Sierra Leone needs a ministry of emergency management

Michael Fayia Kallon

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 September 2014

Ebola - shops closed in FreetownI don’t know what anyone calls an Emergency Operations Center (EOC), since there is no state governance that would provide a timely and effective response to meet the needs in cases of disaster.

We are so lucky so far, because in case of an occurrence of a catastrophic disaster like earthquake, or a terrorist act, that will cause casualties, property loss, and disruption of normal life support systems, and thus impacting our district economic, physical, and social infrastructures; the country will not be able to adequately address the situation in the absence of an effective state response plan.

Furthermore, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) – as you referred to it should by now be able to address disasters and emergencies that may have potential health and medical problems with hundreds of deaths and injuries; depending on factors such as time of occurrence, severity of impact, existing weather conditions, area demographics, and the nature of building construction.

Ebola is what we know today, but deaths and injuries will also occur principally from terrorism, the collapse of man-made structures, and from collateral events, such as fires, and mudslides, etc.

We are so lucky we have not been hit by terrorist acts, but it does not mean that it will not happen in the near future because of our engagements in sending troops to fight terrorists abroad in places like Sudan, or Somalia, etc.

It is time that the government of Sierra Leone start making provisions to address such disasters that may result as a result of terrorist acts on our soil.

Ebola sierra leone2You should know that terrorist acts are designed to do one thing – instil fear. It will make people to feel that they cannot protect themselves, and that the government is unable, unwilling to provide adequate protection as people in most parts of the country may be thinking today, due to the Ebola epidemic that has been poorly handled by the governments of – Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

It is in this regard that African countries should abolish some good-for-nothing ministries, and to carve new ones that may embolden the protection of the states.

The great United States after 9/11, created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); which has its own secretary, or minister in the Sierra Leonean context.

Sierra Leone too, should create a Ministry of Emergency Management (MEM). The Ministry of Health should do its job since there are lots of empty clinics all around the country that lack ambulances, and basic healthcare needs, etc.

There should be incident commanders in all the districts in Sierra Leone who will identify broad overall goals that must be accomplished to bring any event to a successful conclusion, in a timely, safe, and efficient manner.

Strategic goals are broad statements of desirable outcomes and tactical options are more refined definitions of specific measurable actions that must be carried out to achieve the strategic goals.

Emergency services throughout Sierra Leone should operate under a variety of strategic goals system.

These systems should be designed to provide organized direction to the management of a particular type of event – whether in response to a mass-casualty event, as Ebola, which resembles a biological emergency; has taught us a lesson; or, structure-fire event, hazardous material event, etc.

We should know that strategic goals systems are a part of our lives on a day-to-day basis.

To be more effective in our emergency management services in Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Emergency Management (MEM) should then train Community Response Teams (CRTs) in all the twelve districts in Sierra Leone.

In cases of an emergency, factors such as the number of victims, communications failures, and even road blockages will prevent people from accessing emergency services. It is in this sense that the local EMS systems with the local fire departments and Community Response Teams (CRTs) will be able to meet the true emergency response needs demanded by the event; until adequate help will arrive from the Ministry of Emergency Management (MEM).

The Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) will be trained in events such as drills, neighbourhood clean up, and disaster education fairs, and more, to help keep them involved in all the districts of Sierra Leone.

Emergency management involves colossal tasks that teach all those who may be interested in such a training to know disaster psychology and emergency team organization.

CERTs members should receive recognition for completing their training. Communities may issue ID cards, vests, and helmets to graduates. These items will become ‘badges of pride’ for the program participants, and serve to boost their morale significantly.
About the Author:

Michael Fayia Kallon is a PhD Candidate – Public Safety Criminal Justice /Emergency Management, Capella University / USA

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