Understanding the behavior and attitude of people living in disaster proned communities to the dangers of disasters today.
To my professional colleagues in the field of disaster preparedness and management who will be participating in the VUSSC 4th Annual Booth Camp, I wish to through out this idea to you all. I am sure that you have found communities of people in your countries that seem to be reluctant to change their awareness to the nature and impact of disasters to become pro-active and learn risk reduction strategies to survive/cope with such eventualities. The reluctance to change behaviour of which I am referring is in respect to how citizens perceive their safety in disasters to engage them to adopt new risk reduction strategies that have been proven to have work in recent disasters.
For example, they man not believe what scientists are saying about the Ozone layer around our world being depleted by human actions, i.e., it’s worn thin and it is now allowing cosmic radiation which converts to excessive heat to enter our atmosphere and become trapped among the pollutants from industrialization and the burning of fossil fuels that produce increased carbon dioxide that restrict the release of green houses gases. This causes our planet to heat up, thus increasing the recurrence of hurricanes, new diseases, changes in animal breading patterns to name a few. As an example, we disregard the scientists’ belief that the heat from the sun is now able to heat up the oceans more rapidly than has ever occurred before and this heat is sustained by the earth for longer periods of time thus disturbing balanced atmospheric temperatures and pressure around the globe to affects sea and ocean currents.
What all this practical or impractical scientific jargon mean is that the earth’s climatic patterns are changing to proportions that scientists say are contributing to global warming to create the prevalence of increase natural disasters. How can we get this message across to the communities of citizens that we serve in preparing them for those disasters that are yet to occur? This preparation calls for advocating means to increase community awareness and defense strategies to respond to achieve risk reduction (social mitigative measures to reduce disaster impact). The Oxfam America Report on “Weathering the storm: Lessons in risk reduction from Cuba” puts us on notice to focus our attention on “changing the culture of safety” of people in communities in Cuba that can be likened achieving similar objectives in Trinidad and Tobago where people say “God is a Trini” when hurricanes miss us and brush past north of the islands leaving us only to deal with floods which we see occur year-after-year. Earthquakes in Trinidad and Tobago are due to the movement of the Southern American Tectonic Plate on which the country is located and they are rarely above 5.4 on the Ricker Scale to do more than minor to moderate damage than occurs in Pakistan, Bangladesh or Indian, so it appears as if we in this region of the world have no problems which is a fallacy, we recover in the least amount of time.
Well if “God is a Trini” wasn’t he the God of Grenada against Hurricane Ivan that devastated 90% of the island or God of the people of Asia against the Tsunami just after Christmas of 2005 that impacted twelve (12) counties on three (3) continents killing thousands of people or wasn’t he God of New Orleanean against Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that also killed thousands of Gods fearing people? People generally will deal with situations in three ways the sociologists say, Fight, Flight or Freight (3 FFF). When used literally, the words “God is a Trini” can mean that Trinidadians are not contemplating any of the 3 FFF, but rather substituting them with the will to survive disasters on divine guidance when there is any lack of preparedness, response and recovery as quickly as practically possible.
In Trinidad, by state and local governments, volunteer and NGOs pro-active efforts in community preparedness they have undertaken the tasks to revamp citizens’ awareness on the need to prepare not only for flooding but all disasters by targeting potential disaster prone areas to flooding which is our major disaster. Agencies use information on what is taking place around the globe to disseminate facts on the inescapable danger that people can possible faced for lack of preparedness regionally and in other parts of the world. However, the changes to the culture of safety are achieved at slow pace to catch on but progress appears to be promising.
I put the Trinidad’s climate for preparing for disaster out to goggle the minds of the VUSSC participants to the upcoming 4th annual Boot Camp and others on Wikieducator who have interests in preparing communities to fend for themselves from disasters so they can contribute (edit as much as needed) to expand on this body of knowledge. It is my hope that by the time the VUSSC 4th Annual Booth Camp is concluded, a comprehensive account of the behaviors and attitudes of citizens in preparation for disaster in other countries will be shared along with the strategies that have been implemented and worked to break the barriers of preparedness and that we all can use the information shared as a training tool for the future.