Students can play an active role in their own emergency response
Emergency education and drills held in five tsunami prone schools in Thailand focused on empowering students to take a more active role in tsunami preparedness and response.
“Children should be seen as actors in addressing the impacts of natural disasters and climate change on their lives and the life of their community,” said Deirdre Boyd, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Thailand.
The youth in Thailand have always participated in disaster response and relief efforts. After the 2004 tsunami, young people were seen along with adults saving lives of others, providing emotional support, helping find food and shelter, leading play and study groups and even being on guard duty.
_ “These contributions helped communities to survive and recover and ensured that relief and rehabilitation were more effective. In return, being involved in recovery efforts helped young people to cope with the aftermath of the tsunami,” _said Boyd.
In conducting the drills, UNDP Thailand focused on enhancing students’ participation to prepare and motivate them to take the lead in tsunami preparedness and response activities.
The five targeted schools were located in the tsunami-prone Phang Nga province, near a popular resort island Phuket, which was devastated in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
A total of 1,609 students including 784 girls and 825 boys, took part of several interactive and fun activities to learn about safety procedures, first aid, and children’s and communities’ role in hazard response. Three students with physical disabilities also participated actively, and the school emergency procedures included special considerations for their safe evacuation.
Photo competition. Before the conduct of the tsunami drills, a photo competition “Tsunami and I” was organised, inviting students to share their perspectives. Fifty photos were received from five schools, and four winners were announced during the opening ceremony of the drill. The photos demonstrated a great deal of sadness and fear of a tsunami. The winning photo displayed a Tsunami memorial wall in Phang Nga, dedicated to the victims of the 2004 tsunami, with fresh flowers. “We will never forget,” read the caption.
Interactive learning stations. Experts from the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, (DDPM) Thailand showed children cartoons and educational videos about tsunamis, how they form, and do’s and don’ts of responding to a tsunami warning. Children asked questions and participated in discussion groups after watching the videos. The Thai Red Cross taught the students basic first aid and CPR skills. Students can count on these abilities in any kind of emergencies. UNDP Thailand introduced the school’s evacuation plan, hazard zones around the school and safe areas, and explained older students’ role helping younger students or students with physical disabilities.
Certificate of completion: After the long day of learning and evacuation practice, every participant was awarded a certificate of completion. “Congratulations, you can conquer a tsunami,” it said.
Photo-booth fun: Students were let loose in the photo booth after the drill was over. Using props with tsunami awareness messages, students left the school with a colorful reminder of the drill and tsunami messages.
Thailand is one of 18 countries in Asia and the Pacific, where UNDP facilitates tsunami awareness education and emergency evacuation drill in schools. With the support from the Government of Japan, the project assists schools to design emergency plans, carry on tsunami awareness activities and conduct evacuation drills.
The “Strengthening School Preparedness for Tsunamis in Asia-Pacific” project contributes to the achievement of the Sendai Framework’s seven targets to reduce lives lost, numbers of people affected, and economic damage from natural and human-induced hazards. It supports the UNDP’s goal to help vulnerable regions to adapt to climate change by integrating disaster risk measures into national strategies.