I’m interrupting my series on exercise program management (which I’m sure I’ll do several more times) to highlight a news spot I first saw on last night’s NBC News. The segment was about Storm Preparedness in Hong Kong. In it they briefly outline the threats to Hong Kong, including being struck by a cyclone seven times a year on average, and they highlight the preparations they’ve taken. These preparations include underground reservoirs to contain flood waters and runoff and a system of barrier fences to mitigate against landslides. I always like to see how other people around the world are prepared for their hazards. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, and other places around the globe have come up with innovative ways to protect themselves from natural disasters. Comparisons were made in this brief segment between NYC and Hong Kong – with the silent inference that if these measures are already being taken elsewhere, then certainly the City of New York can do it.
One thing I noticed wasn’t actually discussed in the video – they showed a brief clip of a Hong Kong area news broadcast which was alerting citizens. Broadcasts are the cornerstone of their notification and alert system and use levels of ‘signals’ to communicate the severity of the threat (the Hong Kong broadcast clip that NBC includes shows them issuing a Signal 10, their most serious). An easy internet search led me to the Hong Kong Security Bureau which handles emergency management. This preparedness guide explains their signal system and shows how they color code other hazards based on level of severity such as wild fires and storms. Their documents are in both Chinese and English.
A little more poking around their website found versions of their contingency plans. I quickly perused their contingency plan for natural disasters which seemed to include all the right elements. Certainly, with an average of seven cyclones annually along with the threat of wild fires and landslides all around the city, Hong Kong is well versed in preparedness. While a quick search for any studies on citizen preparedness didn’t come up with much, I’m hopeful that the preparedness message is getting to them as well. The broadcast indicated that Hong Kong had recently suffered through a storm event of similar strength as Hurricane Sandy, and survived with no fatalities. Based on this alone, it would seem to me that the citizens of Hong Kong do take this seriously.
We can always learn from others – especially those who haven’t been jaded by our way of doing things, which I think more often than not holds us all back. We need to look beyond our borders and share ideas. It seems to be done in many other fields, but not so much in emergency management.