The first tsunami drill at schools in the Solomon Islands mobilized nearly 400 students and teachers, testing the schools’ emergency management plans and newly constructed evacuation routes.
The tsunami evacuation drill was held in two schools - Titiana Community High School and Babanga Primary school, in the tsunami-prone Western Province. It was supported by the government of Solomon Islands and Japan, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
“During the 2007 Tsunami, 52 children and adults lost their lives. We did not know what a tsunami was or what to do. We are grateful for support of the Government of Japan and UNDP to help our communities and children to be better prepared for the future,” said Honorable George Lilo, member of the Provincial Assembly.
The school tsunami preparedness project is backed by the Western Province Education Authority, the Seismology Division of MMERE and the NDMO, SI Meteorological Services, Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Disaster Management & Meteorology.
Using images taken from the drones and stories gathered from the communities, the agencies banded together to collect data, and conduct a tsunami risk assessment. They also produced tsunami hazard maps, and identified evacuation routes and safe areas.
The work resulted in the creation of new emergency evacuation plans, and construction of evacuation routes.
It was recommended that schools set up internal siren systems to support early warning, build emergency exit doors, and display tsunami evacuation guides around the perimeter of the schools’ campus to ensure safe evacuation.
“Our children have a lot to learn about being safe and being able to fend for themselves when threats exist. Children are “agents of change”, they will carry the safety message to their parents, friends, and entire community,” said Mr. Loti Yates, Director of the National Disaster Management Office.
UNDP Country Manager in the Solomon Island, Ms Azusa Kubota, thanked the Government of Japan for supporting the island communities, and partnering with UNDP.
“Globally, schools have been identified as an ideal venue for raising awareness on disaster risk reduction and strengthening preparedness amongst students, families and communities. It is wonderful to see not only school children and teachers, but also community members coming together to be part of today’s exercise,” said Ms. Azusa Kubota of UNDP.
With support from the government of Japan, UNDP is organizing 90 tsunami evacuation drills in 18 countries across Asia and the Pacific. The regional project “Strengthening School Preparedness for Tsunami” is active in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor Leste, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Vietnam.