Academic Presents Paper on Dealing with Natural Disasters

Professor Vannie Naidoo of the College of Law and Management Studies presented a paper at a workshop hosted by the Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria Apwen Benin Chapter on Mega Project Scheduling During Natural Disasters.

Naidoo noted, ‘Natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes have been on the rise in the past few years. This is attributed to increasing temperatures and melting polar caps. A topic of major importance to engineers, who are often in charge of a project team is how to handle natural disasters during mega-projects.’

Naidoo added, ‘When natural disasters occur, a country normally declares a state of disaster. KwaZulu-Natal was hard-hit by floods a few months back, and the president declared a provincial state of disaster.’

She observed that the following steps can be followed during a natural disaster to safeguard a site:

  •  When a mega-project is affected by a disaster, a set of events should take place to recover and rebuild the site.
  • The first step is a plan put together by the project management team to establish whether there were any injuries/deaths, and loss of property and equipment.
  • The disaster site needs to be made safe to prevent further injury or loss of life. Thereafter, the relevant authorities need to be called on site, namely medical teams, firefighters and law enforcement.
  • Injured or deceased staff should only be moved after assistance on site by the medical and law enforcement authorities.
  •  The project manager also needs to be notified of the damage and the public relations department should issue a press release.
  • Debris is removed from the site during the recovery phase.
  • Staff on site need to take proper care and preventative measures to ensure that hazardous waste is removed in the correct manner to avoid contamination of the site.
  • Staff on site must stay out of the way during removal of debris, as accidents can occur during this stage.
  • Maintaining site workers’ safety and preventing further loss of life or injuries takes precedence during this stage.
  • Thereafter, steps should be taken to recover the loss of equipment and property.
  • Insurance brokers need to be notified so that photographs can be taken of the damage.
  • Claims need to be submitted to the insurance company.In times of disaster the two-stage disaster recovery model can be followed. Pardede and Tetsuo’s (2007) two-stage model involves a short-term stage where reaction to the disaster occurs, and a long-term stage that involves all activities that recover the organisation’s operations or the project.
  • These two stages overlap and their initiation and duration are not fixed.
  • Fourth Industrial Revolution technological innovations can be harnessed to monitor natural disasters, enabling steps to be taken to protect buildings, equipment, and more importantly, personnel on mega-project sites.

Naidoo stressed that, ‘It is never an easy task to work as an engineer or project manager during a natural disaster. Many challenges impact the daily functioning of mega project schedules. However, since natural disasters are on the rise, engineers should be aware of and trained to deal with them. Preparedness is important. Disaster management is a reality, especially in light of when dealing with the effects of climate change and global warming.’

In recognition of her expert support for women engineers in Nigeria, Naidoo was presented with the Honour Code on behalf of the Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria.

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Supplied