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Rising from the ashes through systemic evacuation system

24 May 2018— Barangay Catmon of Malabon City was devastated by a big fire affecting close to a thousand families who were evacuated in covered courts.

Being a densely populated barangay, the area has been vulnerable to fire, and their experience in setting up evacuation areas has not been the best. Families are mixed up in the area without having clear partitions, risking their property and safety. Disarray sometimes arises during distribution of relief goods.

But their most recent calamity, the fire from last year, proved that with the right knowledge and cooperation from the community, an evacuation area need not to look like a disaster.

“What we’ve learned from Move Up Project has been very helpful for us, especially in proper camp management in an evacuation center,” Research and Planning Administrative Staff for the Malabon Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO), Arnel Mendoza shares, “and setting up an Alternative Temporary Shelter (ATS) has been a big help for us in organizing those who are affected and at the same time, give them comfort while they try to bounce back and the dignity of having their own privacy.”

It has always been a challenge to convince people to adapt to a new system and Arnel had his own fair share. “Our barangay chairperson was apprehensive at first when we opened up about ATS,” Arnel explains, “through the insistence of the barangay council, we got our chairperson to try it out and see how it can be beneficial for us in organizing our evacuees. We talked to the community affected and explained to them thoroughly why the ATS is needed.

“Upon seeing the good it would do to them, they obliged in helping out to set up the ATS. They were the ones who cleaned up the space and the main manpower in setting up the ATS,” Arnel adds, “We delegated some block leaders who would watch over their designated areas, in case there are any concerns. You really have to involve the community in these things, that they would have ownership on these programs.”

Aside from trainings in camp management and setting up ATS, Arnel also learned something more personal from the Move Up Project. “I have learned how to be more humanitarian in thinking up of ideas how to serve those affected by a disaster and most importantly on dealing with people. I imagined myself being in their shoes and that’s how I understood what else they need in the camp. I have learned how to be more patient, and as a public servant, we need a lot of it.

“Disasters are inevitable, but if the community has proper knowledge and are able to abide by these learnings, they would be prepared. I would want them to be always alert, so that they would know how to respond as a community. We need to continuously learn, to attend seminars and trainings, and that’s how we will be fully prepared for any disaster that may come our way,” Arnel says as a final note.