By: Joseph Viandrito
SurfAid International is implementing a three-year Community-Based Disaster Management and Risk Reduction initiative to develop effective disaster preparedness and management systems for the western islands of Sumatra. What makes it unique?
Firstly, the program targets the most risk communities in earthquake and tsunami prone areas. Sumatra is an active continental margin where tectonic processes are controlled by the three major fault systems of the Sunda Trench, the Sumatran Fault and the Mentawai Fault (John Milsom, University College London, UK). The island groups of the Western Islands have been formed by the subduction of the oceanic plate under the continental plate in an ongoing process. There is Palaeoseismic evidence of large recurrent earthquakes and tsunamis. Caltech and LIPI research shows signs of elevation of parts of the archipelago in 1600, 1797 and 1833 due to massive earthquakes, with eventual receding to their original state. The 2004 Aceh earthquake and 2005 Nias earthquake thrust parts of the archipelago up to 2 meters – raising the reef above current high tide marks. Other areas fell by up to 1 metre, such as occurred in parts of the Banyak Islands (Vant Hoff, field report, July 2005).
The aftershock pattern observable after these big seismic events suggested the following probability of more large earthquakes in the Western Islands over the following two years: A 12.5% chance of another magnitude 8 earthquake, and a 33.3% chance of a magnitude 7.5 earthquake. (Lucy Jones, U.S. Geological Survey, April 11, 2005). Both of these events occurred on 12 & 13 September 2007 (!) with Caltech and LIPI scientists warning that a section of the Mentawai Fault remains locked and extremely vulnerable. The likelihood of a tsunami being associated with a tectonic rupture depends on the depth of water above the earthquake epicenter. There are many locations along the Mentawai fault which are located in a depth of water sufficient to generate an associated tsunami.
Communities are vulnerable not just to earthquakes and tsunami disasters but a range of other natural disasters including landslides, flooding and epidemics. The likelihood of another major natural disaster in the Western Islands of Sumatra, combined with the ongoing vulnerability of much of the population, suggests a need for both enhanced community disaster preparedness and risk reduction strategies.
Secondly, the target communities are extremely isolated, predominantly coastal communities with very low human development indexes – particularly basic health, education and socio-economic indicators. Target villages in Mentawai islands are difficult to access and this is dependent on weather and sea patterns. Safety is a key issue for our staff. A Marine Manager is responsible for analysing weather and sea conditions before staff travel. A strong marine capacity is required for the Mentawai Islands, while in Nias Island roads to target villages are in poor condition and often accessed by motorbike or by foot. Weather conditions impact dramatically on access.
Although facing these constraints, the SurfAid International CBDRM program is successfully developing effective disaster preparedness and management systems for the western islands of Sumatra. High participation, contribution and involvement rates of the target communities and local governments have been noted in program activities. Communities are preparing their own action plan/mitigation projects, and have already established Community Disaster Risk Management Organizations (CDRMO). The program also empowers local government to establish district disaster management teams. Working in conjunction with the district and regional authorities ensures that preparedness plans feed properly into government disaster planning processes and supports their roles.
The main focus of the program is to socialize safe community concepts at the district, sub-district and village level, creating CDRMOs and conduct school-based training and simulations. Specific training that has been identified includes SAR (Search and Rescue) techniques and basic first aid. Other important skills include data collection and natural disaster analysis. SurfAid International will continue to work together with the district government including disaster response units, planning department and local parliament to assist in the formation of district planning and budgeting in line with the new Disaster Management Law.
In the Mentawai Islands E-Prep staffs have joined the Rehabilitation & Reconstruction Preparation Team to assist with data validation and other identified post-disaster activities. In Nias E-Prep is an active member of the Disaster Management Coalition and will continue to lay an important role in this organisation. SurfAid is also a member of the West Sumatera Disaster Management Coalition.
At grassroots level, the program has given benefit to community in 55 target villages – 33 target villages in Nias Island, North Sumatra and 22 target villages in the Mentawai Islands, West Sumatra. The direct beneficiaries of the project are approximately 35,000 people from the 53 villages which are spread over eight sub-districts. The indirect beneficiaries are the households in neighboring villages who will have opportunities to better prepare their communities via transfer of knowledge and cross-utilization of resilience mechanisms. Many of the total population of 770,000 in Nias and Mentawai get benefit from a community awareness campaign that includes radio and other multimedia educational materials such as print, film and community celebration activities.
A village-based social marketing strategy was conceived to help promote CBDRM to the wider community and to teach key disaster management concepts. The strategy was designed to encourage community participation by organising a series of celebratory events and competitions which involved school children, women’s groups, religious leaders and village elders. Some tactics are Village Welcome Gates Competition, Emergency Preparedness Information Board Competition, Community Poster Competition, Disaster Preparedness Songs Competition (in local language), Emergency cooking competition; Emergency tent competition; Painting competitions for children; Disaster Quiz; Emergency Grab Bag Competitions; Events and competitions linked to independence day celebrations.
Community based disaster preparedness also provides an opportunity to work together with local communities on structured plans, in association with the dissemination of clear information about the current levels of risk. It provides a chance to review traditional knowledge and draw upon local resources and wisdom. Each community has formulated standard operating procedures, evacuation routes and evacuation sites, baseline data and will identify mitigation projects and future training needs. PDRA techniques have been implemented, in order to make appropriate plans and implement concrete actions to reduce and/or eliminate disaster risks that will adversely affect their lives. The process of implementing PDRA involves those at risk, authorities and other stakeholders.
Communities have produced hazard and resources maps, to identify areas at risk from specific hazards and the vulnerable members of the community and to identify available resources that could be used by community members in disaster risk management. Communities also made Matrix Ranking to determine the hazard that has the most serious impact on the community.
In order to learn what are the significant disaster events that occur in the community, communities have produced historical timelines, and to get a picture of the vulnerability of the community and the resources that are available or could be available for disaster risk management, people have conducted transect walks. Other techniques have also been implemented such as seasonal calendars, historical transect, institutional/social network analysis, problem tree, and dream maps. Each village then prepares a Hazard Vulnerability and Capacity Analysis (HVCA) framework and a Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Plan which will be presented to the sub-district and district governments. These plans will form the basis of village disaster preparedness action plans and will be combined with village-based contingency planning for disasters.
Accurate information remains an important component of the E-Prep Program. The program will continue to create disaster preparedness media including a bi-monthly radio program (Radio Siaga Bencana), a bimonthly bulletin (Waspada!), publish and distribute posters designed by the communities, distribute pocket information books on earthquakes etc. E-Prep is currently producing a series of CBDRM films which will be used to assist local communities to address disaster preparedness and response issues. The films will include cover explanation of CBDRM, hazard and risk mapping, search and rescue and early disaster response and forming and maintaining village disaster management teams. These films will also be distributed throughout Indonesia. A series of disaster preparedness puppet films will be shown to children in the target communities through a traveling cinema program. These film nights will include disaster management education activities.
The disaster response capacity of SurfAid has been proven through the three most recent disasters in the region – 2004 Indian Ocean tsunamis, 2005 Nias earthquake, and 2007 Mentawai earthquake. Experience gained through these emergency responses can be transferred into operating procedures and logistical knowledge. Knowledge and operating capacity in the geo-marine environment, and established relationships with communities and the governments, places SurfAid in a unique position to implement a successful community disaster preparedness program.