Thailand: Phang Nga schools hold evacuation drills for tsunami preparedness

United Nations Development Programme - Asia-Pacific Regional Centre

Five schools in Phang Nga province in Thailand mobilized 1,717 students and teachers and tested schools’ readiness to respond to natural disasters. The drills included tsunami preparedness activities for students with disabilities, and involved parents and other community members.

Located on the shore of Andaman Sea, Phang Nga is known for its scenic mountains and beautiful beaches. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami severely damaged this coastal province and claimed lives of more than 4,000 people.

“This is why our province understands the importance of tsunami preparedness. We are honored that five schools in our province are piloting and implementing tsunami drills,” said Chansak Thawil, Deputy Provincial Governor of Phang Nga.

The emergency drills were conducted in five schools that were rebuilt after the 2004 damage to be higher and stronger to survive a tsunami, cyclone or floods; and provide shelter. Technical experts of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) evaluated the buildings and confirmed their suitability as safe areas during emergencies.  

Only very few teachers from each school had experienced the tsunami. A pre-drill training, organized by UNDP Thailand, DDPM and Thai Red Cross, prepared teachers to conduct drills and lead students’ emergency evacuation. Students learned about tsunami warning signs, hazard zones, safe evacuation, basic first-aid and CPR skills.
Tsunami drill, UNDP Thailand.
Pharatchatharn Thublamu school upgraded its evacuation route and made it accessible for their only student in a wheelchair. Photo: Photo: Goragod Chamgamon/UNDP
Nobody is left behind

Schools in Phang Nga ensured that emergency plans included safe evacuation options for students with disabilities. Koh Mak Noi school trained its teachers to evacuate injured students during an emergency. Pharatchatharn Thublamu school upgraded its evacuation route to make it accessible for their only student in a wheelchair. Ban Bang Niang school implemented a ‘buddy system’ where a teacher or fellow student accompanied a physically disabled student to the safe enclosure.

“Doing emergency plans, the school has to take into account needs of every single student, including disabled students,” said the Director of Pharatchatharn Thublamu school.

Schools are often the only avenue for children and their parents to learn about preparing for emergencies. A tsunami drill in Ban Nag Niang school included 15 parents-volunteers who observed and learned about the process of tsunami evacuation exercise at school. Ban Bang Muang school, that was rebuilt after the 2004 tsunami, is also serving as an emergency shelter for the local community.

“It has been 13 years since the tsunami hit Thailand. Many teachers and students have no recollection of the event. We have to learn from the past, and continue to build awareness and preparedness of both local communities and schools. Once all drills have been completed, we will document the lessons learned and develop guidelines for other schools to follow,” said Deirdre Boyd, UNDP Resident Representative in Thailand.
Tsunami drill, UNDP Thailand.
Participants of the drills received a certificate “Congratulations! You can conquer a tsunami”. Photo: Goragod Chamgamon/UNDP
International cooperation for tsunami preparedness

Tsunami disasters such as the 2004 tsunami and the great Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011, said Boyd, highlight the need for better awareness and preparedness through the Asia-Pacific region. In recent years, Japan has been leading the way on efforts to mainstream disaster risk reduction at the global level.

“The most important aspect of disaster risk reduction is to foster an understanding of the dangers of tsunamis and the proper responses to them among as many people as possible, particularly children, and encourage them to work together to reduce tsunami risks,” said Hitoshi Kozaki, Head of International Organization Department, Embassy of Japan in Thailand.

In Japan, even young elementary school students actively participate in emergency drills, learn about the threat of tsunamis and measures to take when they strike. “To share such measures with children and students around the world, who shape the future, Japan is working together with the UNDP,” said Kozaki.

Supported by the Government of Japan, UNDP is working in 18 Asia-Pacific countries to strengthen schools’ emergency preparedness.  The partnership assists schools to assess their tsunami risk, design emergency procedures and evacuation plans, and carry out tsunami awareness education and safety drills in 90 schools across the region.

The project “Strengthening School Preparedness for Tsunamis in the Asia-Pacific Region” 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.

The 18 countries are Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor Leste, Tonga, Vanuatu and Viet Nam.

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