3.2.1. Degree of Preparedness and Legal Framework
In total, 5% of employees of local DRM units assessed their local self-government as insufficiently prepared to deal with a disaster event, 80% deemed them to be averagely prepared, and 15% deemed them to be fully prepared (x
= 2.97; sd = 0.51) (Figure 4
). None of the respondents assessed local self-governments with different socioeconomic characteristics (Appendix B
) to be completely unprepared for disasters. The application of a t
-test for independent samples showed that, although the readiness rates of town communities to respond to disasters were generally assessed to be more favorable than those of municipalities, there was no statistically significant difference between the two (Table 4
and Figure 5
In the survey, the respondents were asked to indicate, in their personal opinions, the major problems with and obstacles to increasing the capacity of their local self-government units in terms of DRM. The majority (over 70%) specified the lack of finances as one of the most serious problems faced by risk management. More than 40% of the respondents highlighted problems with human resources—i.e., the lack of fully qualified and suitably experienced staff to complete the necessary tasks—while more than 10% of the respondents additionally singled out the lack of equipment and legislation issues (imprecise regulations, data inconsistency, devaluation of existing regulations by announcing new ones, etc.). In addition, the respondents in the survey also stated that there was poor coordination between the system entities and citizens, resulting in citizens lacking education on the matter of DRM. The capacity analysis suggested that there were no differences in level across Serbia—i.e., these problems were universal across towns and municipalities, with the size of settlements being an irrelevant factor.
Regarding the interviewees’ awareness of the obligations of local self-governments based on the law on disaster risk reduction, 10% of respondents stated that they were keenly aware of it, while the rest (90%) stated that they were fully aware of the obligations of the local authorities. No respondents stated that they were either insufficiently acquainted with or unacquainted with this issue. The results obtained suggest that there were statistically significant differences between towns and municipalities, whereby the urban population (town residents) was significantly more acquainted with the legal framework than those at the municipality level (Table 4
Further analyses show the following activities carried out by local self-governments in the territory of Serbia regarding DRM (% of local self-governments) (Table 5
Regarding the documents above, it was only in the annual work report that the chi-square test implied there was a statistically significant difference between towns and municipalities, which was in favor of the latter (X2 = 6.19, p < 0.05). Except for the mentioned document, which was predominantly adopted by municipalities, the difference in the proportion of completion of the regulatory documents (decisions, reports, plans, schemes, etc.) was not significant. The share of towns in which a threat assessment was conducted and protection and rescue schemes were created was alarmingly low. Additionally, the interior ministry issued permits for disaster risk assessment and rescue schemes only at rates of 23.5% and 34.8%, respectively.
The respondents in the survey also assessed the law in power. Some 30% of the respondents assessed it as fully regulating disaster management, while 70% of the participants in the survey found it to be inadequate. Within the frame of the topic, the chi-square test showed no significant differences between respondents from towns and those from municipalities (X2 = 0.08, p > 0.05). The respondents who assessed the law to be fully appropriate described it as precisely defining the competences and assignments, with some of them observing that the law had not been fully implemented, thus preventing them from perceiving it accurately. On the other hand, the respondents who assessed the law as inadequate emphasized its inconsistencies with other laws, pointing to the large number of competencies transferred to local self-government units as well as the rather unspecified role of all-purpose civil protection units, the unclearly defined rights and obligations of members of all-purpose civil protection members, the lack of instructions for the application of laws and bylaws, their inapplicability in the field of civil protection, etc.
In the survey, the respondents listed their needs for assistance as follows: the legislative framework (decisions, rule of procedure, instructions, etc.), 55.6%; institutional framework (setting up services, departments, or special organizations; the formation of civil protection units, etc.), 55.7%; educational framework (appointing qualified staff, providing courses, issuing licenses, education, workshops, round tables, public debates, etc.), 55.4%; functional framework (the lack of understanding on the part of the authorities, the inability to put acts into force, unqualified staff, the lack of equipment, etc.), 38% (Figure 6
As additional forms of assistance, the respondents specified the type of support required from the sector in the area of prevention—i.e., drafting acts and more effective communication. The results of the chi-square test suggest that there were significant differences in the assessment of the need for legislative and educational assistance (X2 = 3.78, p = 0.05; X2 = 4.56, p < 0.05, respectively).
3.2.5. Cooperation and Communication in the Context of Disaster Risk Management
The following structured enquiry asked the respondents to assess the extent to which they established cooperation with neighboring municipalities over the past few years. Some 42.1% of respondents from towns assessed it as considerable, 36.8% to a lesser extent, while 21.1% opted for the absence of cooperation. No statistically significant difference was obtained between the two groups of local self-governments representatives (t = 0.39, p > 0.05). Based on the respondents’ answers, the cooperation included exchange of experiences, relief supplies, providing volunteers and logistical support, communication on legal obligations issues, hiring experts for a damage assessment team, etc.
When asked to assess the cooperation with neighboring municipalities in disaster prevention and management, only 10% of respondents from towns cited that the cooperation was considerable, 45% described it as poor, while 45% of the respondents reported on the absence of any cooperation. The application of the t-test for independent samples, no statistically significant differences were found between the two groups queried (t = −0.994, p > 0.05) (comparative results are presented).
When asked to identify the form of cooperation in each of the cooperation fields, 16.7% of the respondents specified the planning and development of joint projects aimed at financing disaster prevention and management systems, 6.6% cited the planning and development of joint projects intended for financing mitigating aftermath consequences, and 27.8% stated joint training. Besides the domains offered by the questionnaire, the respondents also reported the exchange of experiences as a form of cooperation, as well as some situation-specific cooperation.
The percentage of affirmative answers in the areas above was not significantly different between the respondents from local self-governments units and those from municipalities. Within this survey item, 40% of respondents implied the existence of cooperation with cross-border municipalities, while 60% reported that there was no cooperation at all. The chi-square test suggested no significant differences between municipalities and towns (X2 = 3.11, p > 0.05).
Regarding cooperation with cross-border municipalities, the respondents described it as (a) cooperation in planning and designing joint projects aimed at financing prevention and emergency management systems (20%), (b) the planning and development of joint projects intended to finance relief in the aftermath (15%), and (c) joint training (15%) (Figure 8
Within the assortment of questions regarding cooperation, the respondents were asked if they had cooperated with governmental institutions in charge of disaster risk prevention. Some 95% of the representatives of local self-government units answered in the affirmative. No statistically significant differences were obtained between towns and municipalities either in the existence of cooperation with government institutions (X2 = 0.86, p > 0.05) or in forms of cooperation with the institutions above. Some 90% of respondents from towns had experienced the cooperation with the local district disaster response headquarters. The respondents in the survey reported on cooperation within legislative (35%), institutional (25%), educational (35%) and functional fields (65%). Additionally, the collaboration included data and information exchange, joint meetings with local self-government headquarters, and coordination during disasters.
Some 85% of respondents from towns cited that citizens and the wider community were involved in prevention activities, mostly during disaster events and in the aftermath period, in meetings in local community centers (73.7%). The citizens also participated in educational workshops (21.1%), activities related to vulnerability assessment and protection and rescue schemes (15.8%), and civil protection training and disaster drills (10.5%). The participation of citizens was the lowest in forums, which were organized in one town only. There was no significant difference between towns and municipalities with respect to the participation of citizens in the activities above (X2 = 0.89, p > 0.05).
The question “Do you consider local administration employees and officials well informed about disaster prevention and management?” was answered in the negative by 57.9%, and by 42.1% in the affirmative. The greatest proportion of the latter believed that improvements could be made through education, which unfortunately had been systematically and unjustifiably neglected. It is for this reason that more than 50% of representatives proposed education in the respective field as the most viable proposal for raising public awareness of disasters. On the other hand, when the knowledge of the citizens was in the focus of the query, as much as 85% of respondents answered in the negative. Statistically, the obtained results were not significantly different compared to municipalities (X2 = 1.44, p > 0.05). Some 80% of respondents from towns believed that the knowledge could be improved through the educational framework (workshops, forums, public debates), while 45% of respondents considered the institutional framework the most useful to that end. Some of the offered answers were the introduction of subjects in primary schools and raising the awareness of citizens regarding civil protection by governmental bodies.
Within the assortment of questions relative to priorities in raising awareness on disaster protection, and the prevention, as many as 47.4% of the respondents highlighted the essential role of political authorities in local self-governments, representatives of local media followed, as well as local self-government employees, managing boards of public companies and institutions, and finally activities of school children, the youth, and citizens. Based on the responses in the survey, the civil society organizations were most involved in the preparation of risk assessment and protection and rescue schemes, as well as in long-term improvement and development plans (27.8%), while only two respondents reported the involvement of the Commission for Gender Equality and the related subjects, and one person from the Women’s Association. A statistically significant difference was obtained only regarding the involvement of civil society organizations (X2 = 5.03, p < 0.05), in favor of towns. As for the local self-government units which failed to complete the related documents, the greatest proportion of respondents believed that civil society organizations have the potential to contribute in the field, along with the Commission for Gender Equality/officials within that domain. Only four respondents believed that Women’s Associations could contribute to the domain. No significant differences between towns and municipalities were observed in any of the options above. The respondents were also queried about the extent to which the needs of vulnerable groups, such as the Roma, people with special needs and those with disabilities, etc. were observed. Slightly more than half of the respondents answered the question (56.5%), whereby 58.8% considered that the needs of the population was fully observed, while 23.1% respondents stated that they were only partially taken into account or not considered at all.
Concerning meetings, regular meetings were mostly held quarterly (in about 70% of towns), and emergency ones were held when needed. In Leskovac, headquarters members meet only once or twice a year; in Pancevo, these were run six to eight times a year; and in Nis, in 2016 as many as 14 sessions were held. It was only in Kragujevac that professional and operational teams were not formed, while the number of teams set up in other towns ranges between three (Loznica, Novi Sad, Uzice, and Sabac) and 23 in Sombor. The analysis conducted in 2014 showed that the average number of professional and operational teams was five in towns (M = 4.86), even amounting to seven in 2017 (M = 6.86); the t-test for the dependent samples revealed no significant difference.
The results suggest a change insofar as legal subjects have been trained in all the towns—i.e., 11 in Jagodina, 73 in Sombor, and as many as 66 in Belgrade. The analysis also revealed that by 2014 only in 12 towns Civil Protection Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners were appointed. In Belgrade, the legal subjects were appointed only in suburban municipalities. In this respect, in 2017, it was only in Novi Sad that Civil Protection Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners were not appointed, other towns having met the regulation. In addition, the data from Smederevo indicate that the commissioners were appointed, however, their replacement was recommended. According to the analysis conducted in 2014, only seven towns (Vranje, Jagodina, Kruševac, Niš, Novi Sad, Požarevac, and Sombor) had civil protection units set up; however, the number amounted to 11 in 2017, with the newly included towns being Čačak, Sremska Mitrovica, Kragujevac, and Kraljevo. In Uzice, civil protection units were formed only temporarily. The very existence of civil protection units does not imply that they are equipped or trained. The exceptions are in Kraljevo, Sombor, and Sremska Mitrovica, while in Uzice and Cacak the civil protection units are only partially trained. The procurement of equipment is underway in Kragujevac, and the training of civil protection units is planned for the fall of 2017. We have not received the information on the exact capacity of the facilities; however, the available data imply that these range from 40 m2 in Uzice (which is less than in 2014 (100 m2) to 2,300,000 in Belgrade, which correlates with the size of the town and the population.
The testing of the disaster management system through disaster drills is only occasionally and unsystematically organized in fewer than half of the towns (45.5%). The disaster drills are most commonly performed in Leskovac (twice or thrice a year), Kragujevac (twice a year), and Pancevo (once or twice a year).
Regarding emergency population warning systems, the analysis showed that the system is being modernized in Belgrade and Valjevo, while it was reported that in Zrenjanin, Pancevo, Loznica, Sombor, and Uzice the system is in satisfactory condition. In Jagodina, Kragujevac, and Krusevac, the system is operational; in Novi Pazar, the maintenance standards are not met. In all other towns, the sirens are poorly maintained and faulty. Sirens were installed in Serbia almost 50 years ago, and it can be said that their functionality is largely questionable and local governments have a legal obligation to complete acoustic studies within 3 years. The results of the assessment also report on insufficient acoustic coverage—e.g., in Nis and Leskovac. Additionally, the acoustic studies in local self-governments are outdated and do not meet the requirements of settlements whose area increased over time. The analysis carried out in 2014 reported on the plans for developing new acoustic studies in Sremska Mitrovica and Čačak. In 2017, these were underway in Sremska Mitrovica and they were fully realized in Čačak, with the modernization of the equipment being in progress. Regardless of the explicit need for modernized acoustic studies, these have not been developed so far.
In contrast to the year 2018, when the telecommunications, information, and communication technology systems that enable and support the operation of disaster management systems were assessed as rather outdated, some positive movements have been observed lately. In this respect, the majority of towns have reported favorable or satisfactory changes. In Novi Pazar, the equipment is in solid condition, whereas the reports from Novi Sad, Smederevo, Valjevo, and Nis indicate unfavorable conditions relative to the equipment, suggesting the need for modernization.
Regarding individual and collective protection, three years after the initial analysis, in Belgrade, the conditions changed from ‘alarming’ to ‘satisfactory’. The results suggest incomplete and outdated means of individual and collective protection, and poor general condition, the only exception being the town of Uzice, which was described as “partially equipped” but still in an unsatisfactory condition. This year’s analysis infers somewhat more favorable circumstances, with slightly more than half of the reports assessing the situation to be good or satisfactory. Inspections are being conducted in Smederevo, Pančevo, Novi Pazar, and Niš; the report from Valjevo described the equipment as ‘satisfactory’ but assessed the citizens as untrained for individual and collective protection. The report from Jagodina is similar, implying that the individual and collective training schemes have been designed and developed but not realized in practice.
The assortment of questions that follows concerns disaster prevention and the operation of local self-government sectors under normal circumstances. Respondents from local self-governments in towns who participated in the development of vulnerability assessment and protection and rescue schemes were asked if their local self-government had taken any steps to enhance quality of town planning schemes or to improve the disaster response and communal companies action schemes during disasters. A total of 43.8% of respondents answered in the affirmative, which was not significantly different from the responses obtained from local self-government units in areas with the status of municipalities (X2 = 2.19, p > 0.05).
Only one third of the respondents in the query answered in the affirmative to the question related to the development of vulnerability assessments and protection and rescue schemes in the local community. The respondents from Pančevo and Užice cited that all the communal companies had developed schemes, while the remaining proportion of respondents either listed the companies who had developed schemes, denied the existence of the schemes, or stated that they were in the drafting stage. Besides communal companies, institutions perceived by the respondents in the survey as crucial to disaster prevention and management were as follows: hospitals and related health care institutions, veterinary hospitals, the Red Cross Organization, the Institute of Transportation CIP, protective services, TV stations, fire brigades, citizens’ associations, protection-qualified legal entities, public and private companies, academic institutions, etc. The question “Do these institutions have vulnerability assessment and protection and rescue schemes developed?” gave the following results: Only 8.7% of respondents claimed that some of the institutions had the schemes developed, 26% stated the schemes did not exist, and the remaining proportion of respondents in the survey did not answer. The query reported that threat assessment has been undertaken in about 36% of towns, whereas protection and rescue schemes were developed in 16.7%, which is alarming, as these documents are the building blocks for the prevention activities that include measures and activities to be taken during disaster events and resource allocation, organization. and coordination at the local level, which are all essential for the implementation of competencies prescribed by law financially, operationally, and institutionally.
The results of the chi-square test revealed a correlation between the information gathered from local self-government representatives and the following variables examined: the decision passed on the formation of the headquarters (p
= 0.050); duties assigned to headquarter members (p
= 0.028); the assessment of legislation in power in the domain of disaster management (p
= 0.022); budget financing (p
= 0.05); the steps taken to enhance the quality of town-planning schemes (p
= 0.050); establishing disaster management headquarters (p
= 0.050); the assessment of the preparedness of disaster management headquarters (p
= 0.050); the assessment of the communication established between the disaster management headquarters and relevant subjects (p
= 0.01); cooperation with governmental institutions in the domain of disaster prevention (p
= 0.43) (Table 6
On the other hand, the results of the chi-square test showed that there was no correlation between how informed local self-government representatives were and the following variables encompassed by survey: the rules of procedure were adopted; an annual work report was adopted; an annual work plan was adopted; a decision was made on the formation and operation of civil protection; a decision was passed on the establishment of a civil protection unit; a conclusion was made regarding the appointment of the civil protection commissioner; a risk assessment team was set up; risk assessment and protection and rescue schemes and flood defense schemes were adopted; insight was gained into international funds intended for improving readiness to respond to disasters; support was given in developing schemes; insight was gained into the competencies of disaster headquarters; an assessment of cooperation with other municipalities during disasters was undertaken; an assessment of cooperation with other municipalities in the disaster prevention domain was undertaken; an assessment of cooperation with cross-border municipalities in the disaster prevention domain was undertaken; an assessment of the needs for cross-border cooperation in the domain of disaster management was undertaken; involving citizens in disaster prevention framework (Table 6