FYR Macedonia steps up emergency training

Firefighter in school evacuation drill, Strumica, FYROM.
Firemen were trained to respond quickly and effectively to emergencies.

Silvana Abraseva is one of the 1,500 teachers in schools across the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia who helped to carry out evacuation drills to prepare students for earthquakes and fires.

"Together we've trained more than 17,000 children on how to stay safe if there's an earthquake or fire," said Abraseva.  "We're focusing on children because they're the most vulnerable in natural disasters."

Highlights

  • A UNDP-supported project has helped the Government of FYR Macedonia to improve crisis management systems in the country.
  • Special attention has been given to vulnerable groups, including women and children, who tend to be disproportionately affected by disasters.
  • The project has produced crisis management handbooks and manuals, and taught school evacuation strategies to 17,000 children.

National and international agencies in FYR Macedonia joined forces on disaster preparedness following forest fires in 2008, which affected more than half the population, destroyed thousands of acres of arable land and damaged the economy.

The country also experienced forest fires in July 2007, which caused one fatality from smoke poisoning and displaced 45 families. Some 4600 hectares of forestland in 32 municipalities were burnt out between 17 and 27 July.

To help ensure local residents' safety in the event of such disasters, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with local authorities from 12 municipalities and national crisis management institutions in FYR Macedonia, has worked to establish a disaster management system in the country. Funding for the project was provided by the Governments of Japan and FYR Macedonia.

As part of the project, UNDP and partners provided disaster preparedness training to the staff of the National Crisis Management System, as well as to police officers and firefighters. They also helped to produced crisis management handbooks and manuals, which are now used in each of the country's 84 municipalities.

As a result of these efforts, public confidence in the country's crisis management institutions has increased, prompting additional municipalities to apply to join the initiative and to offer to co-finance related activities for their residents.

In more than 380 elementary schools across the country, students are learning crisis management strategies from an innovative new crisis management computer game that has been incorporated into the official school curriculum.

"They understood the importance of investing today for a safer tomorrow," says Abraseva.  "And we all feel much safer now."

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