Governance is the ‘software which enables the operation of urban ‘hardware and must be designed to avoid devastating consequences to population and infrastructure from disaster risk. This report is a risk assessment analysis provided for the Qatar Civil Defence Department that is meant to identify hazards from local and external environments and evaluate service provision by the ministry. Identifying threats is a key aspect to mitigating them and directing appropriate responses as well as preliminary community engagement that ensures protection and preparedness of the population.
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According to the United Nations Development Programme, risk governance or management is how public authorities, civil servants, and civil society coordinate at national and regional levels to manage and reduce disaster and climate-related risks. This includes “identification, assessment, management, and communication” of risks and how relevant information is collected, analyzed, and decision-making is made (“The Arab Cities Resilience”). Furthermore, risk management ensures that proper mechanisms are in place and institutions have the available capacity and resources to prevent, prepare, manage, and recover from disasters.
The scope of this report will identify entities and frameworks for disaster response. Then, utilizing the 5WH methodology, various disaster threats and responses will be analyzed including fire, natural disaster, hazardous materials, and how emergency services manage these risks. These are believed to be the most prevalent and consistent risks from the perspective of internal civil defense. The strategic objectives and preparation of Integrated Risk Management Plans (IRMP) will be discussed.
The General Directorate of Civil Defence as it is currently known is a department under the State of Qatar Ministry of Interior. It consists of operations, prevention, procurement, and administrative affairs departments. Its primary functions are to implement rules of civil defense as well as creating and executing plans for civil defense procedures with relevant ministries, members, and community stakeholders. The department focuses on internal security on providing firefighting, rescue operations, ambulance, and civil defense activities and services. This can range from direct responses during disasters to security coverage, training, simulations and evacuations, and evaluation of engineering safety and hazardous materials (“General Directorate of Civil Defence”).
In 2006, Qatar introduced the National Command Center (NCC) for a coordinated response to local and national emergencies. Equipped with the latest technologies and capacities, the NCC can use real-time information to direct responses. The NCC uses a technology known as the Unified Geospatial Infrastructure (NJM) a web0based geographic security system that hosts all relevant geographic and tabular data in a geodatabase.
The NCC is responsible for the entire emergency workflow beginning with receiving calls to tracking location, and dispatching the necessary response using its data on critical infrastructure, location of hazardous materials, and availability of response vehicles. The NCC united the services of the Emergency Service Centre, the Ministry of Interior (Civil Defence), Internal Security Forces, and the Hamad Medical Corporation which operates ambulances (Ebrahim & Osama).
In 2017, Qatar issued the Doha Declaration on disaster response which updates the national strategy on disaster risk management. It aligns with Qatar’s Sustainable Development Strategy, the Arab Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (ASDRR), and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction introduced by the United Nations. These promote international and regional collaboration and communication as well as the utilization of scientific input and technology. The Sendai Framework which the Civil Defence department uses focuses on 4 priorities:
- Understanding disaster risk – all dimensions of vulnerability, capacity, exposure, and hazard characteristics;
- Strengthening disaster risk governance – coherence of national and local frameworks, laws, and regulations as well as clearly defined roles and responsibilities;
- Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience – using structural and non-structural measures to enhance the resilience of communities and their assets, including but not limited to innovation and growth as well as instruments to save lives and infrastructure;
- Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response – ensuring capacity for effective response and recovery. The recovery process and risk reduction measures should be prepared and publicly shared ahead of time to ensure effective response (“Chart of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction”).
The biggest disaster risk for Qatar is universally considered to be fired, particularly in urban areas. In the last decade, the number of fires continues to increase in Qatar, with the latest available statistic placing the number of fire accidents at 1,922, almost 300 more than the year before. The majority of fires occur in urban buildings and vehicles (“The Arab Cities Resilience”). It is the crucial preventive function of the Civil Defence Department to issue licenses to commercial, industrial, and general infrastructure which ensures building fire safety.
In 2006, the Civil Defence Department implemented what has known as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) specifications for buildings, ranging from offices to luxury hotels and airports. In recent years, the regulations and their enforcement have become increasingly stringent. Civil Defence engages in periodic community outreach, for both private homes and businesses, spreading awareness about fire incidents and safety measures. Educating the public and conducting drills alongside providing direct access to firefighters, which are rarely seen outside responses is a vital community empowerment tool welcomed by the population (Mohamed).
Qatar is generally considered to be one of the safest countries on the planet regarding natural disaster probability, highly unlikely to be affected by earthquakes, storms, or flooding. However, due to rapidly changing global climate conditions, Qatar has an established Permanent Emergency Committee (PEC) that is responsible for disaster management. There is a National Plan for Emergency which details contingency plans. Periodic drills occur, overseen by the Civil Defence department to ensure the readiness of the state. There is also a regional observatory under the General Authority of Civil Aviation Administration which monitors earthquakes and natural disaster threats.
The PEC produced practical tools for the Ministry of Interior to implement for natural disaster preparedness where crisis plans are focused on tackling more potential scenarios such as the sea-level rise and surge storms. Risk mitigation activities recommended are creating or improving infrastructure to be more resilient, including disaster response plans into the school curriculum, conducting scenario drills, and improving urban infrastructure such as water drainage to reduce risk (Qatar – Government).
This risk is significant for Qatar particularly due to its developed industries in oil and natural gas with several large facilities. The Civil Defence department has recognized and focused on this risk by creating guidelines for handling, transportation, and storage of hazardous substances. All locations with hazardous materials are tracked in a database while the ministry is aware of any potential contaminants or threats to public health that such locations may pose. Furthermore, the Civil Defence department has implemented a specific program at its Ras Laffan Emergency and Safety College (RLESC) in partnership with Qatar Petroleum focusing on training advanced safety professionals for the petrochemical industry (“The Arab Cities Resilience”).
Qatar Civil Defence attempts to use strategic management by establishing a framework that combines the government agencies alongside private entities. The organization adopts an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) framework that initially seeks to identify and assess threats. Based on these assessments, activities are enacted which meet strategic, operational, and compliance objectives. The rationale is established at each level to ensure good risk management and governance. Control assurances are utilized at various levels of risk governance and management, beginning with the NCC to the greater national strategy. Reviewing, updating, and communicating the risk management strategy and policy allows engaging an efficient and effective framework.
Whilst no information was found regarding Qatar’s approach to creating and implementing Integrated Risk Management Plans, it is deduced that these are enveloped in the general strategic framework discussed earlier. There is an increased emphasis on working with other parties and agencies to develop a working mechanism in providing a safe environment under international standards.
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There is also an emphasis on prevention which is achieved with integrated systems of security as well as innovative licensing systems. According to Nasser Al-Taweel, the adviser to the Minister of Finance, the Civil Defence department is seeking to improve its risk governance based on four measures of time, cost, procedures, and quality. Currently, quality is the indicator that needs the most improvement and the Ministry is doing its best to reform the system and develop modifications to existing civil defense services (“Civil Defence to ensure highest standards of security and safety”).
Last year, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs noted that Qatar values sustainable development as part of its National Vision 2030. This includes preparation and response to natural and man-made disasters as a strong effort to preserve efforts in national development (Nabeela). This report presented various frameworks and strategic initiatives undertaken by Qatar and the General Directorate for Civil Defence.
While significant progress has been made in risk governance and preparedness, several tasks and challenges need to be addressed. However, existing systems are showing extraordinary promise in the identification, mitigation, prevention, and response to risks and disasters. Risk governance in the Kingdom of Qatar remains efficient, unified under the Civil Defense department, and technologically advanced.
The first recommendation is to improve response to disasters by ensuring proactive plans and coordination among agencies. Second, infrastructure needs to be strengthened, including greater regulation of fire safety and inspection. Finally, it is necessary to empower and work with local communities, improving the roles of women and youth as well as addressing the challenges of poverty.
These social concepts ensure unity and collaboration by building partnerships that limit risks and enhance potential responses to crises at the local level. It is optimal that Qatar achieves full disaster preparedness and has a well-developed, flexible, and constantly updated framework of risk management well ahead of its 2030 Vision objective. As new risks and threats may emerge, changes should be made in accordance.
Considering the importance of this topic, which the government recognizes in leadership with the Civil Defence ministry, costs may accumulate into hundreds of millions of riyal, particularly when it comes to updating infrastructure. However, funding for such projects and the Civil Defence department has only been increasing in light of international agreements and Qatar’s public dedication to risk governance both locally and in the region.
“Chart of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.” United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Web.
“Civil Defence to ensure highest standards of security and safety.” Gulf Times. 2019. Web.
Ebrahim, Aref H., and Mahmoud Osama. “Qatar Enters a New Era of Emergency Response and Proactive Security.” ESRI. Web.
“General Directorate of Civil Defence.” State of Qatar Ministry of Interior. Web.
Mohamed, Sidi. “Civil Defence cautions against fire incidents.” The Peninsula, 2018. Web.
Nabeela. “Sustainable development and disaster risk reduction important for Qatar.” IloveQatar.net, 2019. Web.
Qatar – Government. “Towards Developing a National Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery Plan – Qatar.” PreventionWeb. 2016. Web.
“The Arab Cities Resilience.” UNDP. Web.