10 years on from tsunami �X are we safer now?

By Matthias Schmale ,The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

Most of us can clearly recall where we were on Dec 26, 2004, when a 9.1-magnitude earthquake off the northern coast of Sumatra triggered a deadly tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean, killing over 226,000 people and causing massive destruction along coastal areas of 14 countries. The full horror of the disaster unfolded on TV screens around the world. As we mark 10 years since the biggest disaster in living memory, it is important to reflect on what the tsunami has taught us and whether communities are any safer from such disasters. Perhaps the most important lesson reinforced by the tsunami is the importance of investing in disaster risk reduction (DRR) at both global and local levels. In January 2005, the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) �X a global blueprint for disaster-risk reduction efforts with a 10-year plan �X was adopted by 168 governments. Its goal was to substantially reduce disaster losses by 2015, by building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters. Shortly afterward in June 2006, the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System became active, consisting of 25 seismographic stations relaying information to 26 national tsunami information centers. This has resulted in timely evacuations of mass populations when alerts are sounded. The tsunami highlighted how weak legislation led to blockages and major coordination challenges in the delivery of international assistance. The Hyogo Framework for Action calls for improved legislation to facilitate international disaster response, an area where the �X International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been working closely with governments through its Disaster Laws program. Twelve countries in the Asia-Pacific have made, or are progressing toward, legislative or regulatory changes. These include Indonesia, where the National Disaster Management Agency has revised its regulations relating to the participation of the international community in national emergencies. Another example is the Philippines, where, following Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, the government relaxed immigration requirements and established one-stop-shops to streamline the clearance process for incoming goods and equipment But global and national initiatives need to go hand-in-hand with investment in locally driven approaches toward reducing risk. Working with communities to help them be better prepared to face future disasters was the thread that ran through the IFRC’s recovery efforts after the tsunami.