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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

JSOTF-P and AFP Teach Disaster Awareness to Zamboanga Community Leaders

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines-Medical and chaplain staff from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines taught more than 70 Zamboanga community leaders best practices for disaster planning in Zamboanga City Dec. 3-4.

"We can't prevent all disasters, but we can plan and act to lessen their impact. For example, we can use warnings to evacuate people and get them out of flood prone areas when storms are approaching,” said Dareck Fabian, division chief for Zamboanga City, Social Welfare, and Development, who sponsored the event.

Taught by the AFP’s Camp Navarro General Hospital Psychologist Lolina Necesario Bajin and JSOTF-P Chaplain Assistant Rose Gould, the seminar pulled together skill sets both instructors previously held from their years of experience working in conflict-affected communities.

Focusing primarily on reducing the impact of natural and man-made disasters, civic leaders spent two days learning how to plan for the types of disasters most common here and how to respond to those in distress.

Additionally for the 20 barangay chairmen who attended, the course gave them tools to pull together available resources to alleviate the suffering of those in need. Gathering all the leaders in one place allowed them to share contact information of emergency resources, such as first responder information, shelters, and childcare facilities.

The class was split into two days of instruction. On the first day, the class focused on types of disasters, normal reactions from survivors, and how to help people through their grief. The second day of training was more interactive, with the community leaders filling out detailed worksheets, listing their disaster response procedures.

One of the benefits of the course was an opportunity to identify resources needed to respond to emergencies.

“What this class does is start the dialogue between the barangay officials, chairmen and social workers for further coordination efforts. We are honored to assist with this process so that the people of Zamboanga City will be better prepared to respond to a crisis,” said Gould.

AFP and JSOTF-P have continued to expand on this training, having first offered this type of class to health care providers at Camp Navarro General Hospital last month. On Dec. 7, the team taught similar classes to instructors at Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology.

“The classes are very good and the people here will now be better equipped to respond to a disaster or calamity in the future,” said Capt. Pablito F. Melcher, a member of the Western Mindanao Command’s Chaplain Services.

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