How prepared are we?
PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero-Ballescas (The Freeman) - June 29, 2019 - 12:00am

The reminders are all over yet the concern lingers: How prepared are at all for disasters? Are effective DRRM (Disaster Risk Reduction and Management) networks in place?

Floods clogged portions of Metro Manila and Cebu City recently. Despite expensive flood control infrastructure projects, plastic garbage blocked drainage outlets. Disaster prevention and management need coordinated multiple approaches. The participation and cooperation of people and communities are crucial factors that should already have been tapped and involved in DRRM networks, policy, and action plans. However, more and more we witness the lack of coordinated and effective networks and methods to mitigate and manage problems like floods.

Drainage systems and outlets are not systematically planned within and across cities and towns. Waste continues to be irresponsibly thrown. Helpful options, like rain harvesting, not tried on a wider scale.

With more floods and frequent typhoons expected, the urgency to reduce and manage the adverse impacts of disasters, like floods, is real and serious. Politicians should step up, beyond their personal selfish agenda, implement effective measures to siphon floodwaters, not public funds!

Fires have also hit many urban areas lately. Once again, the conspicuous lack of an emergency system to quickly and effectively respond to fires continues to be very obvious.

Residents of vulnerable, poor communities face the multiple problems of heavy congestion, lack of water supply, lack of road access, houses made of light materials among others. These problems are always mentioned when communities have been leveled to the ground after fires. These problems have been known decades back and until now, no progress has been made to resolve them?

To repeat, involvement and participation of the community residents are crucial for any risk reduction and management plan and implementation. While awaiting external assistance during disasters, people in the communities should already, by now, have been organized and informed about how to avert and to respond to emergencies, how to unite together to address the problems of road access, water supply, security and order, and other needs that hamper effective management and assistance during emergencies and disasters.

There is also the urgency for a very systematic and coordinated external network among those who are tasked to respond to emergencies, especially to save and care for the victims.

The emergency team should be composed of the following important partners; first, the police as lead agency to regulate order and security in the affected area. There are pedestrians, drivers and community residents who ignore the sirens of ambulances but who immediately become obedient at the sight and sound of policemen and their patrol cars. Police should be first in line in any emergency situation to manage security and order at the emergency site. They should immediately identify, cordon off the unsafe from the safe areas, and protect the residents and their possessions. Many residents do not want to evacuate to safe locations for fear of losing their possessions to thieves. Prior to any emergency, the external disaster management team should involve community residents coordinating with the police and other responding partners for better protection of people and property.

Other emergency network partners include medical personnel, guidance counselors, and social welfare officers (with prior data of community residents for systematic and quick response for victims - food, clothes, shelter, warm blankets, others).

Again, prior to any emergency, local community counterparts should have already been tapped and trained to prepare and coordinate with the police, medical team, guidance counselors, and social welfare partners including the identification of evacuation centers with available crucial resources like protected rest areas with clean, safe water, and toilets, among others.

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