Prepare to Win: Tsunami Awareness and Preparedness

Young students take part in Tsunami evacuation drills in Bali,
Indonesia. Credit: UNDP Asia-Pacific

By Asako Okai

Once considered rare in their occurrence, in the last 10 years
tsunamis have struck nearly every year: from Samoa to Chile, and
from Iceland to New Zealand.

Usually triggered by a massive earthquake which is impossible to
predict, there is often very little time to respond to a tsunami
warning. Yet, if the warning is clear and people know what to do,
thousands of lives can be saved.

As we mark World Tsunami Awareness Day November 5, I’d like to
express my appreciation to the Government of Japan for supporting
the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in raising tsunami
awareness among school children in disaster prone countries in Asia
and the Pacific.

In Japan, every school child knows what a tsunami is, and how to
respond to it. Now, through this initiative, Japan’s good
practice and experience is helping school children in the region
learn and improve their preparedness.

Under the three-year partnership until mid-2020, at least 10-12
schools each in 23 tsunami prone countries would have updated their
preparedness plans and tested them through drills.

To date, we have already trained over 100,000 students and
teachers from about 250 schools in 19 countries. Preparedness plans
have been updated, School Committees have been set up, evacuation
routes have been identified – and in some instances newly built
– and safe evacuation zones have been designated.

What started off as strengthening school preparedness has gone
beyond expectations in many countries. I’d like to elaborate by
sharing four country examples.

, one of the most tsunami prone countries in the
world, we held our very first drills under this initiative. The
drill was in a school in Bali, right in the middle of a highly
urbanized locality.

Since the latest risk assessment had shown that the school
premises would get inundated in the event of a tsunami, students
were made to evacuate and move to higher ground – in this case to
the roof of a six-storey hotel.

The drill resulted in creating awareness on the need for
providing a safe evacuation area and led eight hotels in the
locality to sign agreements with the local government offering
their space for safety to the local school children and
neighbouring communities.

In the Pacific Ocean, the terrain in Gizo,

Solomon Islands
looks quite different from Bali, with the sea
on one side and steep hills on the other. Fifty two children and
adults had lost their lives in the 2007 tsunami that had hit the

The school drills exposed the lack of preparedness and new
evacuation routes were constructed to help students safely escape
to higher ground. The National Disaster Management Organisation is
now committed to scaling up drills in other vulnerable islands.

The reality in the
is yet again unique. The 2004 tsunami swept over
nearly all the atolls. Unlike other countries, there were no waves,
rather it was as if the low-lying islands were sinking.

Survivors do not wish to recall the devastating memories and
most of the young people have little or no knowledge of a tsunami.
The safest evacuation is by boat and by moving to higher ground –
in this case a building that may not be higher than two-storeys.
Most islands have only one school, so our preparedness initiative
helped to educate the entire community.

Typhoons and storm surges hit the
, often creating tsunami like waves with very little
warning. While earthquake drills are regularly conducted, our
tsunami preparedness initiative has spurred the government to
combine earthquake with tsunami drills.

Together with Government agencies and local partners, we’ve
held several drills in disaster prone provinces reaching 60,000
students and teachers in the country.

Based on the positive feedback of the preparedness initiative
from students, teachers and communities in various countries and
our own experiences, we have developed a
regional guide
for schools to help them to be prepared so that
we can scale up awareness and preparedness in more at risk

With new students entering school every year, strengthening
school preparedness helps us to build resilient generations.

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Prepare to Win: Tsunami Awareness and Preparedness
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Asako Okai is UN Assistant Secretary-General
and Director of UNDP’s Crisis Bureau

The post
Prepare to Win: Tsunami Awareness and Preparedness
first on Inter Press

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Prepare to Win: Tsunami Awareness and Preparedness