Indonesia + 2 more

South/Southeast Asia and East Africa: Earthquake and Tsunamis - Fact Sheet No. 26


Before disaster strikes: preparedness and early warning systems

The readiness to reduce the impact of disasters, and where possible, predict and even prevent disasters from occurring, is central to the work of the In ternational Federation and its national societies around the world. In the three main tsunami-affected countries of Indonesia, Sri Lanka and, to a lesser extent, the Maldives, disaster preparedness and early warning systems are being put in placeb y the Federation to help countries stay ahead of the next disaster.

PMI - at the forefront of disaster response in Indonesia

The Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia/PMI) is well recognized within the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement for its rapid response capabilities, which are an essential component of disaster preparedness and a core element of Strategy 2010. PMI maintains 70 field action teams, known as Satgana, across the broad expanse of the archipelago, and is always among the first responders when calamity strikes. Considering that the country is among the world's most disaster-prone territories, averaging 2.75 natural disasters per day (based on statistics provided by the Ministr y of Social Affairs), PMI Satgana teams see a lot of action.

Volunteer teams from many PMI branches outside Aceh worked in two-week shifts throughout the emergency phase following the tsunami, which struck on 26 December 2004. They not only provided first aid in the early days, but also assisted with the distribution of relief supplies and in the removal of the deceased along the western coastline. Of the 167,000 lives lost, PMI Satgana volunteers recovered 45,000 bodies.

Within minutes after the second Bali bombing on the night of 1 October 2005, PMI ambulances and Bali branch Satgana teams were on the scene, registering the injured, providing trauma counseling and transporting the wounded to nearby hospitals. In 2006, PMI Satgana were among the first to help after the 27 May Yogyakarta earthquake and again following the 17 July offshore quake in western Java, which also triggered a tsunami.

The Satgana team disaster response effectiveness is complemented by stocks of relief supplies positioned in branch and chapter locations most prone to sudden-onset events. This level of preparedness is a primary objective described in the national society's Basic Policies and Strategic Plan 2005-2009, which also describes PMI's risk reduction education objectives - all of which has subsequently progressed as part of the Tsunami Plan of Action into the Federation-supported integrated community-based risk reduction (ICBRR) programme at the grassroots level.

On a broad level, PMI's national role in disaster preparedness is empowered by it's representation at the directorate level of Bakornas, the government's disaster management agency. PMI's participation in the planning processes for Bakornas has also put the national society at the forefront of development and im plementation of a nation-wide early warning system (EWS).

Indonesian Red Cross branches play an integral role in the "last mile" EWS notification network, with staff and volunteers trained to use a mix of high and low technology means to alert citizens of impending risks. This includes hand-held 'walkie-talkie' radios, short messaging service(SMS) mobile phone texts, "fan out" alerts, sirens, and megaphones. The national society's presence at the community level also positions it to play a key role in the stimulation of local participation and social mobilization of the country's EWS.

Programme activities in disaster preparation and early warning at PMI have accelerated in Aceh and Nias as a consequence of the tsunami and earthquakes. Funding resources directed at the massive recovery operations have made it possible to hasten the pace of delivery of the national society's disaster preparedness and EWS plans in these two regions.

With the close support of Federation delegates, an ICBRR curriculum of multi-hazard risk awareness is being actively disseminated by PMI volunteers n i Aceh and Nias branches, in community spaces and schools, as well as in temporary settlements for internally displaced people (IDPs), where many of the people affected by the tsunami have been residing while awaiting completion of their homes.

In the implementation of the country's EWS, 70 staff and volunteers from all 21 Aceh province branches and from Nias in North Sumatra province have completed radio operator training. The first round of very high frequency (VHF) and high frequency (HF) equipment is being installed by PMI technical staff, with support from the Federation country delegation's IT/telecommunications department.

The new internal PMI radio network will serve the dual purpose of early warning communication channel to the branches, as part of the government's notification system, and also as a branch-to-branch and chapter network to strengthen institutional communications and therefore capacity development.

The Federation, PMI and Red Cross Red Crescent national societies active in Aceh and Nias are key players in the area's EWS development plans, working alongside Bakornas, BRR (the Indonesian Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency), the United Nations, authorized non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other relevant actors.

The ICBRR outreach is a mature programme which has, over several months, been reaching tens of thousands of people through audio-visual presentations, print materials, and in detailed community-mapping exercises, where tsunami and earthquake survivors are engaged in the re-building of their village settlements. The EWS programme is in an early stage of deployment as PMI branch staff and volunteers are trained to operate technical equipment and begin the community mobilization process in partnership with other players.

With tsunami funding resources for disaster preparedness and EWS programming being put to effective use, and with plans developed and in the first stages of implementation, indicators point to a strengthened PMI capacity to raise awareness, decrease vulnerability to risks, and therefore help to minimize the impact of natural hazards. It will help save lives in the tsunami and earthquake areas of Aceh and Nias, and through PMI's national infrastructure, make a difference in this respect nationwide.

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