In many cases it has been the armed forces, naval, army and air force, which have played important roles in the early phases of life saving relief and reconstruction.
Each experience provides them with an opportunity to improve upon their techniques, operating procedures and the special equipment they need. Sometimes they have established special teams for dealing with the more complicated kinds of emergency which are often to be experienced in a disaster area.
It is becoming increasingly recognised that the armed forces should expect to be called in at an early stage to provide emergency humanitarian aid anywhere in the world wherever disaster strikes. It is a role in which they should take pride and see as being as important, in terms of human survival, as their traditional role of national defence.
Local authorities, even those in the countries most prone to natural disaster – cyclones, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions – do not normally possess the emergency apparatus needed to launch a comprehensive relief and rescue operation with the speed which is required . . . it is not unexpected therefore that they should look at once to assistance from the armed forces, who have the built-in infrastructure and mechanisms to respond quickly to any emergency situations at any time and any notice.
From time immemorial armies and navies have responded to calls for help in peacetime. Now the air forces can provide an additional dimension to that help by being able to transport aid and rescue teams into remote and isolated areas not easily accessible by land. Flooding and earthquakes have been the more prevalent disasters for which all three services of the armed forces have been required. The navy with their small craft have provided a means of reaching and bringing to safety stranded victims of cyclone disasters. The Gulf of Bengal and Bangladesh have figured repeatedly in the past years as examples of devastating catastrophes in which the loss of human life would have been even greater had it not been for the life saving potential that navies can provide in such circumstances.
But navies are not always conveniently on station to respond. Air forces on the other hand can be flown in reasonably quickly and can operate supply drops to the stranded, and helicopters for rescue.
The chief burden, however, falls on the military since it is on the ground that the main assistance is required. The military possess the technical and specialist units and equipment needed in a comprehensive relief and rescue operation. Equipped and organised to handle most disaster situations, the army possesses the necessary infrastructure to meet the immediate demands of a disaster and to be in place and functioning before the main national operational relief effort has been mounted. This can often mean the difference between life and death for hundreds, probably thousands . . .