Disaster Management: Is India Inc. Doing Enough?

by Muntazir Abbas    Jan 22, 2009

A recent Gartner research reveals that two out of every five enterprises that experience a disaster go out of business within five years. Significantly, figures from the Home Affairs Ministry point out that nearly 60% of the Indian land mass is earthquake prone.

Naturally, the recent trend has been to move away from a reactive and relief-centric approach to holistic efforts that include preparedness with technology-driven tools. "There is a need to leverage technology so that we can tackle issues before, during and post-disasters," said General N C Vij, vice chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority.   

The Disaster Management Act that was created in December, 2005 provides a comprehensive approach to undertaking prevention and mitigation measures.

"The Planning Commission has agreed to review infrastructure projects, as we have seen the casualties in foreign countries are lesser during disasters," said Gen. Vij. A complete continuum to disaster management includes prevention, mitigation and preparedness in pre-disaster phase, and response, rehabilitation, and reconstruction in post-disaster phase.

Several large companies spend around 2.5% of their IT budget on disaster recovery planning in order to facilitate business continuity. "We should advice corporate on how they can contribute to disaster management so that they can reach people early," said Gen. Vij. An integrated approach to e-disaster management is essential and that can be done through technologically-driven resources.

The major challenges, however, include lack of information sharing between organizations, quick dissemination of information, interagency cooperation, and mapping and topography identification.   

"Microsoft is working with various governments around the world in disaster management," says Andrew William Hawkins, director of public safety solutions for Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft Corporation.

There has been a paradigm shift in approach towards disaster management, according to Hawkins. Scalability, along with mobile and remote communications, intelligence and investigation, and biometrics, has become critical, he said. Common strategies undertaken by various organizations for disaster recovery preparedness include on-site backups on disks that are automatically copied or made directly to off-site disk and replication of data through storage area network (SAN) technology.