NSTP DRRM Seminar: Addressing the Nation's Disaster Issues by Involving Communities and Youth

In the efforts of UST’s National Service Training Program to raise the youth’s awareness about national issues involving disasters and to empower them to be part of the solution, a Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) seminar was held, which I attended last October 25, 2015. Very timely and relevant for us to learn from, the seminar has been an orientation not only to the natural disasters our nation faces and how we should respond to them, but also to the issues they raise and what we should learn from them. 

Understanding DRRM and its related concepts

A big part of this seminar focused on the concepts surrounding disaster risk reduction and management (such as disaster, hazards, and risk) and how each differs from the others. 

Here I understood that disasters are not necessarily all about the events; they may be a result of human activities as well. While hazard brings the potential to cause disruption or damage (whether natural, human-induced, or environmental), risk is the consequence that may arise once hazard interacts with vulnerable areas. I have also found out that as communities face hazards, we must consider the vulnerabilities that hinder the ability of a community, as well as the capacities that can enhance their ability to face and cope with disasters. It is important for us to determine these vulnerabilities and appreciate our capacities when dealing with uncontrollable hazards. In spite of these, disaster risk reduction and management comes to decrease the community’s vulnerabilities and increase its capacities, towards mitigating and managing risks so that disasters in the community may lessen—if not entirely eradicated.

If the community, then, would move towards risk reduction and management as well as disaster resilience, working together is essential. However, as I have learned from the lecture, the norm was a top-down approach--in summary, higher authorities respond first and even only after the onslaught of calamities. 

At the present, thankfully, a paradigm shift led to the current approach to disasters, and it enjoins the members of the community into participation with authorities. 

And, I see, this is why we in that seminar, as citizens of this state and as members of our own communities, were taught these things that afternoon.

Employing the knowledge

While everyone of us there were much informed by the lecture, we put and furthered our learning into the exercises given to us by our facilitator. Each group in our section did our Participatory Capacities and Vulnerabilities Assessment. Each of us in our group contributed our own places to the assessment, and we also determined the problems we think each of our barangays were dealing with, the vulnerabilities that likely seen in the residents, the capacities that possibly lie within each of them, and the actions they as a community can do in order to address vulnerabilities and build up capacities.

Aside from the assessment, we were also trained about first aid and basic life support. I believe I need to recall such knowledge to my mind, even if I was oriented to these things when I was in high school. I cannot learn them at an instant; I might have to learn them over and over again, even now.

The blogger volunteered to be the patient whom his groupmates would try the first aid procedured on

A certain carry technique being performed by the rest of the group

Reflecting on these lectures and exercises, I have seen how beneficial it is when members of the community collectively harness their knowledge and skills to prepare for any disaster in the future that can make them prone to tragic consequences if they do otherwise.

Personally, I was reminded that day that there are disasters around us, even way beyond natural; and it’s beneficial therefore to determine how vulnerable we are to these "disasters" and believe in what we can do to overcome them and avoid them.

Actual application and action

How is disaster risk reduction management actually applied by a community? I got a glance of it at a barangay near my home—Barangay Balibago in Santa Rosa, Laguna.

I was able to meet and talk to Brgy. Kagawad Michelle T. Catindig, committee chairman for health and sanitation. Regardless of her expertise, she exerted effort to impart to me the barangay’s efforts in conducting disaster risk reduction and management. In particular, she presented to me the plans, as well as a report of how DRRM has been performed.

The barangay hall has a copy of this guide about disaster management provided by the city government

Barangay Balibago has a Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction Council (BDRRC) which sets and carries out a Disaster Preparedness and Management Plan for the barangay, and also is in charge of the activities relevant to disaster preparedness, rehabilitation, relief, etc. The barangay’s plan centers, as Kgg. Catindig explained, on its objectives as its framework. As far as I can recall, she emphasized the objectives as the reasons why a Preparedness and Management Plan exists for the barangay, which are: “to save lives, to prevent needless suffering, to protect and to minimize damages during disasters and calamities”. 

 Clippings of the Brgy. Balibago's Calamities and Disaster Preparedness Plan

With the plan working toward reaching these objectives, it lays out the BDRRMC, its organization into several officers and teams, and its tasks for its Chairman and Service Team Leaders. Furthermore, the plan essentially details coordinating instructions for the council and—more importantly—implementing guidelines before, during, and after the impact of a disaster.

As far as actual action is concerned, in its State of the Barangay in the 2nd semester of 2014, Brgy. Balibago’s Sangguniang Barangay affirms its commitment to be fully-prepared for the onslaught of calamities in order to meet the needs of affected constituents and prevent large-scale effect in the communities. The barangay has secured rescue and disaster equipment and also conducted a seminar in disaster preparedness & rescue operation for the barangay's tanods. 

Also, July 17, 2015, with Typhoon Glenda bringing much damage to the barangay, from collapsed posts to torn roofs, the Sangguniang Barangay, together with other officials, urgently responded by conducting a clearing operation.

In a personal scale: Addressing vulnerabilities, increasing capabilities

As previously seen, not only government units are being oriented to take action, but now communities as well are involved  towards reducing and managing disaster-borne risks and the issues they carry with.

And in a personal scale, what I think I could do to address vulnerabilities and increase capabilities of my community begins with having more care and awareness about the community, its vulnerabilities (and even my own), perhaps why they are there, and how they remain there. Then, I would like to follow it up with prayer.

I might as well talk to people among the community whom I know (especially in our church) and discuss such issues. If they become fruitful, we might as well join our hands in laying out our concerns to the authorities. 

Moreover, if ever I have the specific knowledge that is applicable to dealing with the vulnerabilities, I should impart that knowledge. I might as well avoid being an additional vulnerability. 

To increase the capacities, I should consider bringing the knowledge and skills of the community to a higher level. This again has to do with imparting knowledge, which can be done (most likely in partnership with groups/the LGUs) through teaching the members about what we should brace ourselves for and how we should do so.

In a larger scale: Dealing with pressing disaster issues

Along with the regular natural occurrences our country experiences, the Philippines is physically surrounded by features that are potential to induce risk. In fact, we have already encountered these phenomena throughout history, and we have witnessed properties destroyed and lives lost out of them. This is a clear reason for us to address the issue of disasters. After the catastrophes we have gone through (such as Typhoon Yolanda and the Bohol earthquake), our country, as a nation that is mandated to protect and foster the welfare of its people and communities, cannot—and shouldn’t—afford another large aftermath of casualties.

The best time to address such issues is now, although in reality there are much issues facing us. Yet, may our officials—from national to local government (especially the next ones)—never neglect to allot time in dealing with these issues. 

Any time is the best time to address these issues, but we hope now they are addressing it. 

While the executive government should initiate in addressing these issues, agencies such as, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysiscal, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) are the ones who will help a lot in providing essential information. More importantly, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council takes action in addressing DRRM issues, initiating preparations and keeping the situation under control. 

Of equal importance, leaders of local government units (LGUs) and heads of communities, including those trained, immersed, and highly-educated in disaster risk reduction management, are the people who would matter a lot in marshaling their constituents so that concerned individuals themselves might be a part as well of the solution.

And this at least has been done through the efforts of UST’s NSTP in enlightening us with the pressing issues about DRRM, and imparting us with knowledge as to how to prepare and deal with disasters and its effects. 

We have the power as members of our communities to do our share in this matter, and I hope I do mine in any way I could.
Photo credits: Brgy. Balibago's Ulat sa Barangay, 2nd Semester 2014, October 4, 2014 (Powerpoint presentation)

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