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lessons learned from super storm Yolanda (Haiyan) – what needs to be changed

November 14, 2013 Leave a comment

reading all the news and looking at all the pictures, these we think are next steps and the lessons learned from the super storm Yolanda (Haiyan) experience:

  1. there is a need to put up a separate Disaster Prevention & Rescue National Agency for whom a cabinet-level head should be appointed. this agency is at the same level as the Finance, DILG, Defense and others. this is necessary as it has now become apparent that national calamities like earthquakes, floods and storms will be a constant and regular occurrence in the country and they are not getting less frequent nor less severe. this year alone, it feels like the philippines has experienced at least one major natural disaster every three months and the need for rescue and rebuilding appear to be monthly and year round. setting up such a department will enable the country to have a well trained, well equipped and well staffed agency that will handle all the rescue needs of the country at a highly professional and effective level. this agency will operate independently of other agencies in government and reports directly to the president. it may as needed call on other agencies in the government for help and support when it operates in the field.
  2. this agency will have its own set of organization, personnel, equipment, tools and training specific to disaster prevention and most specially search, rescue and relief. the organization will be very similar to the military but with goals and mandates very different from the military. key here will be the training of its personnel and the hiring of people with specific skills and experiences that will cover the whole breathe and width of search, rescue and relied. it will have departments or divisions with specializations – like medical. rescue, engineering, communications, logistics, technology & IT, psychiatry, social work, security and others. it will have its own equipment like cargo planes, ships, boats,  trucks and others. it will have bases on which personnel and equipment will be housed, one each in Luzon, Metro Manila, Visayas and Mindanao.
  3. the organization and logistics capability of this agency should be very close to what a military organization has. think of it this way – it has reconnaissance, it brings everything with it from food, water to hardware, the whole logistical needs and people with skills and training needed when it  invades a country.
  4.  pre-positioning of relief goods, rescue & relief teams and equipment should be done two ways – one in the area where the disaster is expected to hit  and at an area nearest the disaster area but not in the path of the storm. the lesson of Yolanda was that the whole of Tacloban was demolished by the storm hence whatever relief goods and equipment that were pre-positioned there before the storm his has been demolished as well. having a second place where the pre-positioning was done will ensure that ground zero will get help almost immediately versus equipment and relief goods coming from Metro Manila.
  5. the national government should be prepared to put in place people coming from other areas who will take over the local government and its function on an immediate basis. a law will probably needs to be passed for this. the experience in Tacloban showed that because the storm devastated the whole place, even the local government officials may have died, or family members have died and certainly their own homes demolished. given that situation it is understandable that the local government officials will not be able to function or perform their duties for sometime.
  6. security (military and police), clearing crews  and rescue teams should be the first groups to be put in place in a disaster hit area. one of the first questions we asked our self was this – why did we not see news items on people buried under the rubble or thrown at sea being rescued by rescue teams? to us appeared no group made an effort for people who were still alive but buried under the rubble at Tacloban. its hard to imagine how many people may have been saved if crews went out to look under the rubble. tougher to think, that we just let them die there. we also read in the news that the police were not at all present in the streets of Tacloban that goons terrorized people a nd looting occurred. given the widespread destruction, the local police personnel must have suffered themselves hence they were not out in the streets keeping order and protecting lives and properties. we also here that in many cases trucks with relief goods were stopped by residents and its contents looted. obviously security in situations like these is very important. local police cannot be relied on since they are also victims. the military and police from outside provinces should immediately brought in.
  7. there is a need to redefine or have a better understand the meaning of the term “storm surge”. people in tacloban seemed to have misunderstood the true meaning and corresponding risk with the term “storm surge”. two days ago we had a conversation with Mahar Lagmay (@nababaha) who is the lead of Project Noah on “storm surge”. ted failon of abs-cbn described “storm surge” as the “whole sea falling onto the whole city of tacloban’ thus flooding the whole place which based on TV news footages up to neck-deep to reaching the roofs of two-story homes. many died because of this storm surge. we suggested to mr. lagmay that perhaps we need to redefine what a “storm surge” means so that people will understand the real risks. if not redefine it, then look for other descriptors to make it more understandable. in fact international articles including ted failon likened the storm surge to a tsunami. storm surge 1


~~ to be continued ~~

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