Disaster risk reduction in Pakistan
Measures taken to prepare for disasters show results
In the earthquake-prone region of northern Pakistan, a 5.6-magnitude earthquake on 12 March set off an internal pre-alarm in an earthquake warning system. The system, a secty Life Patron, had been installed by Malteser International shortly before the event. Even though the earthquake did not cause any damages in Malteser International’s project region, the pre-alarm showed that the measures taken to prepare for disasters have been successful and are ready for use in case of stronger quakes.
The installations in Swat District, which was put to the test, and in Kohistan District, also located in northern Pakistan, are the newest earthquake warning systems which Malteser International installed in the country. Up to date, the organisation has installed seven of those systems in four Pakistani districts. Malteser International started to install earthquake warning systems in Pakistan as early as 2008, placing external sirens on public buildings and health care centres.
A new earthquake warning system will be installed in the city of Muzaffarabad. Because of the city’s size and population density, that system will be equipped with additional, radio-controlled sirens, so the warning can have the broadest reach possible. Each siren has a range of at least two kilometres. All sirens can also be used as megaphones to warn the population of other potential threats, such as floods or landslides.
An alarm, however, is of very little use if the population is not able to react to it adequately and effectively. To be successful and sustainable, disaster preparedness measures must directly involve the local population. Malteser International explains to residents how to behave properly in case of an earthquake, and trains volunteers to form disaster management and response committees. These committees identify risks, develop emergency and evacuation plans, and are trained in safety, fire-fighting, search and rescue and first-aid skills. This allows for an organised evacuation through pre-determined routes and increases the chances that those affected by the disaster can be rescued, ensuring that sick, weak or disabled residents are not left behind.
Working in close cooperation with the state authorities, Malteser International aims to embed its disaster preparedness measures into local administrative structures. This can be done by instructing technical staff on the system’s maintenance and surveillance, as well as coordinating the emergency plans and training and equipping state employees at various administrative levels.
By combining earthquake warning systems with education to raise the community’s awareness to disasters, the trainings of skilled volunteers and the close cooperation with authorities, Malteser International is making sure that communities are prepared to cope with disasters in the long run.
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