We are at a school in Aileu municipality, Timor-Leste. Suddenly a loud siren goes down, and all the children rush out of their classrooms and run in the direction of the nearest evacuation point. They are covering their heads with their hands to prevent getting hit by objects that could be flying around. Of course this is only a simulation; the children are preparing for disasters, and practicing what they’ll do if an emergency situation occurs.
Managing the risks through early warning systems
Earthquakes are one of the biggest risks in the mountainous area of Aileu. There is also a high risk of floods, strong winds and landslides. In this village in particular, strong winds have damaged the roofs of houses in the past.
Through the “Safe Schools” project, Plan International works to ensure that children stay safe if those risks become reality. Thanks to joint efforts with the communities, early warning systems are installed and students and teachers are trained.
The Early Warning Systems help with identifying risks before a disaster actually hits. For example, to reach the school in this village many students have to cross a river that stays small in the dry season, but can swell on and become dangerous during the rainy season. A water measurement instrument has therefore been set-up to indicate the height of the river, and signboards explaining about risks and how to behave if a disaster hits have been installed.
Keeping children safe through first aid trainings
The first aiders receive extra trainings, and learn how and when to care for the injured.
One of the objectives of this project is to ensure that communities, and especially children take over responsibility for the safety of their peers if a disaster hits. That is why some of them are trained to become first-aiders. Angela, 9 years old, is one of them: “I like doing the simulation. Rushing out of the classroom is fun. But the siren is very loud,” she says smiling. “We learned how to behave in an emergency situation. When there is an earthquake, we move to the evacuation point because there are no trees or buildings that could hit us,” she adds.
The first aiders receive extra trainings, and learn how and when to care for the injured. “We are looking out for special signals,” she explains, “When a child falls on the ground for example, we know we have to help”.
In total, 46 schools in Aileu benefitted from the project ad are now equipped with early warning systems. In addition, teachers, students and parents now have a clear strategy on how to identify risks and dangerous situations and know how to respond to them.
Plan International Timor-Leste's Safe Schools programme is supported by Plan International Sweden and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).