‘Play a role in disaster management’ (Poll Inside)

Malaysia International Search and Rescue (Misar) conducts flood preparation awareness programme to help people at high risk areas be prepared when disaster strikes.

PETALING JAYA: There seems to be a lack of understanding of the role that communities can play in managing disasters in this country, says the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma).

Nadma senior principal assistant-director (policy section) Munirah Zulkaple cited, as an example, how most people were unprepared during the annual floods.

“The nature of disasters and their detrimental effects is everybody’s business. It should not be shouldered by the government alone in terms of planning,” she said.

She said the first 72 hours of a disaster were a critical period for saving lives and reducing its impact.

“A well-prepared community will take the necessary action prior to the arrival of respondents. And the involvement of volunteers is inherently valuable,” she said in an interview.

To undertake this task, Nadma’s Community and Social Development Division, under the Post-Disaster Management Sector, has been doing outreach and training programmes.

This is carried out via a grouping of Nadma-affiliated volunteers who can be mobilised for the task.

“To date, a total of 152 organisations and societies have been listed as partners under the Rakan Nadma platform.

“These groups are clustered into seven groups to facilitate smooth coordination – food and basic necessities; health and medical logistics and transportation; communication and information management; infrastructure/shelter/transit; education and public awareness; as well as sanitation and volunteer manpower,” she said.

Aside from this, Munirah said Nadma had also been encouraging the participation of communities in disaster-prone areas. The Community-Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) programme helps at-risk communities reduce their vulnerabilities, among other things.

“Since 2016 and up until June of this year, Nadma has engaged a total of 96,910 people, ranging from community leaders, women, youth, and volunteers. In 2019, we engaged almost nine million people through the CBDRM programme for pandemic preparedness via TV, radio, social media, online campaigns, and competitions. This endeavour is to build a resilient nation through a whole-of-society and whole-of-government approach. This is a lengthy journey but one that is necessary.

“Only by eliminating barriers, empowering society and working hand-in-hand can we ensure a fast and effective response, minimise disaster impact, and rebuild lives,” she said.

Nik Muhammad Hafiz Nik Hamdan, the founder of Urban Preppers Malaysia, which was set up to help townsfolk prepare for disasters, hailed the move by Nadma.

“What they (Nadma) are doing is good. It will help others to be more prepared and know what to do before they are rescued. The more people know about being prepared, the more lives we can save,” he said.

He said the public should know what to do when they face an emergency situation.

“Two years ago, one of our members managed to help someone whose house was nearly burnt down. The woman had heard our previous talks on what to do if a fire breaks out in the kitchen,” he said.

Nik Muhammad Hafiz also said that his group was reaching out to the people, but due to funding issues, they could only do so much.Safety activist Capt K. Bala said that many people were not keen to learn about disaster preparedness, especially for floods.

There was a lack of awareness about the importance of being prepared, he said.

“This kind of awareness can be instilled by resident associations and village committees. For example, how to evacuate, where to gather, and what can be used to save ourselves while waiting for rescue services,” he said.

For instance, he said that people should get ready to move to higher ground once they notice bugs, rats or other creatures surfacing from the drains of their houses.

“That is the most obvious sign of impending floods,” he added.

As for awareness and preparedness programmes, Bala said: “You cannot do this just by giving talks; you need to train them because evacuation differs for the elderly, disabled and children. Knowing what to use and how to use things around us is also crucial.”

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