The Alert and Ready Communities (ARC) project aims to support the Government’s national goal of zero casualty from disasters and emergencies. The Philippines Academy Centre is working in collaboration with Save the Children Philippines and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to support over 16,000 barangays* along the coast and in major river basin areas considered high risk community locations.

*A barangay is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines and is the native Filipino term for a village, district or ward.

“DRRM is not work, it’s my passion. It’s difficult to be able to stay in this field if your heart is not here because work in DRR never ends. When you talk about DRR, you’re talking of saving lives,” Jinnah, 46 years old, said.

The 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.

Jinnah, 46, is the disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) focal person of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) of Eastern Samar. Most of the communities here are located in coastal areas facing the Pacific Ocean. Consequently, the DRRM provincial office leads a region highly prone to hazards such as typhoons, tsunamis and earthquakes.

“We have no choice but to learn. Living by the eastern seaboard, we face everything except volcanic eruptions,” Jinnah said.

While responding to Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, Jinnah also had to prepare for Typhoon Ruby that hit the province a few weeks after. This was the time the government started to strengthen community-based DRRM. “As part of the government, we are accountable to people. We won’t have a ‘face’ to show after all the lessons that we should have learned from our experiences with disasters,” she added.

The Alert and Ready Communities project organised a technical working group composed of different regional and provincial government agencies, members of the academia, and civil society organisations to build systems to improve disaster resilience in high risk areas.

“We wanted to strengthen both community and family disaster preparedness. Some families would go to evacuation centres without anything with them,” Jinnah said.

To complement the family preparedness initiatives of the DILG, Save the Children Philippines worked on a preparedness activity book Ang Pakikipagsapalaran nina Pipo Listo at Lala Laging Handa (The Adventures of Pipo Alert and Lala Always Ready) to help children map out what they should do in their homes before, during and after a disaster.

“[Working] with Save the Children taught me how to give attention to the needs of children,” she added.

Jinnah adds that the project also highlighted the process for them to come together and help each sector out: “We have been doing partnerships and linkages with civil society organisations, but through the ARC project, the academia has been highlighted. Now, everyone is involved. The project gives us better lens on planning. Better quality plans give better directions that enable us to maximise our resources. If we want to scale up, we have to have quality”.

Jinnah advocates for DRRM to be mainstreamed in project plans; and for an allocated budget in livelihoods and mitigation measures for infrastructure, among others: “All programs should be anchored in DRRM. All the gains of a program can be wiped out in one disaster. We cannot claim lost lives.”

Because DRRM is her passion, Jinnah does not consider it work.

“It’s difficult to be able to stay in this field if your heart is not here because work in DRRM never ends. When you talk about DRRM, you talk about saving lives,” Jinnah said.

“Building resiliency and a culture of preparedness is a process that does not happen overnight. This entails setting up systems and policies.”

She added that the local government is trying its best to make disaster preparedness part of Philippine culture.

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