Just like the Olympic hopefuls who have converged on London this summer, the volunteers and employees of the Bangladesh Red Crescent know there is really only one way to prepare for a big event—practice, practice, practice. Except in this case, the event in question is a matter of life and death: a natural disaster.
The Bangladesh Red Crescent and Government of Bangladesh jointly run the Cyclone Preparedness Program (CPP), an early warning system started in 1972 that relays cyclone warnings to local communities. This extensive telecommunications network relies on radio operators at regional and sub-district levels to pass warnings down to volunteers who then go door to door alerting their neighbors. The program is supported by the American Red Cross.
It’s critical that those executing the program, from radio operators to volunteers, are prepared and trained with the latest technology. But the Bangladesh Red Crescent knows that success comes only when the entire community is prepared, and has found that mock exercises better prepare people.
During these simulation exercises, community members practice what to do during an emergency. They learn about ways to recognize cyclones and how to prepare themselves both at a community and family level. CPP volunteers show community members what do during an evacuation and where the nearest community shelter is located. Community members even practice caring for injured family members, learning basic first-aid training and how to stay safe during a storm. By being a part of a simulation drill, participants can find themselves more prepared and calm when an emergency occurs.
Approximately 12,000 community members participated in the mock exercises last year, and more are planned for the future. As one of the most vulnerable countries in the world when it comes to cyclones, the nearly 48,000-volunteer strong Cyclone Preparedness Program has proved itself to be a successful lifesaving effort, in large part because of its grassroots approach.
Because when it comes to disaster preparation, while practice may not always make perfect, it can make things much better.
For more information on the American Red Cross efforts to strengthen cyclone preparedness in Bangladesh, visit redcross.org/international.