‘Use imagination in disaster risk mgmt’
TOKYO—Experience from disasters in both Japan and the Philippines in 2011 and 2013, respectively, has shown the importance of using one’s imagination in crafting a disaster management plan, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).
In vulnerable coastal communities under threat from tsunamis or storm surges, disaster managers need to do simulations or “scenario building,” distribute hazard maps, prepare an evacuation plan, conduct emergency drills, build bridges or dikes and, most of all, share their experiences with others.
These were some of the lessons Jica learned from its reconstruction work in the Philippines in the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in the eastern Visayas in 2013, as well as the earthquake and tsunami disaster in northeastern Japan in March 2011.
In an interview, Jin Wakabayashi, director of Jica’s Southeast Asia and Pacific department, spoke of the need and urgency of formulating a disaster risk management plan for communities facing threats.
One of the key measures, he said, is to distribute hazard maps to local government units and to formulate an evacuation plan based on these.
“During the course of our assistance, we supported introducing or upgrading hazard maps in LGUs but we foresee there needs to be continuous revision…for such kind of hazard maps to be utilized effectively,” Wakabayashi said.
Hazard maps should have detailed information on the geographic features of the land or other “various anticipated effects” depending on the level or magnitude of an approaching disaster, he said.
“On a side note: I live in a suburb of Tokyo. My city distributes hazard maps, very detailed ones, to each household, so that’s an image we have,” Wakabayashi said.
Another lesson is the importance of conducting simulation drills even before a huge disaster strikes, he added.
Wakabayashi said simulations or scenario-building in the form of emergency drills in the barangays or communities would be helpful in identifying disaster risks.
“We also learned the importance of balancing out the quality and consistency of such management plans in LGUs,” he said, noting the disparity in capacity of each municipality.
Reflecting on the Philippine government’s efforts in Yolanda-affected areas, Wakabayashi said Jica found the response to be generally “quick and effective.”
“We observed that not only as an initiative of the central government, but also with the participation of LGUs and private citizens, all these stakeholders have worked hard on recovery and reconstruction efforts,” he said.
Wakabayashi also cited the importance of structural measures, such as building dikes and bridges.
Jica is involved in the 27.3-kilometer and four-meter tide embankment project along the coastline of Leyte from Palo to Tanauan. Jica helped conceptualize the government-led project.
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