Making use of the hazard maps
posted 29-Dec-2013  ·  
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All 11 municipalities, as well as the provincial government, have received sets of hazard maps under a disaster risk management project funded by the Australian Aid Program through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). Hopefully, the maps would guide them in helping save their constituents during calamities.

The 1:50,000-scale maps indicate areas of each town facing various hazards such as earthquake, storm surge, landslide due to earthquake, landslide due to heavy rains, tsunami, flooding and liquefaction during earthquakes. The municipal DRRM offices were also given “soft” or digitized copies.

Now, the maps are nice to look at, especially if they are wrapped in plastic, framed and nailed on the walls of the MDRRM offices. But they should serve the purpose of saving the population from certain danger as envisioned under the Ready Multi-Hazard Mapping and Assessment for Effective Community-based Disaster Risk Management (Ready Project).
In the recent past, the national government also distributed hazard maps of smaller scale to several municipalities, but apparently the maps gathered dust in drawers or in the walls of their offices. None, or very few, people in the villages saw or even had the chance to understand the import of the hazard maps.

Thus, as soon as 2014 comes in, each of the municipal disaster bodies should open the digital copies and begin zooming in on each barangay. By doing this, they can pinpoint specific areas of the village which would be highly susceptible to the hazards. Hazard maps for each barangay could then be made, after which the barangay DRRM council as well as residents could be gathered at the plaza where the particular hazardous areas could be explained. Knowing where a hazard could hit hardest and how to avoid the threat and where to evacuate could save hundreds of lives.

Local government units are already authorized under Republic Act 10121, or the DRRM Law, to use a portion of their calamity funds to spend for trainings and procurement of needed materials and equipment. This early, when there is not much of a chance that another Yolanda might head for the island, disaster management officials should focus on preparedness, particularly in making barangay folks fully aware of the potential hazards.

If there is anything LGUs should guard against, it is the tendency of the people, even those living in highly vulnerable areas, to forget that they could lose their own lives in the event of a disaster. It may be recalled that as soon as the storm surge that hit Catanduanes’ shores subsided, Governor Araceli Wong herself called on local authorities to prevent affected families from rebuilding in danger zones at coastal areas.
To the dismay of many, the provincial chief executive’s warning has been ignored. Just a week after Yolanda, families whose houses were washed away by the storm surge in Bato and Virac had already rebuilt their houses.

Using detailed hazard maps, reduced to focus on such villages, LGU officials should take advantage of the New Year to hammer into the people’s consciousness the need to be aware of such hazards. And local authorities should not just stop here, for compliance with the law and heeding the government warnings is the real test of disaster preparedness.
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