A series of tsunami drills was kicked off today in Galle, Sri Lanka to raise awareness about the tsunami risks and importance of schools’ tsunami preparedness. The first tsunami drill mobilized 2,500 students of Vidyaloka Madya Maha Vidyalaya school and was conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ministry of Disaster Management, Ministry of Education, Sri Lanka Navy, Red Cross and school development societies.
The tsunami awareness education and emergency evacuation drills will be hold in five schools that were all damaged in the 2004 tsunami. In Sri Lanka, the Indian Ocean tsunami claimed 35,000 lives, 40% of whom where children. 183 schools were damaged and nearly 100,000 students were affected across Sri Lanka. It was Sri Lanka’s worst natural disaster in recorded history.
“The Ministry of Disaster Management is deeply committed towards tsunami awareness. We believe strongly that preparedness and awareness can save lives,” said Kingsley Fernando, the Secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management.
Tsunamis are rare but the deadliest of natural disasters. They are largely unpredictable and can attack within minutes. Preparing for tsunamis means being ready for many natural hazards. Schools’ preparedness is the key for saving lives, as students can use these skills and knowledge at home in times of natural disasters.
Sri Lanka is one of 18 countries to participate in a UNDP regional program to strengthen schools’ preparedness for tsunamis and other natural disasters. Supported be the Government of Japan, the program guides schools to perform their hazard assessment, design emergency plans, organize a full-scale emergency drill to test and evaluate the operational and decision-making readiness of school principals, teachers, students and school committees in the event of a tsunami. The exercise also allows to identify safe locations and test out the schools’ disaster management plans.
“The schools’ response and evacuation plans are a critical aspect of disaster preparedness. We must learn from the past and continue building awareness and preparedness of both local communities and schools. I am grateful that with the support from the Government of Japan, school children in Sri Lanka will join others across the Asia Pacific region in learning how to remain safe during natural disasters,” stated Jorn Sorensen, Resident Representative and Country Director, UNDP Sri Lanka.
Japan has been a global leader of disaster education and preparedness, and schools play a major role in these efforts. Schools not only focus on the causes and consequences of natural disasters but also teach about how to prepare and respond to the impacts of disasters.
The regional project contributes to the achievement of the Sendai Framework’s targets to reduce lives lost, numbers of people affected, and economic damage from natural and human-induced hazards. It also aims to achieve UNDP’s goal to help vulnerable regions to adapt to climate change by integrating disaster risk measures into national strategies.
The “Strengthening School Preparedness for Tsunamis in the Asia-Pacific Region” project supports tsunami education and drills in 90 schools across 18 countries: 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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