Tenth grader Sania Islam has felt the ground trembling in Bangladesh. Aware that the next earthquake could be much bigger, she is taking action to keep herself and her classmates safe. Thanks to the American Red Cross, Sania’s school—and 49 others in the South Asian country—are now equipped with skills and knowledge to protect themselves during natural disasters.
When earthquakes, floods and other local hazards strike, young people are the most vulnerable to injury and death, especially because of structural instability of buildings. The American Red Cross and the Bangladesh Red Crescent work together to improve school safety for more than 20,000 students through actions like securing bookcases to walls so they don’t fall over, identifying emergency exits, and teaching first aid.
Determined to protect her classmates, Sania learned first aid from the Red Cross. After taking part in a mock drill at her school, she sat down to explain how emergency simulations prepare her and her friends.
“We learn how to save ourselves if an earthquake strikes. When the bell rings we drop, cover and hold, each and every time, because it could be a real warning. At the second bell we gather at the sports field. After a headcount, the search-and-rescue team goes in to find missing students. We even have communication, media and counselling teams, all of which will play important roles after a disaster. And of course there’s a first-aid team, which I’m a part of. At today’s drill we had two ‘injured’ students – one needed stiches on his head, and the other had minor cuts on his arms,” Sania muffles a laugh at this point and adds, “I gave them first aid.”
Students teach their families about disaster preparedness when they return home; ensuring that their parents and siblings are safe, as well.
“One time at night my bed mildly shook. I thought my younger sister was playing pranks on me, but found her right next to me. We took cover under the bed immediately. Those who think that we’re wasting study time with mock drills should understand that these are lessons too, to save lives,” says Sania as her intelligent eyes gleam behind her half-rimmed glasses.
When people prepare for emergencies before they strike, lives are saved. It’s as simple as that. Sania agrees. “Even though we have not experienced any earthquake that caused us damages, we know that the threats are real.”