Preparing younger generations for future disasters in Sri Lanka

Published: 28 September 2015 4:07 CET

By Mahieash Johnney in Colombo @mahieash  

Wednesday morning began differently for ten-year-old Ragulesh. Instead of the usual classroom lessons, his teacher announced that the school would be organizing a tsunami mock drill. “I don’t know what a tsunami is. All I know is that it’s a bad thing and that my parents suffered from it,” the little boy said excitedly.  

In coordination with the District Disaster Management Centre of Mullaitivu and several other organizations, the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society Mullaitivu Branch, organized a Schools Disaster Simulation Programme at the GTM School of East Mulliwaikkal to educate students and parents about natural disasters including tsunamis.  

Mulliwaikkal is one of the areas which suffered from nearly three decades of conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation of Tamil Tiger Eelam guerrillas. The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami caused further damage to the land. Humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross did not have access to the area until the civil war ended in May 2009. Now, 6 years after the war and 11 years after the tsunami, many of the displaced families have returned to their homes and life is returning to normal.

Under its Post Conflict Recovery Programme, the Sri Lanka Red Cross is building houses for the returnees. Mock drills such as the one organized in the school is another part of the national society’s disaster risk reduction efforts to ensure that communities and the younger generation are prepared for future disasters. Most of the students were either toddlers or were not born when the 2004 tsunami struck. During the exercise, students and parents were taught some practical steps to take if a disaster occurs.

“When the announcement of a tsunami is made, I have to assist my friends in school to evacuate in an orderly manner to the identified assembly point,” Ragulesh said. “I am very happy to be part of this simulation as it not only enhances my knowledge on safety; it also gives me an opportunity to do something for my community and family if a disaster does happen.”

“The simulation exercise was conducted to school community members and relevant stakeholders,” said S. Satheeswaran, the Executive Officer at the Red Cross Mullaitivu Branch. “It provides more knowledge and experience on disaster management, and is a way to identify the gaps in the school safety systems as well as gauge the community’s preparedness level.” 

The programme was partly funded by contributions from World Vision Sri Lanka. For more information of Disaster Risk Reduction and other activities of Sri Lanka Red Cross please log on to