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A busy week for disaster preparedness

Indonesia, July 19, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Juan Christie/Mercy Corps  </span>
    The Mercy Corps Indonesia-sponsored Disaster Preparedness Camp was packed with 274 students and teachers from 12 schools from Padang City and Agam District. Photo: Juan Christie/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Juan Christie/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Students in the First Aid Responder competition at the Disaster Preparedness Camp in Puncak Lawang, West Sumatra. Photo: Juan Christie/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Juan Christie/Mercy Corps  </span>
    The first aid component of the Disaster Risk Reduction Training our team conducted for a state-owned hydroelectric plant in West Sumatra's Agam District. Photo: Juan Christie/Mercy Corps

Although the Mercy Corps West Sumatra (Indonesia) team's schedule is always packed with activities, this July has been particularly busy month for our team. We've held a series of events, all related with disaster preparedness and/ or disaster risk reduction (DRR) activities. The participants ranged from students to communities and government officials.

The first activity was a Disaster Preparedness Camp, held July 8-10 in Puncak Lawang, Agam District. The event was packed with 274 students and teachers from 12 schools from Padang City and Agam District. These schools has been receiving assistance from our PREPARE SumBar program to establish the School Disaster Preparedness Team (SDPT). They've been receiving various trainings on DRR such as First Aid, Evacuation Planning and Hazard Assessment.

The participants spent three days and two nights in Puncak Lawang, which is located about 1260 meters (4,100 feet) above sea level. The generally cool weather and usual afternoon fog proved to be no barrier for the participants to participate in various competitions: First Aid Responder, Disaster Preparedness Campaign and various quizzes. Additional skills that participants learned included fire training and camp management.

Focusing not only on the students, teachers were also encouraged to join the quizzes to test out their knowledge on DRR. Fellow non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government agencies were also invited to the event, including Caritas and the Indonesian Red Cross. Involving these various stakeholders was seen as essential aspect to ensure sustainability of regional disaster preparedness in the future.

The theme of this camp was “Disaster Will Not Wait Until We Are Prepared.” I encouraged everybody here to be prepared, ALWAYS!. We cannot predict when or what kind of disaster that will come to us, but we can surely prepare ourselves, our family, our community and our schools for whatever disasters might come.

As for Mercy Corps’ West Sumatra team, this event was a great opportunity to strengthen team work among the 23 staff members from this office.

Almost immediately after the Disaster Preparedness Camp ended, we started a Disaster Risk Reduction Training for a state-owned hydroelectric plant in Agam District. The regional Disaster Management Board requested this training for plant staff. This plant is critical for the region, as its 68 megawatts power all of West Sumatra Province.

The focus of the training was to assess the condition of the building and the safe zones. This was done through a floor-by-floor walk with the staff. It was a totally different experience than the Disaster Preparedness Camp, because we were assisting in developing DRR initiatives inside a massive power plant with narrow alleys, cables, gigantic pipes and valves. The evacuation plan had to be carefully considered to avoid injuries. But, through this exercise, each floor is now successfully mapped out!

Next came the First Aid Responder training, showing how to provide initial care to injured people, including broken bones and deep wounds. ”Being a first responder is essential to saving someone’s life," one of our staff members said. "You can save a live if you provide proper response to any medical emergencies. Evacuating the injured people is very important, and you can do so by using tools available within your area.”

We hope that this will help broaden recognition of the importance of DRR initiatives in West Sumatra Province. Our team will continue working with schools, government and communities to empower the people of West Sumatra to be aware of disaster and stay PREPARED, always!