Living with disasters

KUDOS to Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel for convening the first-ever Mindanao Summit on Disaster Risk Reduction and Geo-Hazard Awareness in Cagayan de Oro which started yesterday and is expected to end today.

The summit gathered representatives from the national and local government units, academe, business, non-governmental organizations and donor communities to share their insights about the various responses undertaken during and after the typhoons that recently hit Mindanao.

Using Mindanao’s topography and demographics, they were one with Sen. Pimentel in trying to find out Mindanao’s vulnerabilities to calamities and come up with concrete and specific steps to strengthen regional and local capacity to cope with disasters.

For Senator Pimentel who comes from Mindanao, Mindanaoans, like the rest of us in the Visayan and Luzon regions, should be empowered to make appropriate decisions and take corresponding actions to avert risks of disasters they would eventually have to face.

The question Pimentel is posing before us was not just ‘what if?” but “what should we do?” so that our local communities are better prepared to face the risks and threats for the next onslaught of man-made or natural disasters.

Of course, each type of man-made and natural disasters requires different responses whether it is typhoon, earthquake, landslide, tsunami, fire or explosion.

But the message is clear — we should learn how to live with disaster whenever it strikes us.

Facing emergency situation however is more complex as it depends not only on careful preparation, but also on execution of plans with agility and calm, giving priority to indispensable services to those most vulnerable, such as women, children, elderly and disabled.

Such plan before, during and after the disaster should have been readied ahead of time so that undue panic, including possible looting, is prevented.

The emergency plan should extend beyond search-rescue-recovery but should also address health, medical and sanitation concerns.

And along with calls for better disaster preparation come the realization of the vital role played by the media in the different stages of disasters, and not just be focused on providing a tally of  those killed, injured or missing.

That is why our national and local disaster officials should also be taught about proper media management which can act as an effective tool not only in mobilizing relief and rescue operations and in rallying for donations, but also, in circulating timely and accurate information.

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