The balance of speed and accuracy, information in a disaster context
In a post disaster situation, where relief and recovery are obvious priorities, information is paramount. It is impossible to act without information, and this information can only be gathered through assessments. Getting these assessments right is therefore key, balancing between speed and accuracy, getting into that “sweet spot”: gather enough information to act, and bring that information to decision-makers before they act.
Assessments therefore are not an end in and of themselves, they are a support to guide action, to enable decision making, and to become an evidence base for decisions.
The question that follows therefore in the creation of the best assessments, is to understand what decisions we are trying to guide. In the ‘post-disaster fog’, the most common thread is the decision of “where resources are best spent?”: where will it have the greatest positive impact whilst balancing against the least negative impact.
Understand the local priority first and foremost
For debris management, the considerations we’ve just described have a number of ramifications. We should start for example by understanding what our priorities are. Are we trying to clear as fast as possible, or do we have available time to create detailed strategies of the most financially or environmentally efficient way of operating? Usually, the ability to provide temporary relocation sites will be the driver for this decision: if people are already returning to their destroyed homes from lack of alternatives, it will be essential to have them cleared in record time.
Don’t reinvent the wheel; what is already on the ground?
Once there is an agreed list of priorities, it is essential to understand what is available to deal with the debris generated. This obviously includes trucks, excavators and bulldozers, but also the skills that are already in place, such as experienced waste and demolition contractors. An understanding of the fixed infrastructure and its capacity is then essential: where are the existing disposal sites, how much can they take, and what recycling and reuse processing options do we have.
Data collection for sure, but how do we communicate it?
By definition, decision-makers in emergency situations have a very limited bandwidth with which to take essential decisions in a short timeframe. Presenting complex information to them in bite-size formats is therefore essential. Urban Resilience Platform’s approach is to Assess for Action, bringing the above information into synthesis in the form of operational planning maps.
Next is an example of these option maps for the city of Aleppo, where three scenarios are proposed, overlain on the assessment information. In each case, we keep certain variables constant: the quantities of debris, and the locally available infrastructure, but in scenarios 2 and 3, the benefits of potential responding agency actions have been modelled. In this case, we are evaluating the implications of different crusher fleets on the cost, timelines, and job creation potential of the response.
By following the Assess for Action methodology, Urban Resilience Platform is moving ahead of simple risk and impact identification, and can provide key decision makers with options to choose from at the time they need them.