World Tsunami Awareness Day 2018: It’s all we can do. Be prepared.
The big three in recent memory has a wall of water so destructive, so damaging, it impacted thousands of lives.
All of us at one point, either experienced it personally, watched it happen live on tv or followed the events of the Indian ocean tsunami in 2004 and then the Great East Japan Earthquake, dubbed by the Japanese government in 2011 saw massive destruction which rocked the country. Just last month, Palu, Indonesia was hit with an earthquake and tsunami.
Since the 2004 Tsunami, governments and communities across Asia and the Pacific have increased awareness and built warning mechanisms. We know the possibility of more tsunamis happening, with increased frequency.
UNDP and the Japanese government know this. Determined to ensure countries are successfully prepared for evacuation, especially communities in danger zones, the UNDP and Japan government created a project called “Strengthening School Preparedness for Tsunamis in the Asia-Pacific Region”.
The project is skewed towards schools as children are the most vulnerable of all when a tsunami lands during the day. In Malaysia, schools are designated evacuation centres for communities when natural disasters strike, making it even important to educate children on importance of drills.
How do we prepare the children? We educate, so they know what to do when an impending tsunami is on the way. We tell them how important it is to listen to tsunami sirens and follow evacuation plans.
How do we prepare emergency services? By bringing all of them together to polish their standard operating procedures and test their response times. In evaluating the drill performance, indicators such as forecasting and timely issuance of tsunami warnings, ensuring resilient communication systems, understanding evacuation maps and response time were measured and monitored.
Malaysia is one of the countries selected for the school tsunami preparedness project as part of UNDP’s and Japan’s regional project “Strengthening School Preparedness for Tsunamis in the Asia-Pacific Region” in 18 Asia-Pacific countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor Leste, Tonga, Vanuatu and Viet Nam.
UNDP in Malaysia in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) and Ministry of Education (MOE) had on 7 August 2018 conducted the inaugural school tsunami evacuation drills at SK Seri Kuala and SMK Kota Kuala Muda with nearly 1500 students involved – the area which was hit by the 2004 tsunami.
Besides the main secretariat that comprised NADMA, MOE and UNDP, other agencies involved in supporting the drills were Kuala Muda district office, Police, Fire and Rescue, Civil Defence, Community and Welfare Dept. and Health Services. Involvements of the agencies replicates Malaysia’s National Security Council Directive No. 20 – Policy and Mechanism of National Disaster Management and Relief.
The drill was also attended by Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, who is also the designated Chair of Federal Disaster Management and Relief Committee. The VIP entourage also include HM Tengku Intan Shafinaz, the Kedah state Princess, who is patron of Malaysian Red Crescent.
The enthusiastic support from the Deputy Prime Minister and every single agency from the federal and state government is evidence of the seriousness of preparing schools and communities for a tsunami. The quick and efficient mobilisation of resources by disaster emergency services for the drill is manifestation that Malaysian emergency agencies are prepared. It is hoped that the lesson learns from the above will serve as template for future drills and in strengthening response time and actions.
For a destructive force such as a tsunami, the only way, is to be prepared.