Indonesians' Lack of Awareness About Disaster Mitigation

Living in earthquake-prone country, Indonesians need to remain cautious. To date, there has not been any piece of technology that can predict earthquake. Hence, disaster mitigation is paramount.

Indonesians' Lack of Awareness About Disaster Mitigation' photo
The rescue team searching for the buried casualties in Balaroa, Palu, following the soil liquefaction that happened in Palu. (ACTNews/Eko Ramdani)

ACTNews, JAKARTA - The earthquake that triggered a massive tsunami occurred in Aceh in 2004. A similar incident occurred in late September 2018 when an earthquake that triggered the tsunami and soil liquefactions in Central Sulawesi. Although Aceh and Central Sulawesi are located far away from each other these great disasters should make the people more aware that they live in a disaster-prone country.

Professor Ronald A. Harris from Bringham Young University, Utah, stated on Friday (11/29) that at least two major earthquakes occur each year in Indonesia. Meanwhile, from 1900-2000, on average, tsunami happened every four years. "I present this data is not to frighten you, but people need to know about this in order to mitigate the impact of disasters," said the professor who has long been researching about tsunamis and earthquakes in Indonesia.

Unfortunately, there are still many people who are not aware of the importance of disaster mitigation in order to reduce the casualties. One factor that contributes to the lack of awareness about disaster mitigation in Indonesia because Indonesia's seismic activity is currently in dormant state.

In Harris’ opinion, the life-saving strategies for disasters that occurred in Indonesia are still bad due to the low communication and implementation of the risk-reduction strategies. Every time a disaster occurs, the number of people affected is very large. He cited the magnitude 5.9 earthquake that occurred in Yogyakarta in 2006. The earthquake was not too massive, but the death toll was so large, reaching over 6 thousand people.

Balaroa, a neighborhood devastated by soil liquefaction in Palu. (ACTNews)

Many of the casualties during an earthquake are not caused by the strong tremors itself, but by the buildings that can’t withstand earthquakes. They collapsed and hit everything inside and underneath it. For this reason, people living in areas that are prone to disasters especially earthquakes, are advised to prepare special safe spaces during an earthquake. "By strengthening the foundations, or following the suggestions of the researchers. This becomes a life-saving solution when an earthquake occurs," explained Eko Yulianto, an earthquake researcher from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) as a speaker at the seminar on earthquake and tsunami at the PBNU Building, Jakarta, Friday (11/29).

Eko added, the public can also find out about the history of the earthquakes and tsunamis of the past by through local culture and wisdom. He gave an example like the song of Serat Srinata that tells about the legend of the South Queen of Java. The song tells about the terrifying condition of the sea during a tsunami. There is also the term smong used by the Acehnese of Simeulue that denotes a tsunami. The arrival of smong also exists in the poetry of the local Simeulue community.

Earthquakes and tsunamis have occurred since thousands of years ago. For this reason, the community must have more awareness, especially those in areas prone to earthquake and tsunami disasters. The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency mapped that at least there are six regions in Indonesia that are called “seismic gap”, active tectonic areas in which earthquakes rarely occur. People in these regions must be very cautious because it may accumulate strong seismic energy.