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Building disaster resilient communities in Indonesia

News and Press Release
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The Indonesian province of East Kalimantan has a history of disasters, including severe storms, floods, landslides and fires. The role of BPBD East Kalimantan, the Regional Disaster Management Agency, is to lead the planning, preparation, response and recovery from significant disaster events across the province.

Since 2015, Australian volunteers have been working with BPBD East Kalimantan to strengthen their community-based disaster risk reduction program. Alice Godycki, an emergency management practitioner from Geelong, Victoria, is currently on assignment through the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program. She has been working with BPBD East Kalimantan as a Community Based Disaster Management Officer for the past year.

Alice has been able to draw on her significant professional experience with the Victorian State Emergency Service (VICSES) and the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning, and utilise her skills in a humanitarian context, supporting communities in Indonesia to prepare for and reduce the impact of local disasters.

“As emergency management practitioners, our role here is focussed on identifying how to add value and formality to the systems and processes of the province’s existing emergency management arrangements.”

Through collaborating with counterparts, Alice and her colleagues identified two key areas to improve the capability and capacity of the agency: through inter-agency coordination procedures and practices; and through effective community-based program planning.

With funding from an AVID Disability Initiative Grant, Alice supported the region in both areas by working at a district-level with BPBD Kota Samarinda to deliver a Disaster Safe School Program. The program began in March 2017 and aims to build the resilience of a high-flood risk disability school. Central to all the activities is ensuring the inclusion and empowerment of people with disabilities to contribute to community preparedness.

The grant has supported the development of a school “disaster-ready team” made up of 30 students who have been trained to assist the school in evacuating to designated evacuation assembly points for fire and flood events. With Alice’s support, BPBD Kota Samarinda has delivered disaster risk reduction classes for the whole school to build students’ awareness and resilience to risk. A workshop for households was also held to equip both students and parents with better awareness on how they can work together to increase preparedness, and to encourage participation from the wider community.

In July 2017, the Disaster Safe School Program culminated in a final evacuation simulation, with a number of government and non-government departments and local media invited to attend. The aim of the exercise was to draw attention to the resilience and level of readiness of the school, the hard work they have done to mitigate disaster impact, and to highlight some of the issues the school is exposed to, as well as its risk to floods, landslides and fires.

Alice recognises that each community is different, but involving all members of a community in disaster awareness and preparedness efforts is vital to building resilient communities.

“Working alongside our BPBD counterparts, both at a provincial and regional level, has been an opportunity to share ideas and shape each program to suit the characteristics of each unique village, and develop a stronger sense of empowerment through shared responsibility to reduce disaster impacts in East Kalimantan.”

World Humanitarian Day on 19 August advocates for the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers, and for the survival, well-being and dignity of people affected by crises.