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Letters

LETTERS: Kenya needs law on disaster risk mitigation

Red Cross
Red Cross staff during a rescue operation at the dusitD2 Hotel that was attacked by terrorists on January 15. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

It is urgent and of national security importance that the Cabinet considers and approves for onward transmission to Parliament of the Disaster Risk Management (DRM) related bills and policy in the wake of the current fatalities facing Kenya and lessons learnt from the multi-agency approach from handling the Riverside 14 terror attack.

The country needs a firm legal regime that lays down the legal foundation for partnership in institutional participatory management of disasters.

This should include mobilisation of the essential resources necessary for management of all disasters and above all, a system that will remove any with inter-ministerial or inter-agency turf war by being domiciled at the Office of the President.

There are a number of draft DRM related legal documents gathering dust on the shelves in various public offices that are urgently needed to help country comprehensively with tragedies.

The DRM Policy 2017 sponsored by Interior, Devolution, Defence and Finance ministries needs to be fast-tracked.

In addition, the DRM Bill 2016 and the National Disaster Management Bill 2018 — currently before the Senate need to be enacted as a matter of urgency and national concern.

Once enacted and implemented, the country will be prepared to deal with disasters and tragedies including those that cause mass fatalities in a better way as seen during the handling the recent terrorist attack in Nairobi and other emergencies.

The regime will clearly spell out the management of such national disasters, set out standard operating procedures including saving lives, securing the scene of crime and evidence as well as managing the national reaction and mood following such events.

What we currently lack is a comprehensive approach to dealing with disasters that would enable easy national mobilisation and reaction during such tragedies.

A few of the lessons learnt from the dusitD2 Hotel attack was the lack of awareness and helpful information to responders, survivors and families about what to do, that would exuberate the situation, endanger the hostages or minimise family anxiety and fears. You could see the media, responders, and survivors and the public frustrating the security team from cordoning off the scene of the crime, for both safety of the hostages and for counter security/rescue operations.

This time the State’s initial site and risk assessment and incident command structure were on point, including controlling operational command issues and information flow management.

For successful investigation and prosecution of suspects, it is important for the scene preservation and management.

The private sector, especially property owners must join the government in investing in the training of key people including private security guards on the existing incident protocol as first responders because a number of people drawn from the public and police officers are usually the first to respond.

The government should invest more in training and empowering those likely to be incident commanders — the men and women who have the capacity to implement a holistic, effective and safe response to the incident scene.

The law is required urgently when matters are still hot.

The team working on developing tools from dealing with mass fatalities also needs to finalise their work for the good of the country. The current framework is inadequate.

Victor Bwire, Nairobi.

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