sufficient harm has been done to their community's economic and social structure to undermine their ability to survive.

A disaster can be defined as any tragic event stemming from events such as earthquakes, floods, catastrophic accidents, fires, or explosions. It is a phenomenon that disasters can cause damage to life, property and destroy the economic, social and cultural life of people.

Disaster is the exposure of a group of people to a hazard, leading to a serious disruption of the functioning of a society and causing  human, material, economic  environmental

losses  which exceed the ability  of the affected community or society to cope. A disaster results from a combination of hazards and vulnerability that  exceeds the capacity of

a society to reduce the potential negative consequences of risk.


Hazard is an extreme event, natural or man-made , with a destructive potential to social, economic and human assets. These may include future threats, and may be “natural”

(geological, hydro meteorological  and biological) or “man-made” (Conflict, environmental degradation and technological hazards).


Disasters are often described as a result of the combination of: the exposure to a hazard; the conditions of vulnerability that are present; and insufficient capacity or measures to reduce or cope with the potential negative consequences. Disaster impacts may include loss of life, injury, disease and other negative effects on human physical, mental and social well-being, together with damage to property, destruction of assets, loss of services, social and economic disruption and environmental degradation.


 A disaster is a calamitous, distressing, or ruinous effect of a disastrous event which seriously affects or disrupts (or threaten to disrupt) the critical functions of a community, society or system, for a period long enough to significantly harm it or cause its failure. It is beyond the capapabilty of the local community to overcome it.  The stricken community needs extraordinary efforts to cope with it, often with outside help or international aid.

It is a situation resulting from an environmental phenomenon or armed conflict that produce stress, personal injury, physical damage, and economic disruption of great magnitude.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines Disaster as "any occurrence that causes damage, ecological disruption, loss of human life, deterioration of health and health services, on a scale sufficient to warrant an extraordinary response from outside the affected community or area."

Types of disasters

Disasters are broadly divided into two types:

1)  Natural

2)  Man made disasters.

 Natural disasters

Natural disasters occur as the result of action of the natural forces and tend to be accepted as unfortunate, but inevitable. They include:

Ø  Famines

Ø  Droughts

Ø  Tornadoes,

Ø  Hurricanes,

Ø  Floods / Sea Surges / Tsunamis

Ø  Volcanoes

Ø  Snow storms,

Ø  Earthquakes,

Famines may be defined as a persistent failure in food supplies over a prolonged period. It is a phenomenon in which a large percentage of the populations of a region or country are so undernourished and that death by starvation becomes increasingly common. A famine weakens body resistance and leads to increases in infectious diseases, especially cholera, dysentery, malaria, and smallpox. Famine is associated with naturally-occurring crop failure due to draught and pestilence and artificially with war and genocide.

Drought is lack or insufficiency of rain for an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region.

A flood is an overflow of water that submerges land, producing measurable property damage or forcing evacuation of people and vital resources. Floods are caused due to heavy rainfall and the inadequate capacity of rivers to carry the high flood discharge. Floods develop slowly as rivers swell during an extended period of rain. A flood occurs when water overflows or inundates land that is normally dry. Mostly it happens when rivers or streams overflow their banks.

Cyclones are strong winds that are formed over the oceans. The term "cyclone" refers to all classes of storms with low atmospheric pressure at the centre, are formed when an organized system of revolving winds, clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere, anti-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, develops over tropical waters.

A hurricane is a huge storm. It is a powerful, spiraling storm that begins over a warm sea, near the equator and accompanied by fierce winds, flash floods, mudslides and huge waves.It is a low pressure, large scale weather system which derives its energy from the latent heat of condensation of water vapor over warm tropical seas.

An earthquake is a sudden motion or trembling of the ground crust caused by the collision of tectonic plates resulting in the abrupt displacement of rock masses. Earthquakes result from the movement of one rock mass past another in response to tectonic forces underneath the earth’s surface.

Volcanoes result when magma rises, pushes through a weakness in the Earth’s crust, and spills out onto the surface, devastating anything in its path. The superheated rock is not the only danger, however. Far below the earth’s surface, volcanic gasses are dissolved in the magma. As the magma rises, it begins to cool down, and gas bubbles begin to form. This makes the magma less dense than the surroundings, causing it to rise faster.

A third threat is a pyroclastic flow. This high speed ejection of hot gasses and debris can travel in excess of 80 kilometers per hour and usually averages between 200 and 700 degrees Celsius. Not only does the pyroclastic flow travel too fast to be outran, but it will incinerate everything in its path. pyroclastic




Man made disasters

Ø  explosions,

Ø  fires,

Ø  release of toxic chemicals or radioactive materials(industrial accidents),

Ø  dam failures

Ø  nuclear reactor accidents

Ø  wars


Disaster risk/threats

The potential disaster losses, in lives, health status, livelihoods, assets and services, which could occur to a particular community or a society over some specified future time period. Traditional disaster threats:

Most of the old disaster threats still exist like earthquakes, cyclones, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, wildfires, floods, landslides, and drought so do the man-made ones like fire, explosions and other major accidents which cause heavy human casualties, economic and social losses. These same traditional threats have increased as increase in population has force people to settle in disaster prone areas which increase the impact of disasters.

Modern disaster threats:

These consist of manmade events like hijacking, terrorism, civil unrest, terrorism and conflict with conventional arms as well as chemical, biological, nuclear, or radiological weapons. Increased social violence has drastically affected many nations and communities.


A dangerous phenomenon, substance, human activity or condition that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage.

Hazards are conditions that have the potential to harm to a community or environment

Geological Hazards

Geological process or phenomenon that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage.

These disasters include landmass related disasters like earthquakes, mudslides, volcanoes etc,

Water and climatic Hazards (Hydro meteorological hazards)

These include storms, cyclones, floods etc

Chemical Hazards

By their nature, the manufacture, storage, and transport of chemicals are accidents waiting to happen. Chemicals can be corrosive, toxic, and they may react, often explosively. The impacts of chemical accidents can be deadly, for both human beings and the environment.


Industrial/ Technological hazards

A hazard originating from technological or industrial conditions, including accidents, dangerous procedures, infrastructure failures or specific human activities, that may cause loss of life, injury, illness or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage.

These include industrial pollution, nuclear radiation, toxic wastes, dam failures, transport accidents, factory explosions, fires, and chemical spills.


Biological hazards, also known as biohazards, refer to biological substances that pose a threat to the health of living organisms, primarily that of humans. This can include medical waste or samples of a microorganism, virus or toxin (from a biological source) that can affect human health. It can also include substances harmful to animals. Examples: anthrax, smallpox, plague, tularemia, brucellosis and botulinism toxin, bird flu.

Disaster management

Definition and concept.

Disaster management includes sum total of all activities, programmes and measureswhich can be taken up before, during and after a disaster with the purpose of avoiding, reducing the impact or recovering from its losses.

According to Kelly (1996),"Disaster management" can be defined as the range of activities designed to maintain control over disaster and emergency situations and to provide a framework for helping those who are at risk to avoid or recover from the impact of the disaster.

Disaster management means managing resources and various responsibilities to deal with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies. This may include preparedness before disaster, response and recovery i.e. rebuilding and supporting society. The purpose of this is to lessen the impact of disasters.

 ‘Disaster management can be defined as the organization and management of resources and responsibilities for dealing with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies, in particular preparedness, response and recovery in order to lessen the impact of disasters.

The various aspects of disaster management:

Ø  Disaster Prevention

Ø  Disaster preparedness

Ø  Disaster response

Ø  Disaster mitigation

Ø  Rehabilitation

Ø  Reconstruction

The aims of disaster management are to:

Reduce (avoid, if possible) the potential losses from hazards;

 Assure prompt and appropriate assistance to victims when necessary;

 Achieve rapid and durable recovery.

Importance and relevance of disaster management in the present environmental scenario

Over the past 20 years disasters have affected 4.4 billion people, caused $2 trillion of damage and killed 1.3 million people. These losses have outstripped the total value of official development assistance in the same period. Natural disasters disproportionately affect people living in developing countries and the most vulnerable communities within those countries. Over 95 per cent of people killed by natural disasters are from developing countries (Extreme Weather and Natural Disasters, 2012).

In developing countries, the incidence of natural disasters, the impact of climate changes and the management of the natural environment strongly influence the rate of development progress

In the decade 1990-2000, an average of about 4344 people lost their lives and about 30 million people were affected by disasters every year. The loss in terms of private, community and public assets has been astronomical.

At the global level, there has been considerable concern over natural disasters. Even as s scientific and material progress is made, the loss of lives and property due to disasters has not decision. In fact, the human toll and economic losses have mounted.

It was in this background that the Nations General Assembly, in 1989, declared the decade 1990-2000 as the International Natural Disaster Reduction with the objective to reduce loss of lives and property and restrict economic damage through concerted international action, especially in developing countries.

India has been traditionally vulnerable to natural disasters on account of its unique geo-climatic condi­tions. Floods, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes and landslides have been recurrent phenomena.

About 60% of the landmass is prone to earthquakes of various intensities; over 40 million hectares is prone to floods; about 8% of the total area is prone to cyclones and 68% of the area is susceptible to drought.

Over the past couple of years, the Government of India has brought about a paradigm shift in approach to disaster management. The new approach proceeds from the conviction that develop cannot be sustainable unless disaster mitigation is built into the development process.

Another stone of the approach is that mitigation has to be multi-disciplinary spanning across all sectors. The new policy also emanates from the belief that investments in mitigation are much cost effective than expenditure on relief and rehabilitation.

Disaster management occupies an important place in this country's policy framework as it is poor and the under-privileged who are worst affected on account of calamities/disasters.

The steps being taken by the Government emanate from the approach outlined above. The app: has been translated into a National Disaster Framework [a roadmap] covering institutional mechanic; disaster prevention strategy, early warning system, disaster mitigation, preparedness and response human resource development.

The expected inputs, areas of intervention and agencies to be in at the National, State and district levels have been identified and listed in the roadmap. This road has been shared with all the State Governments and Union Territory Administrations.

Ministries Departments of Government of India, and the State Governments/UT Administrations have been to develop their respective roadmaps taking the national roadmap as a broad guideline. There is, therefore: now a common strategy underpinning the action being taken by the entire participating organisation' stakeholders.

The approach is being put into effect through:

(a) Institutional changes

(b) Enunciation of policy

(c) Legal and techno-legal framework

(d) Mainstreaming Mitigation into Development process

(e) Funding mechanism

(f) Specific schemes addressing mitigation

(g) Preparedness measures

(h) Community participation and capacity building

In India, the role of emergency management falls to National Disaster Management of India, a government agency subordinate to the Ministry of Home Affairs. In recent years, there has been a shift in emphasis, from response and recovery to strategic risk management and reduction, and from a government-centered approach to decentralized community participation.

Funding mechanisms

Bilateral-Aid i.e. foreign and local, national funding is being used to deal with disasters especially the post disaster phase

Community based disaster management:

The role of community participation in disaster management is very important. When the community becomes a part of the decision making system it ensures the ownership and accountability. It is very important for the medical staff and doctors to know the local language for treating the disaster victims. The local people have to be trained to manage the disasters. One of the most effective mechanisms for a country to prepare for a disaster is by conducting education and public awareness programmes at the local community level, educating, preparing and supporting local populations and communities in their everyday efforts to reduce risks and prepare their own local response mechanisms to address disaster emergency situations.

Community based approach in disaster management is a process of educating and empowering the population through sharing knowledge and information about the various types of disasters and their potential risks as widely as possible so that people act appropriately when a disaster happens. Members of a community are the immediate victims of adverse effects of a disaster. They have the best knowledge about their local surrounding in terms of the most disaster-prone areas, the demography of their community and their social and traditional organisation. Community leaders can create Community Based Action Plans specific to their needs. This action plan incorporates the hazard map, mock exercises and other important methods, skills and information needed in preparation for a disaster.


gallery Rail Safety Posters