Mangaluru: Understanding and developing frameworks to quantify disaster preparedness levels is the first step that should be taken in the process of building a disaster-resilient society. In this context, Dr Sreevalsa Kolathayar’s research group from the National Institute of Technology Karnataka (NITK) Surathkal developed a tool termed Disaster Preparedness Index (DPI) to assess the preparedness level of every individual and household to face an impending disaster. It is a survey-based tool to analyze the preparedness indices of the respondents over psychological and various social factors. The Disaster Preparedness Index (DPI) is a valid and reliable tool that assesses individuals on a three-level scale with index values ranging between 0–14.
The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, adopted by the United Nations in 2015, mentions the importance of disaster preparedness and highlights preparedness as one of the five primacies for risk reduction. It identifies that preparedness can make communities and individuals more disaster resilient. Disaster preparedness can help communities to recover and build back better after a calamity, and preparedness alone can decrease the losses from disasters by up to 40%. The development of a tool to estimate the disaster preparedness of individuals is a step taken by Dr. Sreevalsa’s research group at NITK in the direction of global disaster risk reduction in line with the UN Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction. The lack of preparedness for disasters is an essential reason for destruction in the form of lives and properties. In a developing country like India, which is vulnerable to almost all kinds of natural hazards, the preparedness level is very less, which can cause severe losses following a major disaster. The various factors affecting preparedness among the diverse population in India were explored in the research. It investigates individual/household preparedness based on their actions before and during the occurrence of a disaster and also looks into the psychological factors influencing the preparedness of individuals. The DPI tool developed at NITK is now used widely across Asian countries, including India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, etc., to assess the disaster preparedness of the community at local and regional levels. Dr. Sreevalsa said he has been receiving several requests from research groups and NGOs from various countries like New Zealand and Switzerland, and also from several Asian & African countries, seeking permission to use the NITK DPI tool for their regions. The influence factors like psychological mindset and socio-economic conditions over the levels of disaster preparedness can be analyzed using this tool.
Earlier, Dr Kolathayar developed the Earthquake Readiness Index (ERI) tool to evaluate earthquake preparedness in India as part of preparing national guidelines for earthquake preparedness in India under the aegis of the Indian Society of Earthquake Technology (ISET) IIT Roorkee of which he was an expert member of the committee. A mobile app named BhookampRaksha App was also developed as part of the project to disseminate information on earthquake hazards in India and for self-assessment of individual preparedness level. Dr Sreevalsa has authored five books in the area of geohazards and disaster risk reduction published by international publishers like CRC Press (Taylor and Francis), Springer, and Elsevier. These books are subscribed globally by top universities in the world, including MIT and Stanford, and are reference materials recommended by the curriculums in several institutions, including IITs and NITs, for disaster management-related courses. He represented India at the Sino-south Asian countries Disaster Risk Reduction Forum held in the year 2018 in Chengdu, China. In 2021, NITK hosted the first of its kind Global Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (VCDRR 2021) in association with the National Institute of Disaster Management and 15 global partnering organizations, which was attended by around 1800 delegates from over 75 countries. Dr Sreevalsa’s opinion is that Disaster Risk Reduction is a no-regret investment and is an integral part of Sustainable Development Goals. Creating awareness of preparedness is key to a community’s risk resilience. The disaster preparedness aspects must peep into people’s minds and must continue throughout generations to create a well-prepared and alert community.
Additional Details about Disaster Preparedness Index (DPI) tool
In spite of so many developments in weather forecast techniques, damage to life and resources due to natural disasters could not be prevented. Time and time again, we have seen and read about many natural disasters occurring all over the world, which have caused great havoc in society, destroying lives and properties. Given that the warning time will be very less for some disasters occurring due to extreme natural events, the effectiveness of adaptive and coping efforts can be expressed as a function of the degree to which the required knowledge, competencies, and resources (e.g., household emergency plans, stored food, and water, ability to work with others to conduct local rescue efforts and capacity for self-reliance) are organized in advance and are capable of being used promptly when the need arises. Thus, the impact caused due to disasters can be reduced by taking several personal, community, and building safety measures.
A reliable and valid scale is proposed for the assessment of preparedness towards natural disasters as a whole and also captures the effect of psychological and socioeconomic factors on the preparation levels. The face validity and content validity of the questionnaire were established by subject experts. Construct validity of the developed tools was established using Principal Component Analysis. Internal Consistency and Spearman’s Co-efficient were found to establish reliability. Relevant and accurate information provided by such a valid and reliable instrument can result in appropriate disaster planning and policy making. Reducing causalities and improving community survival are the key goals of the earthquake readiness indices.
Various online resources were examined to obtain precise and accurate information on disaster preparation and questionnaire development. It included those of the American Red Cross, FEMA, NDMA, WEMO, etc. Information regarding the different steps and measures to prepare for any disaster and lists of recommendations made by several disaster management agencies and guidelines on questionnaire development were obtained.
The questionnaire includes a 14-item scale for Disaster Preparedness Index (DPI) for individuals, along with demographics for interpretative studies. The 14-item scale included necessary precautions/measures that were considered necessary for an individual to safeguard life and property not only during a major natural disaster but also to secure the life of the individual after the disaster.
Subject experts established the face validity and content validity of the questionnaire. Group discussions were carried out with participants from various disciplines with both direct and indirect experiences with disasters. Peer reviews were done with the questionnaire, and many changes were incorporated into the sample questionnaire. The final revision was made in the sample questionnaire making it 14 item scale for the DPI of individuals. The sample questionnaire was pretested through a pilot survey, and further construct validity was established by exploratory factor analysis. Principal component analysis (PCA) and Varimax methods were employed for EFA. Studies conducted using the DPI tool in cities like Delhi, Coimbatore and Chennai indicate that the preparedness level of the community to face an impending disaster is poor though post-disaster measures are prompt and appropriate. There is a need to increase the preparedness level of the community well before a disaster happens and it can save lives and properties. It was observed that educated people are more aware and better prepared compared to illiterates. Women are more prepared than men at the household level. Employed class is more prepared at the individual level whereas students are better prepared at the community level. However, the overall preparedness level in these Indian cities was found to be poor to moderate and there is a need to have more awareness and mock drills. It should start from school education onwards to build a resilient community.
The questionnaire consists of two sections; Disaster Preparedness Index questions and demographics. The questionnaire consisted of four factors, namely Indoor safety measures, Documents preparation, Collective efficacy, and Escape Plan. DPI tool can evaluate both knowledge and practice with respect to the preparedness of individuals. Governmental agencies can utilize this tool to analyze the preparedness levels of any group of individuals to face a disaster. It has a stable, unifactorial structure that is suitable for use as a dependent variable and has high reliability and good validity.
Disaster preparedness is not a part of the public consciousness, even in the vulnerable regions of India. There are many things that individuals and communities can do that will reduce the havoc and loss during a disaster. These steps can be a complementary measure alongside other activities that focus on the overall development of the community; with a team spirit. Usually, the aftermaths of a disaster bring solidarity among the members of the community. There is a need to bring this spirit of togetherness and solidarity well before a disaster so that a community can be prepared well to face the disaster and thus reduce the loss of life and property. People, governments, and other groups need to be continually reminded to keep their preparedness efforts up-to-date and ongoing. Every family should update their knowledge and preparedness plans based on changes in where they work, live, or go to school.
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