BWIRE: Cabinet should prioritise Disaster Risk Management Bills

It’s urgent and of national security importance that the Cabinet considers and approves for onward transmission to Parliament of the Disaster Risk Management (DRM) related bills and Policy, in the wake of the current fatalities facing the country and lessons learnt from the multi-agency approach from handling the River side 14 terrorist attack in Kenya.

The country needs a firm legal regime that lays down the legal foundation for collaborative partnership in institutional participatory management of disasters, including mobilization of the essential wide range of resources necessary for management of all disasters and above all, a system that will remove any inter-ministerial or inter agency turf wars.

There are a number of draft Disaster Risk Management–related legal documents gathering dust on the shelves in various public offices that are urgent needed to help country comprehensively with tragedies.

The DRM Policy 2017 sponsored by four ministries; Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, Ministry of Devolution & ASALs, Ministry of Defense and CS Treasury needs to be fast tracked.

In addition the DRM Bill 2016 and the National Disaster Management Bill 2018 – currently before the Senate need to be enacted as a matter of urgency and national concern.

Once enacted and implemented, the country will be prepared to deal with disasters and tragedies including those that cause mass fatalities in a better way as seen during the handling the recent terrorist attack in Nairobi and other emergencies.

The regime will clearly spell out the management of such national disasters, set out standard operating procedures including saving lives, securing the scene of crime and evidence and managing the national reaction and mood following such events.

What the country current lacks is a comprehensive approach to dealing with national disasters that would enable easy national mobilization and reaction during such tragedies.

A few of the lessons learnt from the Dusit Hotel attack was lack of awareness and helpful information to responders, survivors and families about what to do, that would not exacerbate the situation, endanger the hostages or minimize family anxiety and fears. You could see the media, responders, and survivors and members of the public frustrating the security team from cordoning off the scene of crime, for both safety of the hostages and for counter security/rescue operations.

This time the State’s initial site and risk assessment and incident command structure was on point, including controlling operational command issues and information flow management. For successful investigation and prosecution of suspects, it’s important for the scene preservation and management.

The private sector, especially property owners must join government in investing in training of key people including private security guards on existing incident protocol as first responders’ because a number of people drawn from the general public and uniformed police officers are usually the first to respond.

The Government should invest more in training and empowering those likely to be incident commanders — men and women who have the capacity to implement a holistic, effective and safe response to the incident scene.

The law is required urgently when matters are still hot. The team working on developing tools from dealing with mass fatalities also needs to finalize their work for the good of the country. The current framework is inadequate.

The writer works at the Media Council of Kenya and is journalists safety and protection Trainer