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Mainstreaming disaster preparedness

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos - CDN Digital | January 16,2020 - 07:54 AM

The year 2019 ended with many Cebuanos and fellow Filipinos reeling from the impacts of Typhoon Ursula, the 20th typhoon to enter the country.

2020 has just started. Yet, we are reminded abruptly and should be painfully awakened to the fact that the Philippines is one of the “most natural hazard-prone countries in the world.”

The Taal Volcano eruption a few days ago has displaced, as of yesterday, “18,646 families (or 82,068 persons) from Batangas …in 204 evacuation centers in Batangas and Cavite.”

In a Twitter post by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Philippines, “Over 450,000 people are estimated to be residing within the 14 km danger zone of the Taal Volcano.” All are ordered to be evacuated. However, it is alarming that some had been reported to be going back to their homes armed only with the false sense of hope that the dangerous phase is over.

Alert Level 4 has been raised by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), which means that hazardous eruption is possible within days.

Our response to disasters reflect a lot about our capacity (or lack of it) for disaster management. It is not something to be proud of, if we are to rate it, despite great laws and regulations that provide for effective and efficient collaboration among agencies and stakeholders, before during and after the occurrence.

Scampering for N95 masks and stores running out of them are clear indications of citizens not being ready for disasters.

We are always proud, however, of how our citizens respond and offer help to the survivors. Facebook is loaded with great stories of heroes including the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption survivors delivering relief goods to those affected by the Taal volcano eruption.

Certainly, we can do our part and help the communities and ourselves. And, we should start now within our family and communities by  planning how to cope with disasters before they happen.

There are many materials on disaster preparedness on the internet especially involving children, who are traumatized and scarred for life if they are not properly oriented about it or responded properly when the hazard occurs. How to make kids better prepared can be found in this website: https://www.ready.gov/kids.

As for local governments, which are primarily responsible for ensuring disaster preparedness  among constituents, the Operation L!sto manual for disaster preparedness of the Department of Interior and Local Government is most helpful.

As incentives for local governments doing a great job of saving lives, DILG has launched The Seal of Disaster Preparedness (Seal) “conferred to a local government which demonstrates an acceptable level of disaster preparedness and disaster preparedness response before and during calamities as an official symbol of excellence”.

Mainstreaming disaster preparedness is the smart way to go, if we are to protect our citizens, especially the children, the elderly and those with disabilities.

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