Archive for the 'Emergency preparedness' Category

Coastal zone of Chile: ten management recommendations

Chile is a country with thousands of kilometres of coastline (the exact length of the coast depends on the definition applied). Naturally, moving towards integrated coastal zone management benefits a country like that.

The Coastal Challenges editor did a consultancy in the Fourth Region (Coquimbo Region) of Chile a few years ago. One of the results was a set of general guidelines for integrated coastal management in that region. In the ten conclusions/recommendations the local experiences were combined with the lessons learned in coastal management internationally.

A powerful tsunami in 2010 made Chileans aware of the need for sound coastal management. This Chilean government fax indicating there was a tsunami risk was not enough to result in massive coastal evacuations. As a result, lots of human lives were lost.

The conclusions and recommendations for integrated management of the Coquimbo coastal area are listed below:

  1. Integrated management of the coastal zone is a learning process with incremental implementation, feedback and adjustment mechanisms.
  2. At all levels of action, it is important to build the integrated management on a sustainable  financial and economic base, for example through self-funding.
  3. It is important to incorporate in the process the opinions of all the involved and interested parties, for example by applying conflict resolution mechanisms.
  4. It is essential that the actions keep focus on just a few issues which are understood by all the participants in the process. The focus on the issues means that an exact definition of the coastal zone is not a precondition for the action to begin.
  5. In general, construction on the local institutional roots is the safest option. E.g. the existing management systems, which are politically supported, can be modified instead of building totally new management institutions. Also in this case, the application of innovative ideas for real integration is important.
  6. A long-term vision is essential, and as part of this, opportunities should be left open for the future generations.
  7. The management should be based on good knowledge of the laws of nature. Implementation would need to be proactive instead of retroactive.
  8. It is important that the decision-making system is just and efficient.
  9. It is essential to understand that combining sustainable management with the poverty of resource users is difficult. Because of this, development of economic alternatives for the least favoured groups is needed.
  10. In sustainable coastal zone management, integration mechanisms are only one element. Specific action is needed also in the management of key species and habitats, pollution control, land use planning and environmental impact assessment. In addition to integration, sectoral activities in these and other action fields need to continue. (Naturally, sector-specific work needs to go on, but the sectoral actions should no more be implemented in isolation from other coastal zone activities.)

How to be prepared for tsunamis?

The powerful earthquake in Japan and the following tsunami in March 2011 remind us of the need to be prepared for tsunamis.  These are the instructions for individual citizens by the American Red Cross in an edited and summarized form:

How to be prepared?

  • Find out if you live or work in an area, which could be affected by a tsunami. Know the elevation of the area. Evacuation orders are often based on these numbers.
  • Plan evacuation routes. Areas 30 meters above sea level or 3 kilometers inland are often recommended.
  • Remember that school evacuation plan may require you to pick your children up. Know the plan.
  • Practice your evacuation plan.
  • When you travel, know the local tsunami evacuation protocols. Remember that the third or higher floors in reinforced concrete hotel structures may offer safety.

Preparedness for tsunamis is an important part of costal zone management programs. Set-back areas, land use planning, construction standards and contingency planning are some of the necessary elements. Photo copyright (c) 2011 Erkki Siirila.

What to do during a potential tsunami situation?

  • Get prepared, if you are in the coastal zone and there is an earthquake which lasts 20 seconds or longer.
  • During an earthquake you should first protect yourself: drop, cover and hold on.
  • When there is no more shaking, you and the people around you should quickly move  to higher ground away from the coast. A tsunami could hit you within minutes.
  • Remember that downed power lines and damaged bridges and buildings could be dangerous. Aftershocks increase the risk.

What to do during a tsunami watch?

  • Follow radio or television stations for emergency information.
  • Locate your family members. Review evacuation plans together. Get prepared for evacuation in case of a tsunami warning.

What to do during a tsunami warning?

  • After hearing an official tsunami warning or detecting signs of a tsunami, evacuate immediately.
  • Do not forget to take your emergency preparedness kit with you.
  • If it is not safe for you, it’s not safe for your pets. Take them with you.
  • To protect yourself from the tsunami, get to a location which is high enough or far away from the coast.
  • Watching a tsunami could put your life at risk.

What to do after a tsunami?

  • Follow radio or television stations for updated information.
  • Tsunami waves may continue attacking the coast for hours. It is safe to return home only after local officials tell you it is safe.
  • Get first aid as needed before helping others.
  • When you see complex emergency situations, call professionals with the right equipment to help. Trying to rescue others without appropriate equipment and knowledge is dangerous.
  • Offer help to people who require special assistance (e.g. children, elderly people and persons with disabilities).
  • Remember that your presence in disaster areas might interfere with emergency response operations and put you at further risk.
  • Avoid using the telephone when not necessary. Use it only for emergency calls.
  • Remember that in buildings tsunami water can cause floors to crack and walls to collapse. Be careful when re-entering buildings.
  • When cleaning up, be cautious and wear protective clothing.
  • Keep an eye on pets and domestic animals.