"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Pro-active measures needed to lessen damage during disasters

The importance of planning for a disaster, which must be carried out not only by the government but also by the public was emphasized by Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today.

“Weather is an act of God, but the planning and reactions are acts of men. You can mitigate the damage, but you cannot stop it,” he said during the Kapihan sa Senado.

Asked what should be done now that typhoon Pepeng has entered the Philippine area of responsibility, Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), answered that the government should be giving proper instructions to the public and the people should heed such directives.

“We must be pro-active. The President or the National Disaster Coordinating Council should ask the TV and radio stations for 15 minutes at primetime and make the necessary instructions: a typhoon is coming, this is what is happening, this is what would happen, this is what the government would do, and this is what the people must do,” he said.

The senator also said that instead of using schools as evacuation centers, the government should plan on setting-up permanent evacuation areas where people could go for refuge once a disaster hits their communities.

“For example, In Bicol, every time Mt. Mayon acts up, we use the schools as evacuation centers. In a disaster-prone area like the Philippines, there should be an evacuation center designed for that,” Gordon said.

“What we should do is to find a safe place, on high ground, every municipality should have that or designate that. And these centers should have water and toilets. Cities and municipalities in the country should also use a warning system using text messaging, so that the city or provincial disaster coordinating councils could easily alert the people when it is time to leave their houses and go to the evacuation centers,” he added.

In the PNRC, Gordon has created the Red Cross 143, a network of 44 volunteers (1 leader plus 43 members) in every barangay who must be the first to prepare, first to report and first to respond during disasters and other emergency situations.

The duties of the members of Red Cross 143 volunteers include: (1) Predict possible threats in the community; (2) Plan what to do in times of disasters; (3) Prepare the community for what it would need; (4) Practice or conduct first aid trainings and emergency evacuation drills; (5) Report instantly to the Red Cross pertinent information about the disaster; and (6) Respond immediately to those in need. (30/tgp)

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