The world can learn from the turnaround of the Philippines' disaster awareness as shown by its experiences with super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013 and Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) in 2014, a US surgeon who took part in the response to both disasters, said.
Michael Karch, a surgeon with Mammoth Hospital in Mammoth Lakes, California, said learning lessons from Yolanda and applying them during Ruby may have saved the lives of some 1.7 million Filipinos.
"The preemptive actions of the Philippine government, military, medical, and civilian sectors should serve as valuable lessons for the rest of the world as we collectively begin to embrace mass casualty education and preparedness on an individual, national, and international platform," Karch said in a blog post.
Yolanda, which tore through the Visayas on Nov. 8, 2013, left more than 6,300 dead.
In contrast, Ruby - which, like Yolanda, packed powerful winds and posed a major threat - resulted in 18 deaths. The lower casualty count was in part due to massive evacuations in areas Ruby was projected to hit.
Karch said Yolanda's destruction had been described as the "Night of 1,000 Knives,” due to the flying debris that "wreaked injury and death on the Filipino population."
In contrast, he said, Ruby could be dubbed the "Night of a Million and a Half Flames" referring to 1.7 million plus people who survived the typhoon.
"Widespread public health and civil defense measures that had been established in the interim between Haiyan and Hagupit were initiated in the days before landfall," he said.
Karch, who said he served as a team leader in Civilian Mobile Forward Surgical Teams (CMFSTs) in the aftermath of both typhoons, found certain patterns that he said are reproducible.
"Valuable lessons can be taken from each and applied to the next. The initial differences between the disaster response to Typhoons Haiyan versus Hagupit are striking. The simple fact that the Philippine government was able to evacuate more than a million and a half million citizens out of harm's way is a testament to their dedication to learn and evolve as super storms occur on a more frequent basis," he said.
"Although the response to Hagupit was not perfect, it was much improved from that of Haiyan. The use of progressive communication through social media and Short Message Service (SMS) texting played a large role in this success," he added.
Karch likened the turnaround to super storms Katrina in 2005 and Sandy in 2013 in the US.
"As with Haiyan, the Hurricane Katrina experience was a glaring low point in terms of public opinion and confidence in governmental response to natural disaster. The government response to Hurricane Sandy showed marked improvement in pre-emptive planning and execution on the part of federal, state and city government," he said.
"The recent Philippine Hagupit experience provides us with another opportunity to learn. Although no system is perfect, if the motivation to continually improve our national disaster response is a driving force, we must study all storms, especially those with successful outcomes, and determine how we can apply these lessons to our own public health and disaster preparedness programs," he added
taken from: http://www.gmanetwork.com