Disaster Preparedness is Everyone’s Responsibility

Maria Modesta and Carolina Tukan would never forget the date Dec. 12, 1992. It was Saturday and an earthquake with the magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale hit Flores Island in East Nusa Tenggara province and caused a 36-meter tsunami.

A two-story building near their houses in Maumere, Sikka district, collapsed and leveled with the ground. In Babi Island, about 5 kilometer from Maumere, 600 people died. The total death toll from the quake itself reached 3,000 people, while 5,000 others were evacuated and 18,000 people lost their homes. The disaster left massive material losses.

“It was 3 in the afternoon. The children were already home from school, but still we were all panic when the earthquake hit,” said Maria, who lived close to Sekolah Dasar Kristen No. 2 Christian Elementary School in Maumere. “From the sea, we heard people screaming, ‘the water is rising, the water is rising”, Carolina, Marias’ neighbor, added. “Everyone was panicking. The situation was out of control,” she said.

It has been 20 years since the disaster, but people are still talking about it. The difference is, they no longer in panic. “We did not know anything, back then,” said Maria. “But now, we have the knowledge that make us prepared for disaster.”

Preparing for Disaster Together

Maria and Carolina were among the community surrounding SDK 2 who took part in disaster preparedness program organized by Wahana Tani Mandiri (WTM) and Oxfam. The two organizations were supported by the Australia-Indonesia Facility for Disaster Reduction (AIFDR), an Australian partnership organization aimed to strengthen the capacity of Indonesian people in disaster risk reduction.

They were part of Forum Pengurangan Risiko Bencana Berbasis Sekolah (School-based Disaster Risk Reduction Forum, PRB-BS), an initiative on disaster preparedness involving 9 general and Islamic schools in Maumere. The forum aimed at educating all school’s elements, including students, teachers and communities on the importance of disaster preparedness.

“We all agree to use the bell at school as the disaster alarm. If a disaster occurs, a trained teacher in charge will ring it,” said Yasinta Waldetrudis, a teacher at SDK 2 Maumere. “We also have made an evacuation path and mapped out what are the safe spots for evacuation in the school.”

Idris Boli, teacher at Madawad State Elementary School, also head of the forum, shared information on the forum’s activities. “We have organized four meetings and two simulations involving local communities.” Polycarpus Polii from Nangameting State Elementary School, who serves as the secretary of the forum added, “the exercise include evacuation, first-aid, building tent and preparing for soup kitchen.” They hope that one day, all schools in Maumere could join the forum.

A Big Plan from the Humble Village

The forum is planning a big event at the end of the year. They will commemorate the 20thanniversary of the earthquake by organizing a disaster simulation. “We want people to understand how to prepare themselves during a disaster,” said Idris. At the event, the female members of the forum will demonstrate their ability to make an emergency tent in just 15 minutes.

In addition to the simulation, the forum also conducted other disaster risk reduction related activities, including mangrove tree planting. Wuring, a hamlet situated at the coast of Flores, was an area which suffered the most from the 1992 tsunami. In collaboration with Wuring Private Islamic Elementary School (MIS), the forum planted mangrove seedlings along the coastal lines. The mangrove trees can reduce abrasion and protect the area from tsunami waves. “We plant the seedlings together with the children and communities,” said M. Syahrul, headmaster at MIS Wuring.

The wind of change blows stronger in Maumere. The forum received supports from various parties. The local government and Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana Daerah (National Board of Disaster Management, BPBD) regularly involved in various activities by the forum. “We plan to ask support from the educational office. We want to fix windows and doors in schools to become more quake-friendly,” kata Yasinta Waldetrudis.

Idris continued, “The windows will be made open to the side, so they will not fall on the children. We also want to change the door hinges to make them easier to open. The point is, we want schools to be a safer place for disaster.”

Women in Maumere now have a bigger role in disaster preparedness. “I am happy to join the simulation,” said Maria. “we had very little information on disaster. We are too busy fetching water for bathing and cooking. Now, people can count on us on making emergency tent or event during evacuation.”

— Irfan Toni Herlambang

Research and training is being supported by the Australia-Indonesia Facility for Disaster Reduction (AIFDR). AIFDR supports Indonesia in disaster risk reduction as Indonesia is one of the most disaster prone countries in the world

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