Lessons Learned, Better Prepared For The Future Quake
The president of the Turkish Red Crescent Society Tekin Küçükali says, We are prepared for any kind of disaster and we won't embarrass the people again in this respect.'
The society was severely criticized after the 1999 Marmara earthquake for its poor disasterresponse preparedness that eventually led to a change in its top management positions.
Ongoing and future projects in connection with its emergency services and relief plans show the society has undergone many changes since 1999. This radical transformation is evidence of an entire mentality shift regarding the way disasters are handled.
Once perceived as a clumsy and nontransparent organization, the Turkish Red Crescent Society (TRCS) now appears to be more dynamic, competent , transparent and structurally stronger on the 10 th anniversary of the disaster. As the President of the Turkish Red Crescent Küçükali said, the institution is now better prepared to face any possible disaster than it was in 1999, including an earthquake.
“We turned over a new leaf," Küçükali, the president of the Turkish Red Crescent Society. "We had to compete with the world. Ten years ago we were an institution that received support from abroad . But now we provide support to 58 countries." Küçükali said.
Established in 1868 and renamed as "Kızılay" (Red Crescent) by the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the Turkish Red Crescent Society is a nongovernmental , humanitarian organization that is financed by donations and provides emergency aid and relief such as shelter, food, clothing, blood and social assistance during and after disasters. It is part of the 186 member International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
"We are in the top five countries among 186 countries in terms of speed in intervening in any disaster in the world and in terms of the materials we stock. Our target is to reach a disaster area in Turkey within maximum of two and a half hours. We are not the old Red Crescent Society like in 1999."
From torn tents to shelter units
The new administration has come up with many projects to rectify long running mistakes and introduced a transparent system that allows everyone to follow the fate of their donations on the institution's web site.
"We bumed all the old tents used in the 1999 earthquake. We destroyed more than 200 truckloads of tents . In consultation with textile engineers, we now design more modern, enduring, comfortable and practical tents that can ensure longterm protection for more people and include basic needs like a bed, a cooker ,a stove, blankets and kitchen set, " Küçükali said.
The society like wise has put more energy into producing more homelike and larger tents in a bid to provide longterm protection for victims, especially in postdisaster periods . Among them is the " Mevlana house, "which is insulated against the heat and the cold, has electricity and can host a family of four . There is also the "Kızılay Obası" which has its own toilet, bath, and store room and can accommodate around 200 and 250 people for five years.
Project for disaster prepardness
Educational programs to raise awareness on measures for preand postearthquake periods also constitute a major role in preparatory works. It thus launched a nationwide disaster preparedness education program called " Project for Organizing Community Leaders, "which was started by Turkish Red Crescent in 2007 and through which the community leaders of teachers, religious leaders and local administrators in villages and towns of Turkey are trained to deal with any possible disasters, in particular earthquakes.
TRCS puts special emphasis on Istanbul, where another major earthquake is expected. The pilot implementation of the program, which was headed by former Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute Chairman Prof.Dr Ahmet Mete Işıkara, thus started in Istanbul. Some 700 trainees were trained for Istanbul alone to give this education program to the community leaders.
Largest disaster operation center in Istanbul
The institution is also set to establish the world's largest disaster operation and logistical support center in Istanbul's Tuzla district to meet the immediate needs of the victims in the event of a major earthquake. In Kartal, the Turkish Red Crescent already has a logistical support center in addition to six other centers in other regions of Turkey.
The institution similarly modernized its technical infrastructure, updated its communication system with a nonstop communication facility in the case of emergency and renewed its vehicle fleet. It also put emphasis on psychological social support activities and established psychological support centers across Turkey. It increased its technical and shelter capacity so it can now provide emergency relief for 250.000 people across the country in the event of a disaster.
Earthquakes are in our minds but life is ahead
" Many things have changed for the Turkish Red Crescent since 1999. We aren't the old institution any longer, " Küçükali said. "We are preparing ourselves in the best way possible to face any potential future disaster within the limits of current circumstances . We are prepared and we won't embarrass the people again."
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the disaster, the society planned a series of events for Aug. 11-19 to spread the message that " Earthquakes are in our minds but our life is still ahead of us! "
Lessons Learned, Better Prepared For The Future Quake "