NOTES ON THE HISTORY OF THE DISASTER MANAGEMENT INSTITUTE OF SOUTHERN AFRICA (DMISA)
The Disaster Management Institute of Southern Africa (DMISA) aims to advance the discipline and create learning and networking opportunities. DMISA, which was founded in 1985, has engaged with the South African National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) on various occasions. Regular meetings between DMISA leadership and the NDMC ensures a constant flow of information from functionaries in all spheres of government, directly to the NDMC, cutting red tape and improving cooperation and understanding. DMISA is a self-governing body committed to standardization, and hosts the biggest annual Disaster Risk Management conference in Africa, routinely attracting more than 350 delegates.
In partnership with the NDMC, DMISA plays an important role in furthering the interests of DRM practitioners in South Africa and in the Southern Africa region as a whole. DMISA has kept pace with global changes since its inception, and has undergone several name changes and considerable constitutional reforms in recent years. Founded in April 1985 as the Civil Defence Association of South Africa, it has contributed significantly to South Africa’s legislative reform in DRM through inputs of its members and structures.
When the institute was established, civil defence services were rendered according to the provisions of the Civil Defence Act (Act 67 of 1977) and the Fund Raising Act of 1978. However, it became increasingly apparent that civil defence and protection had to change to keep abreast with international approaches to disasters and how they were managed. The International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), introduced by the United Nations (UN) during the 1990s, was a clear call for the world to shift the focus away from reactive disaster responses onto disaster prevention and preparedness and building resilience through developmental initiatives. The changes within the Institute reflected the changes in thinking and approach among practitioners in the field, as well as a move away from military influence towards a reaffirmation of the principles of civilian control and democracy.
DMISA organised a study tour to Europe and the United Kingdom in 1990, which contributed significantly to a paradigm shift from civil defence and protection to disaster management in South Africa. Coming at the end of the apartheid era, the tour was accepted by the UN in Geneva. As a result, the UN Disaster Management Training Programme (UNDP), developed by the UN Disaster Relief Organization (UNDRO), was introduced to South Africa, leading in 1996 to a partnership with Technikon SA to offer Certificate Courses in Disaster Management based on the UNDP modules. The courses were jointly accredited and certified by Cranfield University in the UK; the University of Wisconsin in the USA; and the then Civil Protection Association.
The changing face of DMISA:
Source: Reid, 2006
PROFESSIONAL BODY STATUS
The introduction of additional membership categories linked to qualifications and experience heralded the start of another transformation process for DMISA. This has resulted in the recognition by SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority) of DMISA as the professional body for Disaster Management in South Africa from 18 February 2015 (SAQA professional body ID 940), and the registration of four professional designations with SAQA:
- Disaster Management Technician (DMT) – SAQA designation ID 760
- Disaster Management Associate (DMA) – SAQA designation ID 761
- Disaster Management Practitioner (DMPc) – SAQA designation ID 762
- Disaster Management Professional (PrDM) – SAQA designation ID 593
DMISA administers the four designations and regularly reports to SAQA on governance matters.
DMISA is the non-profit professional association for Disaster Management in Southern Africa and the SAQA-recognised professional body for Disaster Management in South Africa and remains committed to providing learning, networking and alignment opportunities for its members in support of the Disaster Management community of practice with the ultimate goal of reducing disaster risk and disaster impact and building capacity, resilience and agility within society.
This article written by Peter Mokoto, Pat Reid and Johan Minnie in August 2006 and updated by Johan MInnie in August 2019 and January 2023.