Emergency simulation exercise prepares Zambia Red Cross and its partners in emergency response

Published: 28 October 2016 14:21 CET

By Bruce Mulenga

Lwindi is one of more than 60 traditional ceremonies in Zambia, in which the Tonga people from the south of the country celebrate the arrival of the rainy season. Beer is brewed and animals are slaughtered for the people, and their ancestral spirits, to celebrate the coming of the rains.


However, the rains also bring floods to Southern Zambia, and the accompanying lightening strikes lead to fires. Most people have few skills to handle such sudden disasters, and as a result, they get displaced and lose property and assets. They are often left more vulnerable than before.


A simulation exercise to gauge people’s readiness to handle the sudden onset of disasters caused by the rains and lightening, and to develop a system that manages crises through a full cycle of events, from preparedness to response and recovery, with effective co-ordination, was held recently in Sesheke and Kazungula districts South of Zambia.


Saving lives and livelihoods in emergencies begins with preparedness, therefore assessing readiness by the Zambia Red Cross and its partners is important,” said Abraham Geevarghese, Zambia Red Cross Society Secretary General. “The Zambia Red Cross Society already has the capacity through its volunteers in the communities to handle emergencies but with the risk of multiple emergencies breaking out simultaneously in Provinces like Southern Province, we can do more together with partners to put a solid system in place.” 


The simulation exercise concentrated on a scene of burning houses and injured people in the village. All district partners involved in responding to disasters when they occur were asked to react and offer assistance in the quickest possible time.


This saw various partners responding to the scene at different times and with different capacities. “The simulation tested how well we communicated to each other, how fast we could move and our capacity to act on the scenario,” said Samuel Kayoko, Officer in Charge at Zambia Police in Kazungula district. “It brought different organizations together to plan, communicate and respond. Most of us were experiencing this kind of activity for the first time. We always saw the Zambia Red Cross from a far, but during the exercise, we got to learn in detail how they operate.”


The exercise provided an opportunity for many partners to practice disaster plans in a controlled environment, and to identify ways of improving preparedness and response systems before a disaster occurs. It was for this reason that the exercise was applauded as an important part of disaster preparedness and capacity-building.


“The exercise was a practical event that focused on real-life experiences that we go through at the local government level and in our communities,” said Francis Chileshe, Kazungula District Chief Fire Officer. “I liked the timeliness of the exercise given that we are about to enter into the rainy season when we experience floods and fire. I liked the emphasis on coordination, the importance of interaction with a range of partners and tackling disasters as a unit; this has been non-existent in our day-to-day work.”


After the simulation, partners held a half-day review. A plan designed to guidepreparedness and response at the district level was established. The package of measures, included risk assessment and a checklist of minimum preparedness actions, emergency readiness actions and standard operating procedures.


After the simulation and review exercises the Zambia Red Cross volunteers and partners felt more confident to tackle any emergencies during the coming rainy season. Government disaster preparedness and response staff from Ministry of Health, Department of Fire, the Zambia Police and the Zambia Red Cross volunteers known as Satellite Disaster Management Committee members participated in the simulation exercise.


The Simulation exercise was conducted from 3rd October to 5th October 2016 with support from the American Red Cross