The Disaster Management Institute of South Africa (DMISA) for its annual Disaster Risk Reduction Conference, convened in Hartenbos from 9 to 10 September 2015 to share ideas and best practices in the profession of Disaster Management. The theme of this year’s (2015) Conference was: “The 2030 Resilience: Sustainability and Adaptation Mandate: A New Action for Disaster Risk Reduction”.
Approximately 300 delegates from various institutions from the African continent were in attendance, including delegates from outside the African borders, as far as Slovenia and Romania.
In opening the event, President of DMISA, Dr Johann Minnie, used a special moment to light a candle as tribute to all victims who lost their lives due to disasters. Thereafter delegates had to extinguish their candles with their bare fingers to get a feel of what victims of disasters have to experience.
During her welcoming address, Executive Mayor of Mossel Bay Municipality, Alderlady Marie Ferreira, encouraged all delegates to familiarise themselves with the beautiful attractions of Mossel Bay.
Eden’s Acting Executive Mayor, Cllr Lionel Esau, in his overview of the Eden district, said: “…the Eden district is prone not only to severe weather related events like flooding, storm surges, high seas, drought etc. but also to run-away wild fires, animal epidemics, oil spill disasters, landslides and rock falls….“ As a result of these events, Cllr Esau further highlighted that, “The District has been pro-active and in 2008 it was one of the first District Authorities to invest in the building and equipping of a fully operational Disaster Management Center.”
Western Cape MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Mr Anton Bredell, acknowledged that funding is a big challenge, however, he will further engage with various other role-players to obtain the necessary funding to ensure that the right systems are put in place for Disaster Management. Furthermore, MEC Bredell highlighted that through the Western Cape’s proactive awareness campaigns, more than 70 000 learners at 85 schools have been reached.
In comparing Sendai’s Framework of 2015 to 2030 Global Targets with the Framework of Hyogo, Prof. Dr Jakob Rhyner, Vice Rector of the United Nations University advised: “We have to place stronger emphasis on preparedness rather then intervention. “Early warning systems are one of the core elements of Disaster Management, but education is the most important.” Mr Matej Cerk from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, introduced a software application that can be utilised to make Disaster Management officials more operational; to eventually see the results of limited damage and fatalities when disaster strikes. This software can also be applied in other countries. “By incorporating a country’s parameters into the data, such country’s results will also be accurate”, Mr Cerk said.
Professionalising the field of Disaster Management was also under discussion, when Dr Mal Reddy, Immediate Past President of DMISA, announced that the Disaster Management Professional was recently approved by SAQA.
Mr Ken Terry, Head of the National Disaster Management Centre, inspired the audience when he shared the challenges they experienced in two respective international disaster responses, of which one was the building that collapsed in Lagos, Nigeria. However, one of the best lessons that he learnt out of these operations was that, “All documents, such as strategies etc. must be converted into usable information in order to get it to the most vulnerable of our country. During these incidents, it was not only Disaster Management at work, instead all South Africans worked together.”