Vietnam is constantly barraged by cyclones and dangerous floods, with an average of 160 natural disasters occurring a year, and a joint training program initiated by the American Red Cross is teaching residents to be much better prepared.
In one training, an elderly woman holds tightly to a rope in the rain, while a Vietnam Red Cross volunteer leads her to safety. Another woman, screaming for her missing son, holds up the line of those evacuating, but the Emergency Response Team members are trained to handle this.
That’s because this practice drill is part of the Program for Enhancement of Emergency Response (PEER) Community Action for Disaster Response (CADRE), or more simply, PEER CADRE. The program is implemented by the Vietnam Red Cross and supported by the American Red Cross with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).
A total of 64 central Vietnamese communes–the rough equivalent of a U.S. county–have Vietnam Red Cross trained teams comprised of 24 members each, ready to serve during an emergency. Each team is provided key response supplies and equipment ranging from chainsaws and boats to megaphones, life jackets and first aid kits. Once a year, they practice an emergency drill within their community which includes putting out fires, water rescues, collapsed building rescues, first aid and evacuations.
Tao Thi My Hanh is a female team member and trainer from the Quang Nam province.
Tears freely stream from her face as she recalls the historical floods of 2008. “Terrible, it was just terrible,” she said softly.
Now, My Hanh not only serves as a volunteer in her community but trains others as an instructor. Volunteers go through intense trainings on a regular basis to make sure they recall the skills they learned.
Truly a community event, residents play parts in the scenarios, acting as distressed family members, injured survivors and onlookers to simulate as real of a situation as possible. Following the drill, the community gathers to discuss how it went and receive feedback.
Vo Van Cuong participated in a refresher training exercise. His village is one of the most disaster prone in the district. He wanted to reduce the damage and loss that happened often in his community and saw being an ERT member as a chance.
As a teenager in 1998, devastating floods destroyed his village. Boats were turned over, houses flooded, his elderly neighbor perished.
“My community looked like a disease, afterwards,” he said. “There were dead animals floating down the streets and the lack of sanitation lead to epidemics. But now because of my training, I can help people, I feel useful. I can rescue my neighbors and help evacuate them to a safe place.”
The curriculum used for PEER CADRE, along with key master trainers, are provided by the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) and is part of a regional effort funded by USAID with supplementary support from the American Red Cross. In Vietnam, PEER CADRE is a key component of American Red Cross’s overall holistic school and community-based disaster risk reduction programming.
For more information on the American Red Cross work around disaster preparedness, visit www.redcross.org.