Reducing the risk of disaster
By Dina Teltayeva
Disaster preparedness is a real concern in Kazakhstan, where there is a strong risk of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, striking at any time. A significant proportion of the territory of Kazakhstan, approximately 30 per cent, is located in zones of high seismic activity.
As a result, disaster risk reduction has been at the forefront of UNDP’s work in the country over the past ten years. UNDP, in partnership with the Government of Kazakhstan and DIPECHO, the European Commission's disaster preparedness programme, has taken risk preparation to the next level.
As part of this collaboration, a competition was held among shopping malls to check disaster preparedness among staff and to train employees in how to respond to disasters.
“Thousands of people visit our mall every day, so safety is of utmost importance in my work. I care about my staff and about our visitors,” says Irina Dvoretskaya, executive manager of Almaty’s MAXIMA shopping mall, which took part in the project.
“I knew that there was a set of rules that everyone was supposed to know. But when you’re at home you are responsible only for yourself. Once you become a manager you start thinking more about the consequences and the people you supervise,” continued Irina, who is from Almaty.
Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city and its commercial hub, has seen a number of catastrophic earthquakes strike in its history, with the last major one wreaking a trail of destruction in 1911. Irina was trained to think about the risk of an earthquake, but always treated the possibility of one striking as something distant and unlikely. The project has raised her awareness of the need to be prepared.
“Obviously, shopping malls are usually very big. People need to know where they should go if an earthquake starts, especially when there’s a crowd and it’s hard to find your bearings,” says Irina. “The course provided hands-on training on how to make splints, how to bandage and stop bleeding, how to treat wounds and burns and how to lay an injured person in the recovery position. This knowledge can save the lives of our staff and our customers.”
“We are trying to show that building up resilience isn’t something extra or optional – it is the key to making sure that the country is on a path towards sustainable development,” says UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Kazakhstan Munkhtuya Altangerel.
UNDP has trained people in and around high-risk areas in Kazakhstan and worked with residents of villages and towns to develop “hazard maps” for their areas. The hope is that now this knowledge will gradually be disseminated around larger communities.
Given Kazakhstan’s exposure to natural disasters, a great deal of Government focus these last ten years has been on boosting local awareness and response capacity so as to avoid future casualties. Over these years UNDP has been working with the Government to help weave the notion of disaster risk reduction into local communities.
“What we’ve done now by building disaster resilience in shopping malls is a fundamental step forward. It means that businesses in Kazakhstan are clearly becoming more socially responsible and are taking action to provide for the safety of their visitors,” says UNDP Programme Analyst Rassul Rakhimov.