How the Government Should Manage Natural Disasters

Natural disasters are a difficult reality. Regardless of our beliefs, these disasters such as earthquakes and floods have a huge impact on our lives in every part of the world. Every year, people all over the world face several disasters. The lives of many of these people are completely destroyed as a result of these disasters.

A lot of times, people are simply dissatisfied by the efforts taken by their governments. Many believe that since they have contributed to the government treasury in the form of taxes, the government should now bail them out in their hour of need.

Governments all over the world do not seem to be able to meet these expectations. This has always been the case even if historical records are studied. Governments seldom contribute to any kind of natural calamities. It is private charities and religious institutions that seem to make the most impact when such events occur. This is the reason each time such a disaster occurs, the government’s role is brought into question.

In this article, we will have a closer look at what the role of a government should be when it comes to mitigating natural disasters.

Why the Government Cannot Provide Economic Services?

Natural disasters lead to a lot of harm. People lose their homes, their business places and other sources of livelihood. Even the working class faces a severe loss of income. This is because the economic activities take a severe beating during this time. As a result, several people are left on the streets to fend for themselves. These are the people that expect aid from the government. They want food, shelter, and clothing so that they can sustain themselves until things return back to normal. These provisions are sometimes referred to as “economic services” related to disaster relief.

However, it is important to understand that the structure of the government is not designed to provide economic services to the affected people.

  • Knowledge Problem: Firstly, relief efforts require a lot of local knowledge. The team providing relief should ideally be decentralized. Decision making should be quick so as to ensure that help reaches the concerned people on time. Governments do not work in this manner. Every decision that is taken by the government needs to be documented. This is why the decision-making process is centralized. Such a process is extremely time-consuming. This is the reason why private charities such as the Red Cross are much more capable of providing these services.
  • Corruption Problem: Also, people that associate with charities such as the Red Cross voluntarily wants to contribute to the case. They are passionate and hence more likely to contribute without having any ulterior motives in mind. Government executives, on the other hand, are forced to contribute to disaster relief. Also, in many parts of the world, government executives are notorious for corruption. This is the reason why organizations like the Red Cross are better suited for providing economic services.

What the Government Should Do?

The government also has a very specific role when it comes to disaster management. Some actions need to be taken reactively, i.e., after a disaster has occurred whereas others need to be taken proactively.

  • Maintain Law and Order: It needs to be understood that traditionally natural disasters have also been times when law and order break loose. This is because an earthquake or flood throws the entire area into chaos. The anti-social elements find this to be a favorable time to conduct their activities. As such, the safety and the security of the citizens is threatened. This is where the government can pitch in. The government must ensure that the military, police and the navy are deployed in huge numbers in areas which are facing natural disasters. It is very important to maintain the law and order situation in order to reduce the problems being faced by people. This is successfully done by most governments worldwide. However, citizen groups often fail to appreciate this effort.
  • Providing Rescue Services: The government is also the most well equipped when it comes to providing rescue services. The government has all the equipment which is necessary to conduct such operations. This is why it is the duty of the government and its agencies to conduct rescue operations. Sometimes people need to be located before they are rescued. The government can perform these services better than private bodies. This is the reason why most governments across the world are able to provide rescue operations successfully.
  • Encouraging Insurance: Governments do not and should not repay damages to private property. However, they must encourage people to be prepared to manage their finances in case of natural calamities. This can be done by encouraging private insurance. Governments should make some level of insurance mandatory. Also, they must provide some kind of tax breaks to people who opt for more comprehensive insurance.

The bottom line is that it is not economically possible for the government to shoulder all the responsibility in the event of a natural disaster. Hence, the government should continue doing the things that it is good at while letting private charities perform tasks that they have a competitive advantage in.


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The article is Written By “Prachi Juneja” and Reviewed By Management Study Guide Content Team. MSG Content Team comprises experienced Faculty Member, Professionals and Subject Matter Experts. We are a ISO 2001:2015 Certified Education Provider. To Know more, click on About Us. The use of this material is free for learning and education purpose. Please reference authorship of content used, including link(s) to ManagementStudyGuide.com and the content page url.