Your community group can help in times of disaster

    | July 20, 2009

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    Community groups can play an important role in helping their community cope with severe weather events, such as floods, and even evacuation. Although they may never have considered it, groups such as sports groups, women’s groups, social clubs, day care centres, farmers’ groups, and radio listening clubs have skills and capacities that can be vital in times of emergency.

    In this script, a radio listening club hears a flood warning. They are fearful for a moment, but then they begin to brainstorm all of the capacities they could bring to bear, and quickly develop a plan to support their community.

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    Notes to broadcaster

    Local, community or municipal leadership is a key factor in recovery from disasters. It is often more effective than national or centrally-planned prevention and recovery strategies. The purpose of this script is to encourage local groups to recognize the skills they have that will be useful in disasters. This script uses a women’s radio listening club as an example. We suggest that you use an example, such as a local organization, that is familiar to your audience.

    The women in this group use their organizational skills to prepare for a flood. Even with short notice, community groups can combine their skills,knowledge and resources to reduce the effects of disaster. For example, the Petersfield Sports and Community Club in Jamaica was able to prepare the community in just two days before Hurricane Gilbert struck. Many kinds of groups have the potential to help out – sports groups, women’s groups, social clubs, day care centres, farmers’ groups, and radio listening clubs, such as the one in this story. Community groups can:
    -Form a disaster committee to coordinate disaster relief activities.
    -Develop a simple early warning system that everyone can understand.
    -Investigate indigenous strategies. For example, collect and record information about traditional ways to conserve and store clean water, save and store seeds, select drought or flood-tolerant crops, and construct housing to withstand disasters. Pass these ideas around.
    -Provide information on community seed banks and insurance policies.
    -Distribute emergency food and other supplies.
    -Educate the population about the importance of proper sanitation to reduce the spread of diseases at times of disaster.



    Radio Announcer
    Three members of the Busara Women’s Radio Club: Ashanti, Sela and Iman


    Narrator: How prepared is your community if natural disaster strikes? You are about to hear how the Busara Women’s Radio Club prepared for an emergency.

    The Radio Club meets weekly to listen to radio programs about health, farming and small businesses. After the broadcasts, the women talk about how they can use the information to improve their lives. Let’s listen in during a special meeting, when the women realize they have the potential to help the community though a disaster.


    Radio Announcer: (fading in)…and that ends today’s program. Now for the local news. There is a flood watch in effect for areas surrounding the Maha rivers. Heavy rains in the last few days have caused water levels to rise and there are plans to evacuate some residents…(fades out)



    Iman: Evacuation?! That means that this time the flooding is very serious.

    Sela: I thought this rain was unusually heavy. Ashanti, remember the stories our elders told us of the damage caused by the flood forty years ago?

    Ashanti: I do remember. You never believe it will happen to you. But right now, we have to do something to help.

    Iman: What do you mean? What can we do? We have no disaster plan, nobody to help us.


    Ashanti: Now, let’s not panic. We may not have help from outside, Iman, but we have this group – our radio club. And I feel that, as an organization, we are strong. We’ve been working together for many years. Surely we can use that strength somehow.

    Sela: That’s a good observation, Ashanti. My brother belongs to a sports club. During the drought a few years ago, the members of the sports club organized themselves to distribute emergency food supplies. The work of that sports club probably saved many lives.

    Ashanti: Sela, that’s an excellent example! You see, Iman? We can do something! Let’s think about the strengths that our radio club has. What skills do we have? And how can we use our skills to help others now.

    Sela: Well, we are well organized.

    Iman: What do you mean, Sela?

    Sela: Well, we’ve kept this club going for many years, and over those years we have learned many things. And we’ve worked with other villagers on several successful projects. Remember the seed saving project? And the weaving project for village women.

    Ashanti: Yes, we know we can organize. So, for example, we could work with villagers to distribute emergency supplies – like plastic sheets and blankets to keep people warm and dry.

    Sela: That makes me think of another resource we have. Because of our radio club, we have connections with the radio stations.

    Iman: Yes – but how is that helpful?

    Sela: We can use our personal contacts at the radio stations to get information out. For example – our friend Sam at Radio KISS FM could help. Perhaps we could make regular reports available from our homes about what is happening – where people can get safe drinking water, and other supplies.

    Ashanti: Sela, why don’t you investigate it? If something can be implemented quickly, we can have the distribution points announced by radio. Perhaps we could write up short radio announcements that promote good hygiene. We could discuss how to prevent the spread of disease when the floodwaters rise.

    Iman: I didn’t realize we could do so much to help!

    Ashanti: We have managed our households and farms all these years. And we have developed a strong club. We are a well organized group of women! Who says we don’t know how to take action in an emergency?



    Narrator: The flood waters continued to rise around the village. Crops were lost and houses were flooded. But the women’s radio club played a vital role in helping their community to prepare for and cope with the disaster. Many people expressed their gratitude to the women for organizing a recovery effort.


    Narrator: Are you a member of a social club? A sports team? A farmers’ group? By planning and sharing knowledge, your group can participate in disaster recovery. You can:
    -Learn about indigenous methods of seed storage, and ways to protect crops and livestock. Then, pass the good ideas around.
    -Make a list of the most vulnerable people in your community. Develop a system to respond to them first when disaster strikes.

    – END –


    -Contributed by Belinda Bruce, Vancouver, Canada.

    Information Sources:
    -“On Your Marks! Understanding Disasters and Disaster-Talk” in Community Toolbox Citizenry-Based & Development-Oriented Disaster Response by Annelies Heijmans and Lorna P. Victoria. Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, PO Box 4, Klong Luang, Pathumthani, 12120, Thailand. Tel: (66-2) 524-5354, E-mail:
    Citizens Participation Towards Safer Communities by Zenaida G. Delica, and Disaster Risk Management and Vulnerability Reduction: Protecting the Poor by Suvid Yodmani. Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (see address above).
    Radio Listening Clubs, Panos Southern Africa. URL: Contact: Fackson Banda, Director, PO Box 391663, Lusaka. Tel: +2601 290037, E-mail: