State inequipped for disasters

The state’s civil protection system is being undermined to the point of paralysis by the lack of coordination between different authorities, inefficient use of human resources and underqualified regional officials, according to a report commissioned by the Interior Ministry. Greece ranks 114th out of 262 countries in terms of its «susceptibility» to natural disasters, according to a group of experts who conducted the study. These experts blame this laggard rate on the fact that responsibilities for the prevention and containment of natural disasters are scattered across ministries, local authorities and security forces and that there is no clear strategy for cooperation among these groups. The report refers to «confusion on every level and structural paralysis, the onerous consequences of which were proven dramatically in the 2007 forest fires.» For the prevention of natural disasters such as fires and earthquakes some 45 organizations are involved in nine areas of competence, according to experts. Eleven state services and 14 organizations are involved in containment. «Much of the dysfunctionalism reported during natural disasters is due to the confused involvement of so many organizations,» the report said. Many of the aforementioned services, including the fire brigade, are understaffed. Moreover, the report observes, more than half of local authority officials employed for civil protection have only been educated to high school level. This hardly qualifies them for «studying and analyzing risks based on scientific critera,» as called for by the Civil Protection Authority. The authors of the report contrast the chaotic system in Greece against the implementation in other countries of an Integrated Emergency Management System, a central, unified service which coordinates all bodies involved in the prevention and containment of natural disasters as well as reconstruction.