Safe Schools: 36 Evacuation Drills in One Month
Originally Written: September 13, 2013
To mark the annual National Disaster Consciousness Month, CARE Nederland and its strategic partners in the Philippines carried out in July month-long activities in 36 schools located in high-risk villages across the country. In each school, the various activities were capped by earthquake evacuation drills. By the end of July, a total of 6,776 students and 364 teachers have increased their awareness about disasters and have acquired basic emergency preparedness skills such as school contingency planning and conducting evacuation drills.
The 36 schools are participating in two complementary DRR projects being implemented by CARE and partners in the Philippines – the Partners for Resilience (PfR) Project and the Scale Up, Build Up Project (SUBU). PfR is a five-year project being supported by The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. SUBU is an 18=month project by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department’s disaster preparedness programme (DIPECHO). The
Although the different schools have different risk profiles, a common general strategy was adopted for all schools. The teachers are trained on Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction that incorporates Climate Change Adaptation and Ecosystem Management and Restoration. This allowed them to prepare lesson plans that incorporate DRR in regular school subjects such as science and social science. These lesson plans were subsequently implemented by teachers to raise student awareness on how they can reduce their exposure to risks. School Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Committees (SDRRMCs) were also organized. These SDRRMCs carried our risk assessments and led in the formulation of school contingency plans. The school activities were capped by evacuation drills which served to create increased awareness among students and teachers about the school contingency plan, which includes the school evacuation plan, and to test the effectiveness of the plans.
While a few schools heads needed the intervention (through memoranda) of higher education authorities, most schools heads and teachers gladly welcomed the DRR activities.
“We have limited knowledge about out responsibilities as defined in the new laws about disaster risk reduction and climate change. A department memorandum also requires us to conduct quarterly evacuation drills. We try to comply with the requirements but we do not even know if we are doing them correctly. We are now confident that we are doing the classroom discussions and the evacuation drills correctly,” says Mr. Michael Pareja, a former teacher in Laminga National High School and now the principal of Waloe High School in Loreto, Agusan del Sur.
LAck of DRR capacity of teachers, location of schools in high-risk areas, and limited participation of school authorities at the subnational level were the key challenges encountered in the course of implementing the month-long activities. However, those on the ground, the teachers, are willing to learn towards resiliency. There is a marked increase in appreciation evident in all areas, summarized by Mrs. Rachel Balacdao, a teacher of Ucab Elementary School in Itogon, Benguet, we said,
“From now on, we will make the conduct of classroom discussion and earthquake drills regular, to ensure that children learn about them and are able to share the knowledge with their families.”