Nov 02, Colombo: To reduce the loss of lives associated with tsunamis, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has conducted tsunami drills in 5 schools in Sri Lanka recently.
These drills are part of 90 drills conducted in 90 schools across 18 countries including: 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.
In Sri Lanka, this regional project funded by the Government of Japan to strengthen the disaster preparedness of students, was conducted together with the Ministry of Disaster Management, Ministry of Education, Red Cross, Sri Lanka Navy and School development societies, in Galle, Batticaloa, Jaffna and Ampara with the participation of 8250 students.
Speaking about this initiative, UNDP Sri Lanka Project Coordinator, Ms. Ereesha DeSilva said the drill is a "multidimensional exercise through which we intend to assess the readiness of the school administration, to be vigilant and prepared, to proactively engage in disaster risk reduction activities and ensure the safety of students in the event of a disaster during school hours."
The UNDP is now working to further support the Disaster Management Center to improve the comprehensive guideline to create disaster safe schools, she added.
Addressing the impact of the drills, V. Manesha, a student from Vidyaloka Maha Vidyalaya, Galle said "We were very young when the tsunami occurred in 2004, but we had heard of what a tsunami is and how dangerous it could be. Through this simulation today, we were able to learn how to respond during a tsunami and assist injured persons in the event of a disaster."
The school Preparedness program is a full operational drill to test and evaluate the operational and decision-making readiness of Principals, staff, students and school committees in the event of a tsunami affecting Sri Lanka.
The exercise allowed these schools to simulate the evacuation of students to properly identified safe locations as well as to simulate the School's Disaster Management Plan which was developed.
Speaking on the role of the Disaster Management Centre, Director-Preparedness, Mr. Sunil Jayaweera said having these drills and a disaster ready evacuation plan benefits not only the students and teachers, but also the local community including the parents, tri forces, public and private sector actors who would all work together in the event of a disaster.
A student at Hartley College Jaffna, S. Yogendran sharing her experience stated "The training we received was a valuable lesson for all us to be better prepared. Our school is located along the coastal line, so such simulations are extremely useful to us to learn how to evacuate safely during a natural disaster."
The regional project also contributes to the achievement of the Sendai Framework's targets to reduce lives lost, number of people affected, and economic damage from natural and human-induced hazards.