Let’s admit it – if an earthquake hits us right now, most of us wouldn’t know what to do. GeoHazards Society India wants to change that. It is an organization in Mizoram that is committed to enhancing disaster preparedness of citizens by carrying out capacity building, holding training sessions, and awareness programmes.
“In 2008, all Tibetan schools in Dharamshala carried out an evacuation drill in the month of April. This grew to include all Tibetan Schools in Himachal Pradesh, with about 10,000 participants in 2009.This is one of our first and longest running campaigns,” says Hari Kumar proudly, one of the founding members of GeoHazards Society India.
April 4th is the anniversary of a massive earthquake that shook Kangra Valley, and resulted in around 22,000 deaths. In the following years, the drill spread out to non-Tibetan schools as well and now over 7 lakh participants partake in it every year. Thanks to GeoHazards India, disaster preparedness is now taken up with utmost seriousness by the residents of Dharamshala as well as the state government.
The areas of focus for GeoHazards Society India are primarily schools and hospitals because they are the most sensitive areas in the event of a natural disaster. The states that require the maximum disaster preparedness are the ones in Seismic Zone 4 and 5.
“Mizoram falls under Seismic Zone 5,” says Hari Kumar, focusing his attention on the importance of disaster preparedness in the state. Specific to Aizawl, he says that, “The road connecting to the city can turn risky during an earthquake as it can easily trigger landslides, and the bridge connected to the airport may collapse in the event of an earthquake.” The state therefore has poor connectivity with the rest of the country. With a greater length of international borders than state borders, it becomes even more difficult for relief efforts to reach the city. This is the reason the city needs to be self-sufficient in terms of preparedness of earthquakes.
GeoHazards Society India has now set up a campaign to teach disaster preparedness to the people of Aizawl. As a pilot project, they have chosen 50 schools at Aizawl. Through this campaign, they aim to reach out to 20,000 students directly and 80,000 people indirectly through the children’s families. GSI will train representatives from each school, who will, in turn, train the teachers and students of their respective schools. They will also conduct mock drills and supply the schools with first aid kits.
Founded in 2007, GeoHazards Society India usually raises funds on a project basis from partner organizations and the state government for capability building and training programmes. For this campaign, they have turned to crowdfunding, and are running a campaign on Milaap for raising funds.
This story was originally published in The Optimist Citizen.