I Should’ve Brought an Umbrella!
Do you remember the last time you looked out of the window, saw the sun shining in its full glory, and said: “I won’t be needing an umbrella today”. Only to mumble “I should’ve brought an umbrella” to yourself later after being stranded somewhere or drenched in the cold rain?
You’re not alone. We’ve all been there.
Uncertainty is part of our daily lives. Whether we realize it or not, we take risks every day! We make choices like getting out of bed early to beat the rush hour traffic or opting for a healthier lunch to stay energized throughout the day. Or complex choices with longer-term effects like choosing a university degree or picking a career path. Where there are choices, there is risk involved.
Every choice has unknown elements. We don’t always see the full picture while piecing the puzzle together. Sometimes this excites us, most of the time it frightens us. That’s why we have a tendency to avoid what is unknown. Don’t worry—it’s a survival instinct that helps to keep us out of harm and trouble!
While we don’t always have full control of circumstances, we do have the capacity to choose the way we respond to our situation. The question is, are we willing to embrace the risks in our lives and learn to deal with it? One of the areas we can explore this is in the way we respond to emergencies and disasters.
At the core of addressing emergencies and disasters is risk management. Does it ring a bell? Risk is a combination of the likelihood of a hazard occurring and the possible negative effects when it does. It’s an event or situation that can be dangerous or threatening to someone or something.
Managing risks also means identifying, analyzing, prioritizing, and applying resources available to us to prevent or minimize undesirable impacts. As they say, prevention is better than cure! Let’s use a macro lens, and see how we well we’re managing risks as a country:
Let’s Take a Look at the Philippine Disaster Risk Profile
Okay, don’t let these figures scare you just yet, but here they are.
The Philippines is part of the Asia-Pacific, the most disaster-prone and affected region in the world. About 43,000 disaster-related deaths are recorded every year. And if you lived here from 1970 to 2016, you’d have been five times more likely to be affected by such disasters than elsewhere. In the same period, the region lost around USD 1.3 trillion worth of assets. Yikes.
Why, you ask?
It’s a mix of country exposure to natural hazards, local impact of global warming, capacity and vulnerability of the population, and yes, the decisions and actions of its people. Environmental degradation and unsustainable ways of living also play a huge role in worsening disaster impacts.
The Asia-Pacific is no stranger to conflict and power struggles either. Studies have shown that there have been more casualties from subnational conflicts in our region compared to that of international conflicts in the past 20 years. But again, don’t be alarmed!
Despite these natural risks, our country is blessed with beautiful landscapes, natural resources, diverse cultures, and warm people. (This is the part where we become grateful to live in our country!)
Since 1990, the Philippines experienced more than 500 natural hazard-related disasters. Here’s a pop quiz: can you name the 3 most destructive typhoons that struck our country in the past 10 years?
No less than 60% of the archipelago is exposed to tropical storms, flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and volcanic eruptions due to its geographic location and physical features. And nearly 70% of its population is vulnerable to their impacts.
The Philippines is also no stranger to civil, political, and socio-cultural instability. Human-induced hazards such as armed conflict and mass violence exist at the national, subnational, and local levels.
Recorded incidents include autonomist and separatist movements, struggles over community rights, domestic and gender-based violence, local political and electoral violence, and urban crime. International terrorist activity in the country is also considered to be one of the most active globally.
Do these facts concern you? They should. But don’t panic. We can do something about them.
Anyone can contribute to making the Philippines more stable and resilient in their own way. For starters, raising our awareness about our risks!
It’s Everyone’s Responsibility
The Philippine Government invested in and improved its capacities to reduce and manage natural and human-induced disaster impacts over the past decade.
In 2010, the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 (RA10121) was passed into law. Plus, it helped change how we think and approach disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) in specific and civil defense in general.
This led to better collaboration, planning, and dedicated funding for DRRM. It even led to the establishment of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC)! NDRRMC looks out for people’s welfare during emergencies or disasters. And the act paved the way for the development of progressive laws such as the “Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act” (RA 10821). Fun fact: it’s the first of its kind in the whole wide world!
The stability and resilience of the Philippines is everyone’s responsibility, not just the Government. That’s right! Everyone can help through the role we play, whether at home, in school, or at the office. (Yup, that means you can make change happen for the better!)
It’s on You, Me, Us
Efforts to raise the awareness of Filipinos on DRRM and civil defense matters continues to this day. This is also being aligned to the country’s national development agenda. A good example is the recent addition of a Senior High School Core Subject on Disaster Readiness and Risk Reduction in the K to 12 Basic Education Curriculum.
The point for all these initiatives? We can’t achieve and sustain social progress and economic growth unless we protect and prepare ourselves first.
Every emergency or disaster creates challenges, but it also presents opportunities. If we want to learn from our experiences, we can improve the way we adapt to it. Education is the key to empowering ourselves about the risks we face. And just by learning about risks, you’re one step closer to making better choices!
Creating risk awareness is the first step but it’s not enough. We also need to gain basic knowledge of DRRM. When we’re aware and have the knowledge to act, we become risk-conscious. We start to understand the deeper and wider implications of emergencies and disasters to ourselves, families, communities, and society. (Take note, being risk-conscious does not mean being paranoid about every bad thing that could happen outside!)
Our attitudes towards emergencies will likely change if we can clearly see and accept the issues.
Want to learn more about Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM)? Thinking of starting a career in Humanitarian Affairs? Are you seeking personal development in this field? The General Academic Strand (GAS) strand offers Disaster Readiness and Risk Reduction as a core subject for Senior High School students. Plus, the learning resources in this blog will teach you about emergencies and disasters, how it affects your life, why it matters, and what we can do about it. Check them all out below and on Edukasyon.ph!
GFDRR. (2016). Country Profile: The Philippines. Retrieved from https://www.gfdrr.org/sites/default/files/publication/PHILIPPINES2016.pdf
IASC. (2019). INFORM: Index for Risk Management. Brussels, Belgium: Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) and the European Commission. Retrieved from http://www.inform-index.org/
Institute for Economics and Peace. (2017). Global Terrorism Index 2017 (5th ed.). Sydney, Australia. Retrieved from http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2017/11/Global-Terrorism-Index-2017.pdf
NDRRMC. (2011). National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Plan (NDRRMP). Retrieved from http://www.ndrrmc.gov.ph/attachments/article/41/NDRRM_Plan_2011-2028.pdf
The Asia Foundation. (2017). The State of Conflict and Violence in Asia. Bangkok, Thailand: The Asia Foundation. Retrieved from https://asiafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/The_State_of_Conflict_and_Violence_in_Asia-1.pdf
The Republic of the Philippines. (2010). Republic Act No. 10121. Metro Manila, Philippines: 14th Congress of the Philippines. Retrieved from http://www.ndrrmc.gov.ph/attachments/article/45/Republic_Act_10121.pdf
UNESCAP. (2017). Asia-Pacific disaster report 2017 – Leave no one behind. Bangkok, Thailand: UNESCAP. Retrieved from https://www.unescap.org/publications/asia-pacific-disaster-report-2017-leave-no-one-behind
UNOCHA. (2017). Major natural hazards in Asia and the Pacific. Retrieved from https://reliefweb.int/map/world/major-natural-hazards-asia-and-pacific-0