Over the years, Odisha’s disaster management response has been hailed countrywide. Among the key personnel behind this is IAS officer Pradeep Kumar Jena.

Currently serving as the Chief Secretary to Odisha, he has managed 10 cyclones like Amphan, Yaas, and Asani. Seven of these have been in the last four years.

Apart from Odisha, the coastal states of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and the union territory Puducherry are vulnerable to cyclone hazards.

The IAS officer believes that although other states are also doing well, Odisha could be a little ahead with more experience in disaster management.

He shares five suggestions that other cyclone-vulnerable states could adopt with Odisha’s learnings.

Build a response capacity of the state: Although NDRF, Army, and Navy are doing a great job, every state should develop its own disaster response force, suggests Jena.

Build capacity of gram panchayats: At the village level, Panchayati Raj Institutions like gram panchayats must be empowered to manage a natural disaster.

“During cyclones, we give certain powers of collectors, such as releasing some funds, to sarpanchs. This helps them in taking immediate action and do not have to wait for orders from higher officials,” he says.

Build the capacity of human communities: Create a vast network of volunteers. You won’t be able to make services available everywhere. These volunteers can be very helpful in such situations.

Long-term planning is required: “When cyclone Phailan devastated the power supply in Odisha, we were able to set up six lakh poles within six weeks. You cannot get so much supply in the market suddenly, long-term planning is required,” he says.

Focus on disaster-resilient assets: The central and state governments should work together on having disaster-resilient assets to minimise impact post-cyclone.