Before Typhoon Haiyan, Barangay 52 in Tacloban City was ill-prepared to respond to the approaching disaster. Though a Disaster Coordinating Committee (DCC) existed, it had only been established for legal compliance purposes. Many lives were lost in Barangay 52 that could have been saved with better planning and risk mitigation strategies. This is the story of most communities in Tacloban city—a hazard prone city that has weathered many typhoons.
To support vulnerable communities in preparing for disaster, CRS, with USAID funding, is (re-)establishing Disaster Risk Reduction Management Committees (DRRMC) in 17 barangays in Tacloban—the difference between DCC and DRRMC being the focus on risk reduction and preparedness in the latter. This includes (re-)orienting members of on their mandate, roles, and responsibilities within the DRRMC structure and providing much-needed trainings on disaster preparedness. CRS is also facilitating participatory multi-hazard mapping exercises to identify risk prone areas and vulnerable individuals within their communities, the findings of which are being used to support barangays in the development of their contingency plans. All of these USAID funded activities and trainings will eventually culminate in the development of, and allocation of a local government budget for, a DRRM Plan. CRS is providing technical support along the way.
Maria Sarinas—a member of the health and rescue committee of Barangay 52’s DRRMC—explained that this mapping exercise was valuable as it revealed that her barangay is not only prone to storm surges, but also to fire hazard, as houses are very close and built of light materials. According to Maria, this mapping exercise has triggered a behavior change within the community: barangay officials are budgeting for fire extinguishers and using general assembly meetings to remind constituents to take necessary precautions to avoid fire. Nimfa Ortilano—a member of the communication and warning committee—held that the most important lesson she learned from CRS was from a DRR film screening, funded by USAID, illustrating the danger of ignoring early warning messages. She has been designated to counteract this behavior by warning constituents with a megaphone and providing evacuation information. Ofelia Po—a member of the finance and supplies committee—acknowledged that prior to this intervention households just prepared for themselves, whereas, now the community is working together to ensure all households, including the most vulnerable, are prepared. The main message the CRS trained ladies of the DRRMC want to convey to their community is: “Always prepare”.