Armed Forces in Disaster Response: Role Reappraisal
Although there is no need to prioritise the various secondary roles of the armed forces, aid to civil authority in the case of disaster management needs no clarification or emphasis. However, an important issue is the interpretation of the term ‘disaster’ in the issue of aid to civil authorities. Disaster by definition is an event of natural or man-made causes that leads to sudden disruption of normalcy within society, causing damage to life and property to such an extent, that normal social and economic mechanisms available are inadequate to restore normalcy4. Therefore, technically, the armed forces need to be requisitioned by the civil administration only if the situation is clearly beyond the control and capacity of the local administration. It does not necessarily mean that the armed forces will only be pressed into service after exhausting the resources and efforts of the civil administration in case of a disaster. Sequential deployment of rescue and relief resources, or a graduated response by various entities to emergencies is fraught with the dangers of delay, and the situation going beyond control. Ideally, a quick and comprehensive assessment of the required response to a disaster or impending disaster is needed. This will facilitate deployment of the necessary resources, including the armed forces elements, without loss of time, to limit the damage and losses to a minimum.