The existing climate aberrations and shift in land use patterns have exacerbated numerous climate perils such as drought, heatwaves, floods, and wildfires. It is fair enough to say that these actions have brought nature to its tipping point and thus placing the species diversity at stake. Bushfires have made it to the headlines several times in recent years. The series of devastating bushfire events in Australia, California, and the Amazon Rainforest have made us realize how nature reciprocates when human administered actions rule the earth. The UN reports indicate that between 2005 and 2015, nearly 700,000 people have lost their lives to disasters worldwide.
Bushfires are naturally occurring flames that burn through forests, bushland, and scrubland. The regions that are prone to bushfires hold a larger share of vegetation that is combustible. For instance, natural oils present in Eucalyptus support combustibility. Therefore, having a deeper understanding of the landscape and topography is essential to formulate a sound resilience plan.
Now let us look into the three R's of bushfire - Relief, Recovery, and Resilience
Disaster relief can be described as immediate aid offered to minimize the suffering and assist in supplying basic human needs such as food, water, and shelter. The relief program covers a wide array of assistance during a calamity. Often it aims at providing financial assistance, counseling, and psychosocial support services to the people who are affected by the disaster. Some of the traditional relief activities include evacuation, the establishment of relief centers, temporary settlements, and first aid.
People generally tend to mix the concept of relief and recovery at times. However, the fact is that they're different in terms of time frame and mode of delivery. Both the theories aim at fostering a positive change; however, the relief strategies should be deployed when people are in grave danger. Bridging the gap between timely actions and decision making is considered inevitable while considering any relief plans. It is during the disaster relief phase where the role of community caretakers and volunteers become indispensable. For instance, army reserves, policy services, state-based services like rural fire service (RFS), and country fire authority (CFA) have a huge role to play during this phase.
Disaster recovery primarily aims at restoring the quality of life and community services to pre-disaster levels. The recovery phase is mainly centered on enhancing the lost livelihood of the communities, re-establishing socio-economic strategies, and uplifting the cultural and environmental values among the affected population.
International organizations have come up with several strategic structures to minimize the aftermath of disasters among the public. One such policy structure is the "Sendai Framework for Disaster Reduction" launched in March 2015 at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction held in Sendai, Japan. The framework was endorsed by the UN General Assembly in June 2015. The focus point of this framework is to devise sound recovery plans to reduce the mortality rate, economic loss, and infrastructural damages in the long run.
The three phases of disaster recovery
1. Humanitarian Relief- In this phase, the recovery is carried out by rescuing people, sheltering them, and offering adequate medical assistance.
2. Restoration of basic services- This phase of recovery focuses on meeting the basic needs of the people such as safe drinking water, food, sanitation, mobility, energy, and health care needs, and so on.
3. Long-term reconstruction stage- This phase involves infrastructure reconstruction, repair or replacement of buildings, managing production, and household recovery, etc.
According to the UN, resilience is defined as the capacity of the community or society exposed to the hazard, to resist, absorb, adapt, transform, and recover from the impacts in a timely and competent manner. Resilience can be developed in numerous ways such as fostering education on bushfires, enhancing communication methods, equipping households with protective gear, and administering mental health services.
The United Nations office for disaster risk reduction (UNDRR) has developed 10 essential checklists to ensure that the disaster-hit communities bounce back from such catastrophes.
The following are the 10 essential tool kits for building resilience.
1. Organizing- A collective community engagement in resilience and recovery effort is essential to accomplish the goal of building back better. It includes emergency services and social services.
2. Recognizing future risks- Keeping track of the recurring events and gathering data on risk areas allow us to develop a better understanding of what plans to be formulated for future responses.
3. Strengthening financial capacity- Active and healthy investments pave the way towards a robust and resilient financial system during bushfire responses.
4. Fostering urban planning- A disaster resilient urban set-up is critical in withstanding such calamities in the long run. For instance, build underground powerlines rather than overhead ones.
5. Safeguarding natural buffers- It involves the construction of firebreaks.
6. Strengthening Institutions- The motto here is to promote integrity and social commitment among the public.
7. Strengthening the capacity of society- Educating young minds and making them aware of the consequence or after effect of any kind of disaster.
8. Resilient Infrastructure- Ensure that there are enough hospital beds, burns care supplies, and fire hoses. Infrastructure assessment and strengthening are highly imperative to achieve resilience.
9. Effective disaster response- Make sure that communities and firefighting organizations are fully prepared during a disaster strike. It is desirable to host training and volunteering programs to promote interest among youth volunteers.
10. Planning for recovery- Proper planning should be enforced even before the disaster strikes. It includes researching better methods for building fire-resistant housing and stockpiling items like emergency beds which are needed during evacuation.
Bushfires cannot be averted with immediate effect since it occurs naturally and a part of nature's evolving cycle. However, cultivating a profound knowledge of relief, recovery, and resilience strategies would leave a positive impact behind. Embracing the natural transitions and adapting yourself to these changes will bring you closer to nature.