Realistic Disaster Simulation Prepares Communities & Authorities

Guatemala is one of the most disaster-prone nations in the world. Between droughts, floods, volcano eruptions, earthquakes and landslides, Guatemala is geographically placed to experience a major disaster event more frequently than other countries.

And aside from its geographic placement, its weak infrastructure often amplifies the negative effects of weather hazards. PADF is working with local authorities in reducing the risk of disaster by making key changes to infrastructure and preparation.

But disaster events are often unforeseen. How can officials prepare to save more lives in the hours and days after a disaster?

In a simulation held by PADF on September 2 and 3, local disaster teams (called COLREDs) in Guatemala trained to respond to disaster situations. Local community members role-played as disaster victims, acting desperate with injuries painted on their skin, as COLRED members trained in first response and disaster recovery.

The simulation was part of the Yo Me Preparo project, funded by Taiwan.

More than 180 disaster response personnel - including firefighters, national police, and national disaster defense - were trained in the simulation. They learned about evacuation and security systems, first response, and emergency planning.

In addition, mechanisms were shown for saving the highest quantity of people possible in any disaster situation.

In Guatemala, communities built on steep hillsides are especially prone to experiencing landslides. Therefore, it was vital that COLRED members trained in excavating people and rescuing those who had been trapped inside their homes.

At the end of the day, participants were reminded of the importance of preparing for rainy season, when soil gets water-logged and loses its adhesiveness. Each community should work together to take preparative measures before the threat of a disaster, because Guatemala depends on its local disaster personnel to save lives.