Press Release
September 8, 2009

Effective response to disasters starts in the local level--Gordon

Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today said that response efforts during disasters, and even risk and damage reduction measures, would be more effective if they are embedded in the local level.

Speaking at the 2nd Asia-Pacific Housing Forum on the issue of "Coordination and Protocol for an Effective Response to Disasters", Gordon said that all disasters are local and therefore emergency response should always start at the community level.

"We have to break the cycle of poverty and disaster. The most effective way to do it is to start in the local level. Local folks should have the ability to help themselves and their neighbors during disasters while waiting aid from the government. The key is to predict, plan, prepare and practice," he said.

Gordon explained that the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), which he chairs, has existing coordination mechanisms for emergency response from international to local levels; but the organization's current focus is the strengthening of its local network of volunteers called the Red Cross 143.

During the recent maritime disaster where the SuperFerry 9 sank off Zamboanga Peninsula, the PNRC was able to immediately mobilize its chapters in Zamboanga Del Norte, Zamboanga City, Zamboanga Sibugay and General Santos City and quickly respond to the needs of the victims because of its network of local volunteers.

The PNRC's local chapters were able to immediately respond and provide relief to the victims because they are equipped with ambulances and disaster response vehicles.

Gordon explained that the Red Cross 143 is a network of 44 volunteers (1 leader plus 43 members) in every barangay who must be the first to prepare, first to report and first to respond during disasters and other emergency situations.

"Our goal is to promote a culture of self-help in communities by developing a formidable network of Red Cross volunteers who can be mobilized to reduce and cope with hazard, exposure and vulnerability," he said.

He pointed out that with the Red Cross 143, the risk and damage during disasters is reduced; there is coordinated quick on-site response and assistance; there is continuous blood supply; and there is always adequate manpower support that even in massive disasters, the 143 volunteers can still assist and manage.

"We achieve and deliver humanitarian assistance due to our extensive network, coordination and partnership with donors, humanitarian actors, corporations, local government units, beneficiaries and our extensive network of volunteers in the grassroots level," he said.

"What we want is to get as many people on the ground working. The Red Cross is committed to alleviate human suffering. At the same time, it is also our commitment to uplift human dignity, and so we empower the people through Red Cross 143 so that they can already help themselves and their neighbors especially during times of disasters," he added.

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