The Alert and Ready Communities (ARC) project aims to strengthen good governance of local government units and support communities in the Philippines to build more resilient systems, promote better planning, improve livelihoods, enhance quality of life, and ultimately reduce casualty rates from the impact of disasters. The project is run by Save the Children in collaboration with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and funded by the Humanitarian Leadership Academy.

Prof. Jean, 45, was uninterested in disaster risk reduction (DRR) activities until Typhoon Haiyan ravaged her community. Seeing the trail of dead bodies and the struggle her family faced after the typhoon, Jean realised the need to be prepared at all times.

“I wanted to help. Through my experience with Typhoon Haiyan, I slowly understood that there are hazards around us that we have to prepare for.”

She then suggested the inclusion of DRR in their college curriculum, tapping Save the Children for technical support.

“This was just one of the many interventions Save the Children provided us. They gathered our inputs during the consultations in the education cluster immediately after Typhoon Haiyan hit, and also provided us psychosocial support and education in emergencies – they have since been here to help.”

“Aside from the school, they are now extending help to communities and their local councils. They are providing capacity building to different sectors, including the academia.”

The ARC project organised a technical working group composed of representatives from different regional and provincial government agencies, members of the academia and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to build more disaster resilient systems, especially in at-risk areas such as Eastern Visayas and Northern Mindanao.

“The ARC is a platform that enables the local government and the academia to communicate. This project maximises the academia’s technical expertise to train community leaders for them to be able to create their own DRRM or quality disaster risk reduction management plan.”

Jean shares that community leaders and civil society members do need assistance to write and organise what they pronounce as “dream” or DRRM plans.  She was also recently part of the team who tested the quality DRRM “checklist” tool in two communities where they then submitted the recommendations to the barangay DRRM council.

“They have the information, but the layout of plans needs improvement,” she said.

“By involving the academia, this project allows us to integrate with the local governments and in turn, share the same information to students who will be the future leaders. Our students are from different communities. They will be the ones to roll this out in the future; and knowing [about DRR] at an early age will help them and the community in the future,” Jean added.

To guide local governments and communities, ARC’s technical working group developed the “checklist” for quality DRRM that Jean and her team used in the communities.

Jean shares that for her, the top three most important points for quality DRRM are: organisational structure, this means local governments have clear cut functions and no duplication of roles; inclusive participation of civil society organisations and people with disabilities; and the public’s orientation on early warning systems.

So far, ARC has trained 68 participants from different CSOs and the academia who are now ready to assess and build capacities of local governments in Eastern Visayas and Northern Mindanao.

The module used in the session includes discussions on the Philippine context and importance of CBDRRM (community-based disaster risk reduction management); steps in conducting CBDRRM; hazard preparedness, prevention and mitigation; and CBDRRM mechanisms during and after a disaster.

Save the Children Field Coordinator Xyla Ortinero also explained that the module used in the training sessions are adapted from the Office of Civil Defence, but with an additional chapter on child-centered DRRM and climate change adaptation to ensure children’s inputs are considered and heard in community planning.

“We are just waiting for our certification as trainers and we will be able to start facilitating sessions with communities,” Jean shared.

Jean sees this project becoming bigger. She shares that in the future, they will be able to train secondary school teachers who have integrated DRR in their subjects. Though full with school work, she does not see that the interest of the academia will falter.

“I don’t think the academia’s interest is a problem. The way I see it, they are already interested. Just give them an opportunity to participate and they will be more than willing to cooperate,”

“It’s very exciting to be part of a project that seems to promise massive and rapid implementation for the whole country. My family is prepared, and I want to help the community be, too.”

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