The beginning of 2015 has been plagued by the flood crisis with the next step to reconstruct the basic infrastructures like schools, hospitals, roads and bridges for which the government has allocated RM3.29 billion.
The flood crisis in the country isn’t a new scenario but the late 2014 hit was unpredicted compared to the previous ones which I believe is not a new dilemma to a few.
Out of my experience in helping out the victims recently in Kampung Gajah, after asking them a few questions such as, “Is this situation something new to you all?” and the answer will be “No”, or “have all of you prepared earlier for the situation?” and the same answer again, “No”.
This shows that something is lacking in our society: lack of flood management education?
Among my worst experience helping out the victims was the difficulty of evacuating them out from the pedalaman (interiors) to the relief centres where the basic logistics like the roads are cut off due to the high water level and these victims are mostly from the age group between 60 and 95 years old. They seem to have prepared their minds to losing their lives along with their houses which they have built. This is not right!
We can overcome this if we have the right strategies and mechanisms to educate the people to protect them and to manage the crisis more systematically.
The first aspect is to change their mindset from being ‘Myopic’ towards dealing with facts. Among the other exposures to be included are,
Before the floods:
Include flood awareness and preparedness in school programmes.
Publicise flood risk areas, warning signs and evacuation plans.
Collect local history of flooding and mark areas affected.
Educate people about the causes, risks and warning signs of floods as wel asl the importance to evacuate during flood times.
Conduct Risk Assessments:
Distribute flood hazard maps so that people know about flood prone areas.
Flood maps help identify risks to individuals, enable preparation of emergency response plans, and determine where flood protection measures must be taken.
Prepare a community action plan that explains what to do in case of flooding.
Before year end:
Related departments should start alerting the people on flood preparedness.
Remind to transfer their valuables to a higher ground.
Communicate to Stakeholders
It is very important for the district officer and penghulu (village headman) to have a good relationship with the people so that information can be passed on effectively and as a penduduk (resident), they will have to cooperate with their village heads as well.
Once people are made aware about flood management, I’m sure it will be easier to manage as well as to protect some of their belongings instead of losing everything like every other year.
Importantly, we have less than five years before we achieve Vision 2020 and developing a world class mentality is what we all should work towards instead of only working towards world class infrastructure.
I would also like to thank all the government agencies, departments, GLCs, corporate companies, NGOs and all the volunteers who were out on the grounds helping the victims to ease the situation. Well done and thank you!
Dr Venkates Rao.EPresident, YouthCorp Malaysia