A model for an incident management system for South Africa / by Patricia Mary Reid
Reid, Patricia Mary
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The loss of life, damage to property and to infrastructure caused by the impact of severe weather events and other events of natural and technological origin as well as environmental degradation, results in major economic losses for any country. However, in South Africa when events of this nature strike, those who suffer the most are the poorest of the poor who live in extremely vulnerable conditions and who are repeatedly exposed to severe hardship as a result. Until 1994 such events were regarded as unavoidable and were therefore managed proactively. However the floods which took place in the Cape Flats in 1994 were the turning point in the way significant events and disasters were managed in South Africa. The newly elected democratic government resolved to move away from the traditional thinking that nothing could be done to prevent such occurrences and resolved to adopt a new developmental approach in line with global trends by integrating risk reduction methodologies into developmental initiatives to build resilience in households, communities and areas known to be at risk. Government's policy proposals included the introduction and implementation of a new Disaster Management Act to give effect to the new approach. It recognised too that risk reduction was an ongoing activity that extended into the response paradigm. In this regard there was acknowledgement that the saving of lives and prevention of loss and damage to property, infrastructure and the environment also depended on rapid and effective response operations which in turn require mechanisms for integration, coordination, cooperative management and authority for decision making. The requirement for the application of joint standards of practice and a uniform approach were key characteristics of the policy proposals. Unlike other major countries in the world such as the United States of America, British Columbia, Australia and the Untied Kingdom, that have adopted a national incident management system, no national standard system currently exists in South Africa for the integrated and coordinated management of multi-agency response operations. However, the National Disaster Management Policy Framework which was promulgated in 2005, in giving effect to the policy proposals, calls for the development and implementation of regulations for a national standard for the management of multi-agency responses. The model which has been derived from the research conducted in this study and from the researcher's experience in the field provides a generic framework on which a comprehensive multi-agency response management system can be developed for South Africa which could serve as a useful contribution to the system envisaged for the regulation. The model for a Multi-agency Response Management System (MARMS) provides a seamless environment for integrating and coordinating operational responses; for tactical and strategic decision making; and for invoking extraordinary powers for the effective resolution of the situation and is applicable for any type of occurrence regardless of its origin - from a single agency response to a routine occurrence; to a multi-agency response to a single occurrence or multi-agency responses to a series of occurrences within a single jurisdiction; as well as to multi jurisdictional responses within a particular sphere of local government and right up through the second sphere to national government. The model was developed using grounded theory methodology through the use of Internet and focus group interviews to collect the data. During the process of analysing the data by open and axial coding, key elements emerged which were then clustered into categories from which the core concepts of the model emerged. The emergent core concepts were then dimensionalised which formed the major constructs of the model thereby ensuring that the model was grounded in the theory. Constant comparisons were drawn with the experiences in the field throughout the process in order to ensure theoretical sensitivity. During the process of axial coding certain intervening conditions emerged which could negatively or positively affect its application. The developed model was therefore subjected to scrutiny by means of a quantitative attitudinal test amongst senior professionals involved in the field resulting in triangulation.
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