Disaster Risk Awareness and Preparedness Program for Families living in 10 villages of Kattumannar Block, Cuddalore District, Tamilnadu State, India


Kattumannarkoil block is situated in Cuddalore District. The project villages are flood prone areas and every year they experience flooding. The sudden flooding results in loss of shelters and belongings. Those who are living in the low lying areas are dalits and ‘backward class’ people. They are very vulnerable to flooding in these areas. This region’s vulnerability is compounded by socio-economic conditions that are steadily increasing the impact of disasters. Demographic changes, urbanization, and environmental degradation have reduced the amount of habitable land available. The incidences of natural disasters and consequent complex emergency situations have been on the rise over the past decade. The communities that are living in areas prone to natural disasters are vulnerable to risks and hazards. Human settlements bear the brunt of the negative impacts of natural disasters, requiring a long time and more resources to come back to normalcy. Habitat for Humanity India, through its Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation program, aims to assist communities living in vulnerable areas to build their capacities and work together to increase their resilience. The Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation efforts help communities to identify vulnerabilities and the factors contributing to the vulnerabilities. Many of the vulnerabilities identified by the communities found to be related to poverty, livelihoods, unsafe buildings and lack of resources.


Disaster risk reduction initiatives involve various steps taken to decrease the consequences of an event, including measures of prevention, mitigation, preparedness and response. To date, HFH India has helped more than 29,000 families from the disaster prone areas to strengthen their capacities to mitigate and recover from disaster impacts. The Disaster Risk Awareness and Preparedness Program for Families living in 10 villages of Kattumannar Koil Block, Cuddalore District, Tamilnadu State, India is a new project implemented in flood prone areas in Cuddalore regions of Tamil Nadu. The project assisted 2500 individuals to equip themselves with disaster risk reduction concepts and to take an active part in mitigating and responding to disasters in a proactive way.
The shelters of most of the Dalits and 'backward class' people were damaged as they are living in thatched houses on the downward sides (very close to the river). The people do not have the financial capacity to construct new and disaster-safe houses. Currently they use palm leaves and canes to repair and renovate their damaged houses. There is no awareness about early warning systems and disaster preparedness though the families are in constant fear of floods. REAL had proposed a community-based disaster risk reduction project to Habitat for Humanity India. In addition to natural disasters, civil crises and complex emergencies have also affected development as there is constant struggle between the Dalits and upper caste people. The people are working as daily agricultural labourers in the farms and as daily wage earners in the factories in the nearby towns. A school safety programme in 15 schools with the participation of the school children and the staff had helped in identifying the most vulnerable areas in the school and also the evacuation routes. The resources available at the school for combating disasters and hazards were collected by the students themselves and the plans were drawn accordingly.
Managing risk through reducing vulnerability is gaining importance. The challenge before us is to introduce long term, sustainable DRR initiatives to the vulnerable communities. Towards this end, there is a need to build the capacity of the people so that they are able to plan and manage programs with less external support. The disaster risk reduction program supported by Habitat for Humanity India and implemented by REAL in 10 villages in Kattumannarkoil block had built up components for sustainability. The whole programme was based on orientation, capacity building, and Institution Building etc. The dissemination of knowledge gained on DRR through the training in turn educated the other community members and family members in the respective villages. The training to the school children and the teachers actually strengthened the family members of the children and the teachers would be able to pass on the knowledge to new students also. Hence the chain reaction in the dissemination of knowledge on DRR would be a continuous one. The building up of institutions like the Village DMP, School DMP committees, the various teams etc would enhance the sustainability of the program on its own. The linkage with the government departments would help the community members to work for their development.


The whole concept of disaster risk reduction heavily relies upon the various teams formed at the village level to minimize the impact of any disaster/hazard. The formation of an Early Warning Team, Search and Rescue Team, First Aid Team, Relief Team, Vigilance Team and Children Protection Team and training the team members in the activities of each team was done by the REAL – Habitat Project Team. A Disaster Risk Reduction plan was developed in 5 villages. Village Disaster Management Committees were formed in all the 10 villages and 200 Emergency Response Team Members were trained. Mock drills were conducted in the villages and Schools. 876 school children, 27 teachers and 300 Parent Teacher Association Members were trained in DRR aspects. 10 REAL staff members were trained in project monitoring and reporting. Linkages were developed with Government Departments and Inter Agency Groups – Sphere initiated network groups.
The CBDRM process brought to light the existing housing conditions’ vulnerability to disasters by virtue of their location and quality of structures. The CBDRM project promoted togetherness of the community by bringing them together to identify factors contributing to their vulnerability to disasters. The CBDRM project enhanced the skills and thereby developed the confidence of the community to face emergency situations by training them to prioritize problems and develop action plans to address each problem. The CBDRM initiatives motivated the community members to act as a pressure group to demand the services due to them from the local government bodies. The CBDRM project instilled a sense of ownership of the project by the community members. The CBDRM Project helped in establishing linkages and new relationships among already existing groups in the communities like Self-Help groups, Village Council and Youth Association etc. The School Preparedness component of the CBDRM project ensured participation of even children and youth, thereby building the foundation for safer families and communities.


The role of Habitat was that of a facilitator, thereby strengthening communities to gain confidence to face any disaster situation. Habitat for Humanity India intends to take the DRR initiatives forward through facilitating regular updates of the contingency plans. In order to acquaint the community members with the Disaster Preparedness and Response initiatives, regular mock drills will be organized. Linkages will be established with the government and non-government organisations for these communities. The regular Habitat housing programs will be extended to these communities in order to improve the quality of housing, thereby mitigating their vulnerability due to the existing poor quality of structures. Schools should be involved in the risk reduction work; thereby the young children, youth and the teaching community will join their hands in the CBDRM process. Community members should be motivated to develop village contingency/emergency funds for immediate use at the time of emergencies/disasters. The risk reduction initiatives will be mainstreamed in the overall village development plan in order to inculcate the importance of disaster preparedness in these vulnerable communities.
The REAL – Habitat DR Team has built up good rapport with the Fire and Rescue Services Department, the Community Leaders, Panchayat Presidents and ward members, Parent Teacher Association members etc., who have all supported the work of REAL – Habitat in the DRR program. 15 Village Disaster Management Committees have been formed. All the Village DMC members have gone through the Community Oriented training on DRR.
Disaster resilient communities in 10 villages covering 2,500 families in Kattumannar Koil block, Cuddalore District, Tamil Nadu have been developed. “Village Level Disaster Risk Reduction Plans” in 10 villages in Kattumannar Koil block of Cuddalore District, Tamil Nadu have been developed. “Emergency Response Teams” in 10 villages in Kattumannar Koil block of Cuddalore District, Tamil Nadu have been developed. “School Based Disaster Risk Reduction Programs” in 15 schools in Kattumannar Koil block of Cuddalore District, Tamil Nadu have been developed. Staff members of “REAL ” have developed disaster response skills. A one-day capacity building workshop for the staff of the REAL–HABITAT Project Team was conducted on 19th September 2011 at REAL’s Koonimedu Training Center in Villupuram district. 15 staff from REAL had participated in the capacity building workshop and Mr. Paul Sundar, Director, Habitat India, Chennai, Mr. Samuel Peter, Director, Disaster Management Programme, Habitat India and Mr. Lawrence, President cum Director, REAL were present at the workshop. With a prelude on various types of disasters in the world and India, the participants of the training learned about Village and Schools DMP, DRR, Emergency Operation, Disaster Management Committees at the Village Levels, School Safety and Trainings to School Children and Teachers etc. The Focus Group Discussion and the Question and Answer Sessions helped the participants in enhancing their knowledge on DMP and DRR. The Project Team was able to prepare the DRR Plan for all the villages with the active participation of the village communities and volunteers through PRAs and PLAs during September and October 2011. The services of 10 volunteers from each village were utilized in the collection and compilation of village resource data. The village PRA mapping had been completed in 5 villages. The Fire and Rescue Services Department personnel had conducted mock drills on DRR in all the villages and schools. The ways, means and the use of local resources in fighting fires, floods and other hazards were demonstrated by the Fire and Rescue Services personnel.
The project was funded by Habitat for Humanity International and Habitat for Humanity India implemented the project with support from REAL, an NGO working in this community.
Case Study 1: I am Senthamarai from Veerananalloor village in Kattumannarkoil Block of Cuddalore district. Veerananalloor is one of the villages frequently affected by intermittent rain, flood, overflow of water from the Veeranam Lake. Every year the entire community suffers due to the floods. I am extremely glad to say that I am one of the 9 members in the Disaster Emergency Response Team in our village. All our members had no idea about disaster management, preparedness or disaster risk reduction measures before the REAL – HFH India DRR Team had a meeting in our village community during September 2011. It was truly an eye opener. All the members in the Emergency Response Team, women SHG members, men, youth and adolescents, vulnerable members like the aged, disabled and the school children from our village have been imparted with training on early warning systems, search and rescue, evacuation, first aid, relief, shelter management and vigilance by resource persons under the REAL – HFH India DRR program. We have learnt the ways and means of using communication gadgets like phones etc at the time of any hazard/emergency to contact the appropriate authorities for help, and the Fire and Rescue Services Department Personnel has demonstrated through mock drills on the ways of controlling fires in the houses and the society, the means to avoid fires when cooking etc. They also demonstrated simple rescue techniques. The importance of using the local resources like coconut husk, plastic water bottles at the time of floods, sand against fires, bed sheets, gunny bags to control flames etc. I am very proud to say that the trainings and mock drills have helped us in saving our neighbours whose houses were under fire due to electrical short circuit. All the members in our village whole heartedly thank the facilitators from REAL and HFH India. Case Study 2 I am Thillai Nayagi from Nattarmangalam village in Kattumannarkoil Block in Cuddalore district. It is one of the villages frequently affected by intermittent rain, flood and overflow of water from the Veeranam Lake. I had studied up to the 10th Standard and am a leading member of the Women Self Help Group, facilitated by REAL, in our village. Our village, Nattarmangalam has a population of around 2,000 people. Most of the dwellings in our village are made up of mud walls with thatched roofs made of coconut leaves. Since our village is situated in low lying area, it is highly prone to flooding during the rainy season and also to fire during the summer season. Every year, water overflowing from the Veeranam Lake and Vadalar River used to flood our village. We used to struggle wading through knee deep water and suffer from colds and all sorts of infections. We were unable to do anything and used to wait for the water to recede since we did not have any knowledge on flood management, preparedness, flood risk reduction measures etc. During the flood and recent Thane Cyclone, REAL issued relief materials like mats, provisions, rice, utensils etc. During the month of June 2011, REAL & HFH India embarked upon the training on DRR to all the community members in our village since our village is highly vulnerable to flood and fire hazards. The formation of Emergency Response Teams and the trainings to school children and others have helped us a lot in facing the Cyclone Thane disaster in December 2011. We have gained confidence and are ready to employ the risk reduction measures taught to us by REAL –HFH India, We thank REAL – HFH India for the DRR Training program.