Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Public-Private Partners enhance evacuation preparedness of local folks

Photo courtesy: Barcelona MDRRMO

By: Bennie A. Recebido

SORSOGON CITY, Aug 5 (PIA) – Residents of Poblacion Central, a coastal barangay in the town of Barcelona, a 5th class municipality of Sorsogon, was freed from pre-conceived fear brought by disasters after they were subjected to a full-scale evacuation drill bringing them to a heightened consciousness on disaster preparedness and management.

Conducted on July 23, 2013, in time with the observance of the National Disaster Consciousness Month, the full-scale evacuation drill exposed the residents and the major key players on the basic strategies and appropriate actual action to employ in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) activities.

The drill was a flooding scenario where residents have to evacuate to safer grounds. Taking part in the drill has to apply suitable early warning and communication strategies as well as the proper transportation and evacuation routes as if responding in a real-life situation.

Following the activity, at least five residents in a quick statement expressed that they now become aware and more valiant to face whatever disasters to come because they are more prepared compared to that of the past. “We expect some more of this in the near future,” they also said.

Poblacion Central Brgy. Captain Norman Florano accounted that this was the first time a drill like this was conducted in the town of Barcelona. “After a long time of repeated exposure to the threats of disasters, local residents for the first time were subjected to this drill and we feel proud that it happened in our barangay where everyone was cooperative,” he said.

“As the top official in our barangay, I realized that loss of lives and properties during disasters can be prevented or reduced if people in the community are aware of the underlying risks, are convinced that something can be done to reduce the risks, and are equipped with the proper knowledge of what to do,” he further explained.

Brgy. Poblacion Central has 933 total populations with 460 male and 473 female. Eight of the total residents are Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), 90 are senior citizens and 213 are children. 

Brgy. Captain Florano, however, admitted certain gaps they have noticed and experienced during the drill like few lapses in the flow of communication and the inadequate procedural system used by some committees.

Barcelona town DRRMO Municipal Councilor Antonio Falcotelo, Jr. supported the observations of Brgy. Captain Florano saying he himself took notice of the same observations specifically in terms of proper communication during the evacuation and rescue procedures. “The clarity, accuracy and timeliness of the communication are very important,” says Hon. Falcotelo.

But just as disaster management requires timeliness, they immediately made the assessment and give suggestions and recommendations to make the DRRM more efficient and effective.

Photo courtesy: Barcelona MDRRMO
He said those involved in the process arrived in the consensus of enhancing the early warning system and change the warning device used, like instead of whistle they will use bells, so that the residents can better hear the warning signal. Adjustments to cellular phones were also made to effectively deliver the first hand information. Observations like poor communication signal and no cellular phone available are also being carefully studied now by the concerned entities.

“But generally, we assessed the drill to be very successful. It really helped the community practice what to do prior to the advent of calamities/disasters, of course with the help of various stakeholders,” Hon. Falcotelo said. Full force during the drill was the Philippine National Police (PNP) Philippine Army, Rural Health Unit (RHU), and the Municipal DRRMO of Barcelona headed by Mayor Manuel Fortes, Jr.

Brgy. Officials and some residents of at least three neighboring coastal barangays of Poblacion Norte also participated as observers during the activity. Unanimously, they said that the drill was an awakening for them realizing that there are still a lot to do to be fully disaster prepared and resilient community. “We have learned a lot from what we have observed and we are considering the plan of doing the same in our respective areas to be initiated by the Brgy-LGU through the assistance of the Municipal-LGU,” they recounted.

Community Facilitator Ms. Divine Nicolas-Pabalan said the active participation displayed by the residents including the Grade Five and Grade Six pupils of Barcelona Central School and the observers from other barangays, is an indication that the community has started building disaster resiliency and can handle recurrent disasters. Lessons learned from this drill will likewise help improve the Local Government Unit’s emergency response and preparedness capacities.

Project Officer Ms. Maila E. Quiring of Building Disaster-Resilient Communities – Learning Circle (BDRC-LC), meanwhile said, the drill was part of the “Scale Up, Build Up” (SUBU) Project which also forms part of evaluating how far the project went through following the series of social preparations they have conducted in the community. “The activity has strengthened the information flows as well as inter-agency communication and coordination which are very significant in an actual experience, specifically that some gaps along the process were identified,” she added.

The SUBU project is an 18-month project implemented by Christian Aid Partners for Sorsogon namely the BDRC-LC and the Provincial Alliance for NGOs and Peoples Organizations (PANGOPOD) where Coastal Community Resources Inc. and Livelihood Development, Inc. (Coastal CORE), the front-line implementer of the project, is both a member.

SUBU project also supports the implementation of the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act (RA 10121) by improving access to information and increasing the institutional capacity of DRR stakeholders to increase resilience of high risk communities in the Philippines.

The project is implemented in the towns of Barcelona, Juban and Casiguran in Sorsogon in partnership with the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) V and the Sorsogon Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (SPDRRMO). (BARecebido, PIA Sorsogon)

No comments: