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. It Takes People Power To Overcome Disasters

Officials in the United States could learn a lot from successful community-based responses overseas, said Melinda Moore, a senior health researcher at the RAND Corporation. In Iran, for example, community elders have been trained to act as liaisons between foreign aid workers and disaster victims. In India, villages with residents trained in search and rescue and first aid experienced significantly lower fatalities after the 2004 tsunami struck.
by Olga Pierce
UPI Health Business Correspondent
Washington (UPI) May 18, 2007
Efforts to prepare for public health disasters are leaving out a critical component, experts say: the individual citizen. "Citizens have to get involved," said Maurice Ramirez, co-founder of Disaster Life Support of North America, a company that educates officials and the public about disaster preparedness and recovery.

"We need to make people be prepared and it's just not happening," Ramirez told United Press International.

With the sad anniversary of Hurricane Katrina only months away and the beginning of hurricane season looming, public health disaster preparations are again in the public consciousness. Government agencies and healthcare providers continue their efforts to ensure a successful response to any emergency that might emerge.

But many people do not realize what they need to do to prepare, and the government may be missing out on the opportunity to harness people power, according to public health experts.

In any kind of disaster, those affected must be prepared to meet their own basic needs -- like food, water and fuel -- for the first 72 hours, Ramirez said.

"That's just a reality. It takes that long to fully ramp up a response."

Getting that message to people is an often overlooked piece of local preparation efforts, he said. Every kindergartner, for example, is taught basic fire safety. But few schools have adopted programs teaching children what to do if there is a hurricane or other emergency.

Along with "stop, drop and roll" children need to know that, when they evacuate, they need clothes, supplies, medications and photos of their parents, he said.

"People are not getting that message because that message is not being taught efficiently."

Leaving citizens out of the disaster preparedness process also means that they cannot prod public officials to take their needs into account, Ramirez added. In areas where citizens are involved, plans may not include things that are important to them, like quickly reopening schools or placing relief supplies at convenient locations.

"The citizenry has to influence government, because government will not influence itself," he said.

Officials in the United States could learn a lot from successful community-based responses overseas, said Melinda Moore, a senior health researcher at the RAND Corporation.

International examples illustrate "the community plays a very important role at all stages from preparation to recovery," Moore told UPI.

"The person next door is really the first responder," she said. "If people know what to do, they'll do it and the response will be better."

Other countries and international relief organizations are already aware of this, Moore said. In Iran, for example, community elders have been trained to act as liaisons between foreign aid workers and disaster victims. In India, villages with residents trained in search and rescue and first aid experienced significantly lower fatalities after the 2004 tsunami struck.

Even though U.S. overseas relief agencies participated in many of those efforts, she said, domestic preparedness efforts have not incorporated their skills, which could provide good models.

"As we think about what we ought to be doing in this country, we could use (overseas examples) to enrich the information that feeds into the decisions we make," Moore said. "We might get some good ideas."

Source: United Press International

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International Cooperation Boosts EarthCARE
Noordwijk, Netherlands (SPX) May 21, 2007
With the design consolidation phase soon to start for ESA's EarthCARE mission, scientists and engineers from around the world recently met to discuss preparations for a mission that is being implemented with the cooperation of Japanese partners to address the need for a better understanding of how the interactions between clouds, aerosols and solar radiation regulate climate.

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