NGO disaster planning helps save lives in Vanuatu during Lusi
NGO Care International helps Vanuatu island of Futuna stay up to date during recent cyclone with text messaging system.
The head of Care International in Vanuatu says a coordinated system of text messaging helped people on the island of Futuna in Tafea Province avoid harm recently during Cyclone Lusi.
Charlie Damon told Jenny Meyer the agency has been working on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation for the past five years and the emergency planning helped to keep people safe when the cyclone hit.
CHARLIE DAMON; The government did a fantastic job of sending out regular information about the cyclone via text message and through the radio. However for Futuna they have a few issues with communication. They don't always have radio signal and at that particular time their link to Radio Vanuatu wasn't working. And then there are some communities that don't have any reception at all so their mobile reception is quite sketchy. So we knew that the cyclone was coming through and we also knew that Futuna would probably have issues in receiving this information. So we became the conduit to pass that information as it was coming from the government through to the communities of Futuna by notifying the chairs of the community disaster committees of the cyclone's movements, so that they could then prepare their communities for when the cyclone was going to hit.
JENNY MEYER; How exactly does that work? Is that a text alert system?
CD Basically yes. So we were receiving texts through the government system which for what ever reason weren't managing to reach through to the Futuna community. And then we were also part of the regular coordination meetings at Port Vila so after each coordination meeting and after every text alert that we were receiving from the government we were then texting on to every community member that has a significant role in the community disaster committee and advising them to prepare their communities, and evacuate to safe houses and that kind of thing. And as a result they report that whilst they could feel the effects of the cyclone, everybody was safe, nobody was injured and nobody was killed.
JM; So in fact the system did quite well this time?
CD; That's right, yeah, it had a great impact in that they understand the cyclone alert system. There is a yellow, blue, red, cyclone alert system in Vanuatu and they understood that through Care's projects they've had lots of training on the alert system. And so through that training of understanding the system the alert system and how to read the map, they were able to then prepare the communities accordingly. And then through us communicating with them regularly during the cyclone hitting they were able to activate their community preparedness plans.
JM; So at the moment you've got central people who are receiving and sending those text messages? Are there any plans to go direct to individuals?
CD; Yeah, so in Vanuatu they have a text service. You text 166 and you get the updates but the issue for this island is they don't always have network and so we are going to continue the awareness campaign around the 166 service because that is a service that is already provided by the government here. But then we're also going to look at what other measures can be put in place by the Province and how we can support that.
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