The Five Ways to Survive a Disaster

Children learn to climb trees as part of a disaster risk reduction plan

For a flood-prone community where Food for the Hungry (FH) works in Bangladesh, palm trees are an important part of their Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) plan. The community makes sure every child can both swim and climb a palm tree.

FH worked with that community to develop and implement a five-pronged DRR plan that includes prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and worldview.

Here’s how the strategy works in our programs worldwide.

1. Prevention: Reduce the hazard

In that Bangladeshi community, one example of preventing a hazard (flood) from creating a disaster (death and loss of assets) is to help the community avoid things like soil erosion along the river. Clearing a river bank of vegetation will cause the soil to erode. Soil erosion causes sediment build-up in the river channel, which decreases the amount of water the river can hold, leading to flooding.

2. Mitigation: Decrease the impact

It isn’t always possible to stop disasters from happening. Even after the community takes the precaution of decreasing soil erosion along the river banks, there could still be more rain than the river can contain and the ground can absorb. Floods can still happen. The next prong of DRR strategy is to reduce the impact to vulnerable people.

That’s why the children were taught to swim and climb trees. It’s also why adults decided to bury their livelihood implements and food in air-tight containers when they knew flooding was imminent.

3. Preparedness: Get ready for the worst

FH’s goal is to have every community where we work eventually have a committee that develops and oversees the implementation of their DRR plan. In addition to working to prevent hazards from becoming disasters and mitigating the impact when they do become disasters, communities practice their response. That includes such things as evacuation plans, search and rescue techniques and first aid.

4. Response: Diminish loss until help arrives

Communities learn and practice how to be the first responders when a disaster occurs. They work to lessen loss of both life and property. They must sometimes hold their own for several days before outside help arrives.

5. Worldview: Overcome fatalism

Many cultures believe disasters occur as punishment to people. This fatalism causes communities to avoid taking the measures mentioned above because they see no link between their actions and the way nature behaves toward them.

FH helps communities replace a fatalistic worldview with a more biblical worldview. Yes, the Bible tells of disasters that are punishment. Other biblical disasters go unexplained. God also tells His people to prepare for disasters. Examples include Joseph directing the Egyptians to save grain in preparation for a famine and Noah building an arc in preparation for a flood.

How a change in worldview saved lives in Africa

Another aspect of worldview is illustrated in the Horn of Africa, where livestock is the measure of a person’s wealth. FH helped herders establish markets for their livestock. We helped them see that holding onto livestock in drought may cause them more harm as their animals die from either starvation or lack of water.

When drought hit the Horn of Africa, these communities weathered the drought better than others. Having too many livestock could put all wealth at risk. Because the herders had an established market, they were able to reduce their livestock when they needed to. They got better prices because they were able to sell while the animals were still healthy. Better prices made it possible for them to buy what they needed to get through the drought.

To see how you can help FH in its efforts to help impoverished people, visit

About Karen Randau

A native of the southwestern U.S., Karen uses her blog posts to put into action her passion for helping people be all that God intended them to be. She is able to do this through her role in the Food for the Hungry communications department of the Global Service Center in Phoenix in two ways. First, she helps people understand the plight faced by impoverished people in developing nations. Second, she brings light to the successful ways Food for the Hungry is helping people.