Enhancing the Resilience of Communities in the Face of Natural Disasters


undp lebanon - field simulation for disaster risk reduction in Byblos

“This exercise is part of a program called ‘éducation à la vie’ or ‘education in life,’ which consists in providing rules and information that will help students to avoid natural as well as social and psychological problems, and we are planning on making this exercise an annual event because we believe that it is extremely beneficial for students,” said Sister Marlène Salamé, the  principal of the Collège des Saints Coeurs, after a  field simulation of an  earthquake associated with a tsunami  was carried out , and   all of the students were evacuated from the school. According to the students who took part in the evacuation process, the event was fun, beneficial, and taught them how to act quickly and intelligently in such circumstances. Students emphasized  that  the exercise had taught them how to react calmly and how to know exactly what to do in case of emergencies, especially with regard to  helping others.

Under a  heavy rain, local schools in Jbeil/Byblos were ordered to evacuate following an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale that struck  200 kilometers from the Lebanese coast and caused a tsunami to arrive 20 minutes later.   The Civil Defense forces, the Lebanese Armed Forces, the Lebanese Red Cross, the Municipality of Jbeil, representatives of various ministries at the regional level of Jbeil, as well as  members of the UNDP Disaster Management Project team combined their  efforts to conduct  a city-scale disaster response simulation that aimed at testing disaster management plans and coordination protocols that had recently  been developed with  the support of the UNDP. The simulation included evacuating students of the Collège des Saints Coeurs  to the public garden, having the Civil Defense rescue  injured persons who had been trapped inside cars, gathering  patients and transporting them to the nearest hospital by the Lebanese Red Cross, isolating affected areas, managing the joint field operations room and maritime surveillance, directing people to safe places, and having the Municipality of Jbeil and the Jbeil Crisis Management Room secure  routes  for logistical support. . The response exercise, the first of its kind in Lebanon’s history, aimed  at testing response coordination mechanisms and fell  within the scope of implementing the National Response Plan, which had been developed by the  UNDP project “Strengthening Disaster Risk Management Capacities in Lebanon,” a project that had been co-funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Highlights

  • Swiss Ambassador Ruth Flint highlighted practical steps that the Swiss government was willing to take in order to reduce the traumatic costs of disasters, including a grant of $5,000,000 to support projects for disaster risk reduction in Lebanon.
  • The UNDP’s support for the government in developing a National Operation Room to support an immediate, coordinated response to natural and man-made disasters around the clock

 

Before the field simulation, national first responders and official dignitaries were brought together in a meeting at the Saint Jean-Marc Ontosh Hall in Byblos. During the meeting, UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Ross Mountain announced “the UNDP’s support for  the government in developing a National Operation Room to support an immediate, coordinated response to natural and man-made disasters around the clock,”

 

An announcement was also made by the President  of the Municipality of Byblos, Ziad Hawat, who pointed out  the city’s plans for “a more beautiful, safer, and stronger” Byblos and considered the response exercise as “one of the first steps in a long journey that the Municipality of Byblos  is willing to make.” In this context, Swiss Ambassador Ruth Flint highlighted practical steps that the Swiss government was willing to take  in order  to reduce the traumatic costs of disasters, including  a grant of $5,000,000 to support  projects for disaster risk reduction in Lebanon. Representing Prime Minister Tammam Salam, General Mohammad Khair outlined the role of municipalities in streamlining  disaster risk management (DRM)at the local level and emphasized  the importance of the National Response Plan that the Lebanese Government had developed with the support of the UNDP. After the speeches,   General Khalil Abu Suleiman made a brief presentation that described  what to expect during the simulation. He stressed  the importance of collective and coordinated work among  the different departments in order to achieve better results.

 

As a follow- up to the exercise, the UNDP organized a half-day reflection and evaluation workshop for the purpose of assessing the effectiveness of the tested plans and identifying  the lessons that had been learnt. Just as  the various agencies had come  together to execute  the simulation, they once again met and evaluated their work and integrated the lessons that they had learnt into their work. The next step  for the project will be to organize large-scale simulations at the Beirut International Airport.