You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Preparedness Programs Start in Schools but Protect all of Nepal

Thirty years ago, when a series of violent earthquakes struck the village of Kalikahalde in central Nepal, local resident Hit Bahadur Rai faced a dilemma: he could either leave his home to seek safety or stay put to protect his belongings from looters.

Now, thanks to a disaster preparedness program funded by American Red Cross, residents like Rai can feel prepared for disasters such as earthquakes, instead of having to choose between their personal safety and the security of their belongings.

“I feel safe at home because I have learnt a lot about disaster preparedness from my granddaughter,” said Rai, now 65 years old.

Since 2009, the American Red Cross has worked with the Nepal Red Cross and the National Society for Earthquake Technology to establish a disaster preparedness program in 220 schools in Nepal. In the highly earthquake-prone districts of Nuwakot and Bhaktapur, more than 16,000 people have benefited from disaster safety programs.

“I don’t feel fear of earthquakes while sleeping at night because I have kept heavy things on the floor, identified safe places at home, prepared how to go out safely in a safe place after earthquake, packed some readymade food and safe water and learnt how to communicate,” said Janardhan K.C. of Changu Narayan in the Bhaktapur district.

The program educates students, teachers and parents about disaster preparedness. Students and teachers then use what they learn to design and implement disaster preparedness and response plans, which detail each school’s vulnerabilities, such as identifying existing cracks in walls or close proximity to a riverbank, and ways that the risks can be reduced.

“We have now learnt how a school building should be constructed and we are applying building codes in the newly constructed block for disaster safety, leaving enough space for rescue and evacuation,” said Purendra Prasad Dhakal, headmaster of Ganesh Secondary School in Nuwakot, one of the participating schools in the program.

At Ganesh Secondary School, all teachers and students receive basic knowledge on disaster safety and preparedness. Others can also receive training in first aid, basic disaster management, and light search and rescue techniques.

Disaster drills and simulations supplement the classes and ensure that students, teachers and community members feel better prepared for future disasters.

“We had heard about safety measures from our seniors of our community, but the real knowledge has been received at our school not from the school curriculum but from the practices and drills, such as duck, cover, and hold, conducted repeatedly at school premises,” said Raju Prasad Upreti, a social studies teacher at Ganesh Secondary School.

In addition, students have initiated projects to improve disaster preparedness by following modern medical practices instead of traditional methods, which used to include putting herbal drops on cuts and injuries.

“We provided first aid services to 13 injured students at school premises in the last six months,” said student Pasupati Giri, president of the Junior Red Cross Circle.

Recently, the program has been expanded to include a third additional district in Nepal and will continue through January 2014. The participating schools and communities have integrated disaster safety into their annual plans, which according to Christy Ferguson, a program officer with the American Red Cross, is the best part of the partnership and a sign that communities are incorporating these lessons into their daily lives.

“There are no easy ways to save lives to all those who are in vulnerable situations across the country,” said Dev Ratna Dhakhwa, secretary general of the Nepal Red Cross. “But it is clear that the [Red Cross] has a role to play to reduce suffering and develop capacities so that schools and communities could get prepared in the future.”