Background: Emergency preparedness at all levels (individuals and communities) is the corner stone of effective response to the increasing trends of global disasters due to man-made and natural hazards. It is determined by different factors, including (among others) past direct and indirect exposures to hazards. This study was carried out in Dire Dawa town, Ethiopia, which in the past experienced frequent flooding events, yet dearth of information exists about preparedness in the area. The aim of the study was to assess the levels of emergency preparedness for flood hazards at households and communities levels.
Methods: The study was conducted in a qualitative approach and was conducted in Dire Dawa town, which has been divided into nine administrative-unites called Kebeles. Two focus group discussions were held in two of these unites (Kebele-05 and 06), each focus group comprising twelve people (all above 18 years of age), and in total 24 people (13 females and 11 males) took part in the study. Open ended questions were used that could guide the discussions, and the discussions were audio-taped and transcribed. The results were translated from local language to English and qualitatively presented.
Results: The findings of focus group discussions showed that the local government in collaboration with the federal government built the flood protection dams in areas where flood hazards have been thought to be repeatedly wreaking havoc, specifically after the flood disaster of the year 2006. In addition, in Kebele-05, where one Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) was operating on flood hazards prevention and mitigation program, some non-structural emergency preparedness measures were undertaken by the communities. These non-structural measures (the major ones) entailed: establishment of committees recruited from residents and training them to raise awareness among communities on emergency preparedness; some residents made changes to their own houses (retrofitted) and put sandbags around their houses to temporarily protect the flooding; establishment of communication channels between communities to alarm each other in the event of flood disaster; and reforestation of the already deforested mountainous areas surrounding the town. However, concerns were raised by study participants about strengths of the constructed flood protection dams. Furthermore, the non-structural emergency preparedness measures identified by this study were not comprehensive; for example, residents were not trained in first aid, first aid kits were not provided, there was no linkage being established between communities and health facilities so as to provide emergency medical care to victims in the event of flood disaster.
Discussion: The findings of this study concur with some of the previous quantitative studies’ results in that the past direct and indirect disaster experiences invoke preparedness intention and actual preparedness for flood hazards at individuals, communities and organizations levels. The only one quantitative and behavioral based study conducted thus far in Dire Dawa town reported the strong association of past flood disaster experience with household emergency preparedness. Among the residents there was a tendency to rely on the dams to be constructed with “good quality” and “higher strength” than making preparedness efforts on their own at their households. Structural measures such as building of dams, dikes, levees, and channel improvements could be means of mitigation measures; however, solely relying on these measures could have far reaching consequences.
Conclusions: To mitigate flood hazards, dams were built and in addition, in Kebele-05 where an NGO was operating, some non-structural emergency preparedness measures were undertaken. In the course of construction of flood protection dams, ensuring communities’ involvement is needed; and at the same time undertaking comprehensive non-structural emergency preparedness measures in all Kebeles is highly recommended.
Key words: Emergency, Preparedness, Flood, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.