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Phnom Penh City Hall unveils disaster plan

A view of a fire that destroyed 40 homes in a Daun Penh district slum last March. Yesterday officials released a new disaster response plan for dealing with issues like floods and fires.
A view of a fire that destroyed 40 homes in a Daun Penh district slum last March. Yesterday officials released a new disaster response plan for dealing with issues like floods and fires. Hong Menea

Phnom Penh City Hall unveils disaster plan

City Hall yesterday released Phnom Penh’s first ever disaster response plan, which promises to better prepare the capital for emergencies, especially floods and fires.

The 73-page Emergency Response Preparedness Plan (EPRP) will be distributed to officials down to the commune level and designates responsibilities for preparing for and responding to emergency situations.

It includes disaster risk maps, detailed population counts for each neighbourhood, and a breakdown of procurement options for necessary supplies should a disaster strike.

“The purpose of [the EPRP] is not only to disseminate the information to the public but also for the local authorities to know how to cope with those disasters,” Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Keo Sokpisey said yesterday.

Work began on the plan in June last year with European Union funding and support from the NGO People in Need (PiN). It includes specific instructions for how the municipality should work with local commune and district authorities in the event of floods and fires, specifying responsibilities and chains of command.

Among the procedures, for example, are flood advisory warnings once water levels measured by gauges in Phnom Penh and in Kandal province pass certain thresholds. For the prevention of fires, the plan allows authorities at the local level to ask City Hall for a budget to promote fire safety education.

“It delegates responsibilities for what segment of government needs to kick into gear and how the municipality will respond to a disaster,” PiN Country Director Paul Conrad said.

The plan also lays out responsibilities for dealing with the aftermath of a disaster, such as budgeting for supplies for families left homeless by a flood or fire, with itemised lists for everything from fresh water to toothpaste and sanitary pads based on family sizes.

“This is not the final version . . . It needs regular updates [every one or two years],” deputy governor Sokpisey said.

The EPRP falls under the purview of the 2015 Law on Disaster Management, which requires every province, municipality, district and commune to create such plans and requires the National Committee for Disaster Management to ink a countrywide contingency plan. While most provinces have created such plans, a large proportion of districts and communes are lagging behind, he said.

“The National Committee for Disaster Management needs to formalise their contingency plan and then all these [response plans] need to feed into NCDM’s overall contingency plan for the entire country,” he said, noting that the framework released today is “a very first step in an overall contingency plan for the municipality of Phnom Penh”.

Conrad also said ministries need to “buy in” and “believe” in the Law on Disaster Management.

“There isn’t much power behind NCDM to push other ministries to implement the law . . . [and] without other ministries buying into it, it’s going to be hard to have a 100 percent coordinated emergency response,” he said.

A previous version of this article gave an incorrect name for the Phnom Penh deputy governor. This has been amended.

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