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After a school was retrofitted, SEEDS facilitated trainings in disaster preparedness for community members, school staff and students. The trainings included search and rescue, fire safety, first-aid, safe evacuation and mapping contingency plans. Students were also trained in ‘duck, cover and hold’ methods in case of earthquakes and safe evacuation. Special training was also provided to school staff to create a school disaster management plan. Together, the school retrofit and the accompanying ‘soft’ activities with the school community were expected to serve as a channel for promoting a culture of prevention and preparedness in the local community. SEEDS then formed school disaster management task forces based on the trainings, which were divided into functional groups. These were search and rescue, first-aid, fire response, and a group to connect with the local government offices. The task force members included representatives from local leaders, parent-teacher associations and school clubs. Establishing a Joint Action Plan After the school community became aware of disaster risk reduction principles, SEEDS established a Joint Action Plan, which connected the school task force with the larger community. They performed outreach to ensure the wider community knew the school could be a gathering point in a flood, earthquake or other sustained hazard. By strengthening this connection, SEEDS was attempting to ensure the community benefited from the training and disaster management planning at the school. Even though the school was likely to operate as a safe haven and school task forces would take leadership roles during a disaster, SEEDS also taught communities emergency preparedness skills and basic hazard knowledge in case the school became incapacitated. and Rescue task force then had to respond by finding the missing people and providing aid. If the missing students were injured, they would be connected with the hospital. It was not just the adults that role-played. Students also practised their response skills, identifying damaged buildings, rescuing each other, performing first-aid and putting out fake fires. The mock drills were both realistic and exciting. The biggest challenge for the students was to evacuate quickly and to establish coordination among the task forces. However, they became more efficient through multiple practices of the mock drill. Overall, the process of engagement, retrofitting and practising mock drills took a full year. On completion of the project SEEDS handed the project details – including the disaster management plan, guidelines for retrofit and other project details – to the local education department for implementation in other schools. The governments in several provinces have adopted the initiative for wide-spread replication. Key takeaways • Safe school construction should be integrated into a comprehensive school safety program. • Non-structural mitigation is an integral part of Comprehensive School Safety, and a part in which students and staff can actively participate. • Safe school construction projects provide impetus for engaging communities in school disaster management. • School mock drills, especially when coordinated with the wider community, can provide good opportunities for practice and affirmation of a culture of safety. The Joint Action Plan was designed to help the task forces react to disasters as well as proactively protect children during their routine interactions with school. One proactive measure included consistent updates for parents on the whereabouts of their children. Disaster or not, if a bus was late, parents were sure to get a call explaining why. After being given a predetermined signal, students responded with ‘duck, cover, and hold’ as they had been taught during the disaster preparedness training. They then evacuated the school buildings following the practice of ‘don’t run, don’t push, don’t talk, don’t turn back’. Students left the building by class and organised at a set assembly point. Realistic conditions involved certain students that were ‘trapped’ in the school or generally missing. The Search In 2011, officials from Shimla’s police, education and public works department meet with the SEEDS project manager during an advocacy workshop. Photo: SEEDS. SECTION III: POST-CONSTRUCTION For the school communities, the experience culminated with a large mock drill where the school, fire department, the hospital and local government played the part they would function in a real emergency. SEEDS identified mock earthquake drills as the most useful exercise for students, staff and communities to check their preparedness levels. They encouraged the local government to mandate the mock drill to ensure everyone participated. 92