For coastal communities along the Indian Ocean, this year’s International Disaster Reduction Day was marked by the blaring of sirens, bandaged volunteers receiving mock first aid, and nervous chatter along new evacuation routes.
Red Cross worker in Tanzania, Mijaji Salum, stands in front of a billboard that advises residents how to escape a tsunami. The Red Cross risk-reduction effort also includes risk mapping, evacuation procedures and supplementary first aid training.
Photo Credit: IFRC
Survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami tested their hard-won early warning systems and their disaster preparedness first aid skills while increasing their awareness of how to respond to emergencies through drills across the region.
“Before 2004, we knew nothing about tsunamis, but thanks to all the drills and training we know what to do now and how to pass the information if something is coming” said 45-year-old Sanmuaja Palmweu of Sri Lanka, as published on October 14, 2019 in a Reuters AlertNet article.
Half way around the world, at the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, DC, representatives from aid organizations from the government and the humanitarian sector including the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and The World Bank, gathered for a forum on investing in disaster risk reduction.
Despite nearly 9,000 miles, Palmweu’s words echo the success that advocates of disaster risk reduction took a moment to celebrate today before focusing on goals for the future in this rapidly developing and crucial field.
As the number of people impacted by disasters each year has rapidly grown to 250 million – more than 700,000 per day – disaster risk reduction has become a new priority for aid and development organizations alike. It represents a net of strategies for minimizing disaster risks in individual communities through mitigation and preparedness, as well as working to prevent disasters all together through science and technology.
“Disaster risk reduction should be a priority. The American Red Cross allocates 20 percent of its unrestricted international budget to disaster risk reduction,” pointed out panelist Nan Buzard, senior director of international response and programs with the American Red Cross.
This high percentage highlights the scope, power, and effectiveness of disaster risk reduction in American Red Cross international work.
Disaster risk reduction-inspired drills, warning systems and infrastructure coordinate to protect communities that need them. As natural disasters ranging from earthquakes and tsunamis to typhoons ravaged Asia and the Pacific over the past few weeks, the integrated and sustainable approach provided for in the framework of disaster risk reduction has been put into action.
“The system worked very well for other island nations” said David Applegate, senior science adviser for earthquake and geologic hazards with the U.S. Geological Survey, citing the performance of new early warning systems during the recent tsunami in the Pacific Islands.
However, for communities close to the epicenter of the tsunami-causing earthquake, the quake itself is the warning system. That is when disaster preparedness and mitigation strategies offered by humanitarian actors, like the drills in tsunami-impacted countries, have the greatest impact.
You can help the victims of countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. Donations to the International Response Fund can be sent to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013 or made by phone at 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or online at www.redcross.org.