Raising disaster risk reduction awareness at an early age

Published: 4 December 2013 15:50 CET

By Raefah Makki, IFRC

Fire extinguishers, exit signs, first aid kits and awareness material were positioned in strategic places across the building. Students, teachers and school staff are ready to perform the drill. In Tyr, a city in the South Governorate of Lebanon at the Intermediate School for Girls, the Lebanese Red Cross performed an evacuation drill as part of its nationwide campaign in Lebanon to raise awareness on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).

In light of the importance of sharing knowledge and experiences amongst National Societies in Middle East North Africa, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society attended the exercise with the teaching body, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Lebanese Red Cross. The participation of Iraqi Red Crescent Society comes as part of a project on DRR in schools in Iraq.

The exercise was preceded by a general presentation from the school’s Director, then the head of the evacuation drill presented the concept and the different phases of the plan, in addition to assigning roles and responsibilities.

Following the presentations, the emergency alarm was sounded. Students rushed to apply the duck, cover and hold manoeuvre. When the alarm stopped, children stood in line covering their heads, and the evacuation started class by class and floor by floor.

A designated teacher would check all the classrooms of every floor once evacuated to ensure no one was left behind. Once out of the building, pupils and teachers headed to the pre-established evacuation zone where the teachers check everyone was present.

During this exercise, 635 students, teachers and school staff were evacuated and accounted for in six minutes. The school administration ensured their commitment to perform the drills on a regular basis and to include the new arrivals each year.

The Lebanese Red Cross was working jointly with Movement partners, UNDP, UNRCO, the Ministry of Education, the Lebanese Armed Forces, the Civil Defence, and the Union of municipalities of Tyre in order to raise DRR awareness and implement evacuation plans in 12 public schools lying on the Srifa earthquake fault line in South Lebanon. Red Crescent support included trainings, workshops on first aid, procurement the safety items and fire extinguishers, and provision of first aid kits.

Public education to increase awareness on household hazards have been proven essential to help raising communities’ safety and resilience. The IFRC provided the necessary support to Lebanese Red Cross, and the society has partnered with the German Red Cross to develop a 4-year DRR strategy under which all future DRR projects will fit.