by Aiko Jane Osa
The DRR project, StReAMS (Sustainable and Resilient Actions in Managing Shocks), provided support to 18 barangays in Eastern Samar in building their capacity to effectively manage and reduce risks of natural disasters. As a culmination of the DRR intervention, typhoon drills were conducted in the covered barangays to test their Contingency Plan and Early Warning System.
General Malvar, one of the barangays in Balangkayan, had their drill last May 12, 2017. The preparation for the big event started early in the morning as the drill staff needed to walk going to the barangay. The rough and hilly terrain of the area made the 2-hr hike more challenging.
At around 9:00 am, CRS team together with some staff from the MLGU arrived in the barangay. They were warmly welcomed by the community with smiles and greetings. For most of the residents, the CRS drill was the their first. After few minutes of preparation, the drill has started. The BDDRMC or Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council appeared nervous at first but regained confidence as they felt more familiar and in control of the scenario. When the 1st advisory was raised, the people started preparing things that they will bring to the evacuation center like GO bags, water, baskets, utensils, etc. Children, elderly and other vulnerable community members were brought to the evacuation center during the 2nd advisory and by the time the 4rd advisory was given by the BDRRMC Chairman, all people were already inside the evacuation centers (EC).
The teamwork and coordination of the BDRRMC was impressive. There was constant communication between the task units. Evacuation committee kept the Operation Center updated about the situation of the evacuees. The security committee also ensured that all people already evacuated and houses were properly locked. Committees were in full support of each other and each was able to perform their roles and responsibilities in every alert warning signal. Also, in the absence of warning equipments, the BDRRMC showcased their resourcefulness.
Although there were minor points for improvement, the community drill was almost perfect. Both CRS and MLGU drill evaluators were impressed by how Gen. Malvar performed beyond expectation. The staff saw that the active community participation contributed to this successful outcome.
The people of General Malvar has come a long way since the devastation of TY Yolanda. Through their hard-work and dedication, they were able to build back better shelters under the CRS Shelter Recovery Program. CRS also provided individual latrines to the households that are still functional until now. Because of this, they were certified as a ZOD (Zero Open Defecation) Barangay by the government and other non-government organizations. The community is very thankful to CRS. “During the time when we needed help the most, NGOs were afraid to come because they thought we were rebels. Only CRS came to help us. We wouldn’t be standing back if it wasn’t for CRS.”, said Editha Azura, Punong Barangay.
Aside from durable shelters and latrines, the residents are equipped with knowledge and skills that will help them prepare in case of an actual emergency. They have proven that amidst isolation and remoteness, a small village like General Malvar can be resilient.