Lessons learned from implementation of the Programme on Prevention, Preparedness and Response to Natural and Man-made Disasters
Globally, we continue to battle COVID-19, working to quell the virus. Now we are also preparing to reopen the economy of many nations. What have we learned that will help us navigate a return to pre-COVID normalcy but also prepare us for a second wave of cases as many experts are predicting will occur?
Some countries are beginning to see a downtrend on their number of cases; others are seeing an uptick. It is during this period where preparatory measures need to take place, and it is important to remember that there are a number of mechanisms already in place for other types of disasters that could be activated to prevent further contaminations, prepare communities, and organize adequate joint response to this potential second round of cases.
What are they?
Communication is key: Countries need to maintain open and honest communication between one another to share strategic approaches, lessons learned, and the results of their imposed measures.
Assign responsibility: Points of contact for specific actions needs to be assigned, so that people know where to go to for information and so that efforts are not unnecessarily replicated.
Divide and conquer: It is key to divide up responsibility between countries based on their strengths to take advantage of the capacity of each country, while acting jointly and not in isolation.
Act swiftly: Quick responses can reduce the spread of catastrophe. There is little time that can be spared, so immediate repose is key. From there, measures can be adjusted based on lessons learned, but there must be a start.
In 2014, the European Commission entrusted our team in Belgium with the implementation of the Programme on Prevention, Preparedness and Response to Natural and Man-made Disasters (PPRD East 2) to strengthen the resilience of a group of neighboring countries to the European Union and help them be ready for responding to manmade and natural disasters. Working on that project helped our team develop the above strategies. The approach to a global pandemic, as the one we are experiencing now with COVID-19, relates and the work done through PPRD East 2 put in place systems and delivered lessons learned that can be called upon to help combat a second COVID-19 wave.
The PPRD project brought together first responders from the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, where these key strategies, above, were learned.
The project included a large-scale simulation where more than 600 top national rescue team members, observers, and supporting staff were confronted with a series of disaster scenarios. These mock scenarios demonstrated that disaster knows no borders, so communication and coordination between countries is of the utmost importance in order to minimize damage and expediently problem solve.
From my experience, working as a project director at Stantec for this initiative supporting country crisis leaders to craft road maps and regional and national action plans, the above strategies are what I consider essential to remember so that we can continue to find our way through this unprecedented situation and be even better prepared for round two.
About the author
Anca Andreescu is Head of Implementation for Stantec’s International Development team in Brussels, Belgium. She oversees the capacity building and institutional strengthening projects we implement for international financing institutions in developing countries all over the globe.