#YolandaPH: Next 24 hours critical for response
MANILA, Philippines – In every disaster, the next 24 hours is the most crucial for responders, affected residents and the government to set the stage for a massive relief effort. This is the time to assess damage, identify casualties, conduct rescue operations and map out a response program. (READ: Tacloban diary: I saw death, I feared anarchy)
According to seasoned disaster responder Dr. Ted Esguerra of the Center for Disaster and Emergency Management (CDEM), the government plays a most critical role in the aftermath of a calamity.
Esguerra said the most important thing the government should do is to send the police and the army to secure residents in hard-hit communities. In order to do this, it is important to establish air and sea support to transport responders and assess the damage.
He added the next step would be to find the nearest possible source of food and water and establish stable supply lines. “Potable water is the most important supply because people can survive for days if they have water,” he said in Filipino.
Esguerra also emphasized the importance of fixing communication lines during calamities. “It’s hard to determine and coordinate efforts without stable communication lines,” he told Rappler. (READ: Radio contact center set up in Tacloban)
Esguerra, who served for 28 years as a disaster responder for the Philippine Coast Guard, said first responders follow a standard set of procedures in every disaster situation.
The first step is for responder groups to secure staging areas which will serve as their headquarters. From here, responders will assess communication lines, the passability of roads and the stability of supply lines.
Visayas-based responder Emmanuel Batungbacal of the Mountain Hardware Philippines - Center for Outdoor Recreation and Expedition (MHW-CORE) Search and Rescue team said coordination is key for disaster responders.
“Responders must be prepared and self-sufficient with supplies for at least 3 days. In some cases, we get them vaccinated first so that they’re safe from water-borne diseases,” Batungbacal said.
He added that it is the responders’ task to find out the needs of the communities so they can report them to authorities and, in some cases, even help victims gather supplies.
For affected residents
Esguerra said affected residents must group together to collectively gather basic supplies and try to establish communication outside the community. If not too heavily affected, the community can also assess the damage in their area.
“The safest thing to do is to wait for help. They just need to wait for government forces and private responders trying to reach their community,” Esguerra said.
Batungbacal emphasized the best way to respond to disasters is to be prepared. He said families in disaster-prone communities should have 3-day supplies ready in case of an emergency.
“We should not be reactive to disasters. We should prepare for our own safety,” Batungbacal said.
Representatives of international aid agencies are in Tacloban City and other affected areas to conduct a rapid assessment of the needs of the victims of the Typhoon. More groups are expected to arrive in the affected areas in the coming days.
As Yolanda moves away from the Philippines, local and national government agencies face the gargantuan task of providing relief to millions of Filipinos. Various private groups and the international community have offered support the speedy rehabilitation of victims.– Rappler.com
Help the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (international codename: Haiyan). Visit Rappler's list of ongoing relief operations in your area. Tell us about your relief and recovery initiatives, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @moveph.
Visit rappler.com/typhoon-yolanda for the latest updates on Typhoon Yolanda.
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