Today, 10 October, is the International Day for Disaster Reduction. The theme this year is “Disaster Risk Reduction Begins at School”.
This year’s campaign, spearheaded by UN International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction aims “to inform and mobilize Governments, communities and individuals to ensure that disaster risk reduction is fully integrated into school curricula in high risk countries and that school buildings are built or retrofitted to withstand natural hazards.”
Buried beneath this development jargon that UN agencies are so fond of is something very important: sensitising the next generation about living with hazards can help make our societies better able to cope with disasters when they do happen.
And you never know when an informed and alert school kid could save the day — and many lives.
A good example came from Thailand when the Indian Ocean Tsunami arrived without any public warning on 26 December 2004.
Tilly Smith, an eleven-year-old British schoolgirl, was on holiday on Maikhao Beach in Thailand with her family when the tsunami hit. Just a few weeks earlier, she had studied tsunamis in school — and immediately recognized the signs of the receding sea as a sign of an impending disaster. She warned her parents, which led to all the hotel guests being rapidly moved from the beach.
This simple, timely action by a single schoolgirl saved the life of dozens of people. Tilly’s story highlights the critical importance of basic education in preventing the tragic impacts of natural disasters.
Watch her story on YouTube:
This 5 min video, produced by UN/ISDR in 2005, is available in English, French and Spanish. Watch the English version on their website, which is now hidden under all that bureaucratic babble:
Higher resolution WMV file – more suited for broadband Internet connections
Lower resolution WMV file – will play better on narrowband Internet connections
According to the Wikipedia, Tilly’s family have declined requests to be interviewed by commercial and national broadcasters, but Tilly has appeared at the United Nations in November 2005, meeting Bill Clinton the UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Relief, and at the first year anniversary in Phuket, as part of the campaign to highlight the importance of education.
In December 2005, Tilly was named “Child of the Year” by the French magazine Mon Quotidien. On the First Anniversary of the Official Tsunami Commemorations at Khao Lak, Thailand on December 26, 2005, she was given the honour of closing the ceremony with a speech to thousands of spectators which read in part: