New Disaster Management Agency To Ensure Malaysia Is Better Prepared

In an exclusive interview with Selamat Dahalan, Deputy Director of Operations for the Civil Defense Department (JPAM) which has been drafted into the new National Disaster Management Agency, Malaysian Digest asked about the latest updates on the nation’s preparedness for disasters in view of the coming year-end monsoon flood season.

The new National Disaster Management Agency (Agency Pengurusan Bencana Negara-APBN), which has now been placed under the Prime Minister’s Department has been drawing up details standard operating procedures (SOP) for the last 10 months to ensure that Malaysia is ready to handle disasters in a more timely and professional manner.

JPAM which was previously under the Home Ministry has been moved to the newly set-up APBN to more effectively response to disasters faced by the nation.

In a follow up to our front page story on alternative ways to survive a natural disaster in Malaysia (read here: After Surviving Two Natural Disasters In A Year, Are Malaysians Ready To Face Another Big One?) the deputy director informed Malaysian Digest on what the public should focus on during a natural disaster.

“Keep a Red2Go Bag, especially during floods, with essential survival items you might need for 24-36 hours right after a natural disaster and switch of all electrical items in the house,” says Selamat.

“We recommend you to have one starting now, especially from the flooding months of November to March. After one week and if your are still stranded for example, we would’ve organized a rescue and logistical efforts to reach out to everyone by then.

“Like with the massive flood last year, after 3-4 days rescue personnel has reached most of the people already.

And in case of a natural disaster, head for the ‘Pusat Pemindahan’ (Transit Camps), akin to a refugee center, where the government has thrown in the majority of their supplies for survival.

“There are around 5,122 transit camps around Malaysia, with a capacity to cater to 1,615,773 people. Yes, the population of Malaysia is more than that, but even if you look at the worst flood Malaysia ever had, which was last year and affected the whole country, it affects around 400,000 people, so what we have now is sufficient.

“If you already at the transit camp, then it’s easy for us to manage, but if you are staying at home holed up there, you need to be sure that you have all the supplies stocked up. The camps are dedicated places for survival as we have food stocks. All help will be sent there as well”.

“We have around 3 months supply of essential items for any survivors, and if in 3 months no disasters happen, the foodstuff is given away as there’s an expiry date. Most natural disaster prone areas have those stocks prepared, and even at places where a disaster might not strike, we just have to be prepared.”

2554 Emergency Response Teams To Be Established In 12 States

Among the many new measures to ensure the nation’s disaster preparedness is the setting up of the Civil Defense Emergency Response Teams nationwide.

A total of 2554 Civil Defense Emergency Response Teams (CDERT) has been set up in 12 states (excluding Wilayah Persekutuan for the moment), with the first CDERT team launched in the state of Perak on the 5th of September 2015 followed by Perlis the day after by Datuk Seri Dr Shahidan Kassim Menteri of the Prime Minister’s Office.

“Information of the location of the centres will be spread by the media, SMS, WhatsApp,and going around with our vehicles with sirens that include public speakers. That’s how we’ll inform the public during a national disaster.”

Penang has the highest CDERT teams with 495, followed by Perlis with 386. Negeri Sembilan comes lowest with 43 teams.

“One team consists of leading members of the community – they are our first responders. One CDERT Team has at least 30 members under them. It’s a platoon, in essence.

“Also one of the challenges we face is that let’s say there’s a potential flood about to happen near one of the rivers, and the Meteorological Office had already given us their data, it’s sometimes hard to convince the villagers that they have to move from their houses to follow our orders.

“The new SOP is still being compiled, but for now we are still using MKN’s (National Security Council) mechanism Number 20, the old one, which is coordinated with various agencies, led in operations by the police, second in command are the firefighters and including the other various rescue organizations with the community level/engagement handled by us, the civil defence.”

A Clear Chain Of Command Needs To Be Established

After it was announced that the new National Disaster Management Agency will take over the National Security Council’s (MKN) disaster management division, with the Civil Service Department (JPAM) to be drafted into the fold, steps have been underway to clarify the command structure.

“Under the 2016 budget, there’s a certain allocation for APBN, but we don’t know if that also includes for the JPAM or the APBN only, because the two are different things.

“We meet at the Jawatankuasa, but at the state or community level, there’s not APBN, there’s only JPAM. APBN works on the federal level.

“The question is how to coordinate all these organizations, we don’t want a duplication of duties, then we’re back to square one where there’s the MKN and JPAM,” Selamat highlighted that the administrative and management of funds related to the various disaster response teams have to be ironed out.

He also pointed out that the government had decided to establish APBN after realizing that the National Security Council operated only at the federal level and did not have the local manpower to kick into action immediately when disaster struck.

“The formation of the APBN is because of the failure of the MKN Disaster Unit because they don’t have the manpower on the state or local level, and the government thought that natural disasters doesn’t happen everyday and only at the end of the year, so there’s no need for a permanent staff.

“But throughout the year, the JPAM train the public and do emergency drills and disasters are our jobs.

“That’s why we have the MKN Order 20 where it’s a guideline and SOP of who does what, whichever duties etc”.

Source: Malaysia Digest. Date: 5 November, 2015