SENDAI CITY – An expert on disaster mitigation has recommended to governments of countries often hit by natural disasters like the Philippines that youths be educated “as early as possible” on how to prepare and respond to emergency situations.
Fumihiko Imamura, director of the International Research Institute of Disaster Science at Tohoku University, told foreign journalists here on Wednesday that a disaster preparedness education among the youth could minimize casualties during calamities.
“Before 2011, we thought about the importance of education (on disaster preparedness) for higher levels, such as university students or some government people. But (we realized) that they were not interested, they were not keen on disaster preparedness (education then),” he recalled.
But when a magnitude 9 earthquake hit Japan on March 11, 2011, that attitude changed as Sendai City, located northeast of Tokyo, was among the areas heavily damaged by the ensuing tsunami. More than 18,000 people died in the disaster, locally called the Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster.
According to Fumihiko, they have decided to shift the disaster preparedness education to the youth as they are more impressionable and are curious to learn about new information.
“Kids are very sharp, interested to the natural phenomena. We want to provide them with the basic idea (on how these things happen). We want to give some opportunity to enhance their judgment for emergency cases,” he added.
Following the earthquake, the Japanese government has piloted the inclusion of separate disaster preparedness classes in two primary schools in the country.
Masaki Nakatsuji, vice principal of the Shichigo Elementary School also located in Sendai, said they hope the government would adopt the disaster preparedness modules that they have developed for children in the primary grades.
The modules include basic information on disasters and reminders on what to do when calamity strikes, Nakatsuji added.
Earlier this year, Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Armin Luistro issued an order instructing all public schools in the Philippines to conduct activities to prepare students for potential disasters.
Luistro said educating children is necessary as they could share the lessons to their family members.