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American Red Cross and Indonesian Red Cross Partner to Prepare Communities for Disasters

The actions and activities after the April 11 earthquake off the coast of Indonesia showed the benefits of a community preparedness program of the American Red Cross and Palang Merah Indonesia (PMI, the Indonesian Red Cross.)

At 3:38 PM of April 11 (local time) an earthquake measuring 8.6 on the Richter scale struck 250 miles off the coast of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, triggering tsunami alerts throughout the region. While a small tsunami was generated, with the largest wave measuring 3.5 feet, there were no resulting damages or casualties, and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center canceled its tsunami warning for the region.

PMI has been responding locally to assess needs and monitor water levels and has also helped evacuate people and provide first aid support to those injured due to accidents during the evacuation process.

There may not have been damage Wednesday, but that wasn’t the case in 2004. That’s when the massive Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami claimed more than 240,000 lives and left thousands of others missing. The incredible outpouring of global generosity that followed the disaster led to vast infrastructure improvements and a full scale effort to prepare communities for future disasters.

PMI, partnering with the American Red Cross, has been a leader in those improvements, particularly around disaster preparedness. Since July 2006, and initially as part of the Tsunami Recovery Program, the Integrated Community Based Risk Reduction Program (ICBRR) in Aceh, Indonesia, has helped communities with these efforts. ICBRR currently works with local governments and schools to educate local residents about risk reduction activities. The program uses risk mapping, school and community disaster plans and emergency drills to better prepare for disasters. The program also has built a base of volunteers, called Community Based Action Team (CBAT) to help with the program.

The earthquake and tsunami alert shows the importance of this project. Munzir Ibnu, who helps runs the program, witnessed firsthand how the community members sprung into action, escaped buildings, and followed the evacuation routes and signs to safer ground. The CBAT members helped in the evacuation process and used handheld radios to stay aprised of the situation and provide helpful information to authorities..

The program runs through June 2014.

Acehnese school children participate in disaster preparedness activities in Aceh jaya. Image of Aceh province, Indonesia in 2005, after the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, and again in 2010, 5 years after the massive recovery effort. Yos Malole, American Red Cross ICBRR Project Manager in Banda Aceh, Indonesia facilitates a disaster preparedness training for PMI branch disaster Response (SATGANA) team in Aceh