New Delhi: The Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS) today announced the launch of Honeywell Safe Schools, a holistic school safety and disaster risk reduction program. Funded by a Honeywell India grant, Honeywell Safe Schools will empower 25,000 students, 40,000 parents, and 1,000 teachers across 50 Delhi schools to make them disaster-ready. This disaster risk reduction program is tailor-made to address each school’s unique challenges to ensure children go to school without fear, remain safe in school, and return home safely.
SEEDS undertook a baseline study to understand school safety and disaster-preparedness in Delhi, assess risks and risk perception, and determine remedial measures. The baseline study was released by Shri Kamal Kishore, Member, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), in the presence of government and civic agency leaders representing schools, law enforcement, first responders, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The study identified potential risks related to natural and manmade disasters, and revealed startling facts about the lack of awareness and involvement from parents:
· Ironically, most parents feared road accidents and bullying, but failed to recognize more serious life-risks from natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.
· About 60 percent respondents blamed losses during disasters to inadequate response systems, but 99 percent did not know any helpline numbers to these response systems.
· Also in contradiction, while response systems were to blame, lack of community preparedness was not.
Speaking at the launch, Manu Gupta, Executive Director, SEEDS, said, “We are pleased to partner with Honeywell India to launch a pioneering school safety and disaster risk reduction program in the most vulnerable areas of Delhi. Our study highlights that often high potential risks are not recognized as imminent threats, and there is a need to create awareness among children, parents, teachers, and civic authorities to mitigate the impact of disasters.”
As the national capital and a busy landlocked city, Delhi’s most visible and talked about risks are fog, smog, epidemics, and accidents. Yet, the physical, geological, and spatial setting of the city also makes it vulnerable to many other natural and manmade risks. Delhi is at high risk from two natural hazards that could lead to major disasters – earthquakes and floods. However, since no significant flood or earthquake has occurred recently, there is low recall and awareness about associated risks. This makes inhabitants more vulnerable as there is no public memory or appreciation that emergency preparedness and response can save thousands of lives and valuable assets.
Vikas Chadha, President, Honeywell India, said, “As a global technology leader in safety, we transform the way people live, work, and travel every day. It is a natural extension to bring our understanding of home and building safety to bear on communities we work and live with. It is also a natural partnership with SEEDS – an NGO globally recognized for their subject matter expertise in all three steps to disaster mitigation – preparedness, response, and recovery.”
The Honeywell Safe Schools program involves structural assessment of each school by engineers and architects; evaluation of risk perception among children, teachers and parents; and examination of preparedness in the face of any natural or manmade disaster. Experts from SEEDS work closely with children, schools, and communities to train them in disaster-preparedness and risk reduction. This is done through interactive sessions, mock drills, peer-to-peer learning, and non-structural mitigation of risks.