Papua New Guineans learn to live more safely with natural hazards

21 December 2013

A technician standing on a ladder inspecting a reflector.

Illustration of people making
necessary response preparations
during a volcanic eruption, created
as part of the Papua New Guinea
natural hazards education project.
Illustrator: Stuart McMillen

Geoscience Australia researchers recently produced a set of educational materials that will help the people of the East New Britain Province in Papua New Guinea to better understand the potential impacts of tsunami, earthquake and volcanic eruption.

The material, developed in partnership with Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as part of Australia's aid program (formerly AusAID), will help the people of East New Britain learn to live more safely with these natural hazards.

Geoscience Australia hazard modeller Libby Metz said the materials use an accessible animated story-telling style to explain how residents can alter their actions in order to make themselves more resilient to the effects of natural hazards.

Ms Metz said the material includes an animation that follows the experiences of three East New Britain characters during and directly after an earthquake and tsunami event.

When the tsunami-generating earthquake in the animation occurs "Felix" is far out at sea in a boat, transporting people between islands, "Sammy" is fishing at the beach and "Isa" is at the markets, selling goods from her garden.

All three characters use their knowledge of earthquake and tsunami hazard to help keep other members of their community safe, showing initiative in moving themselves and others to higher land or further out to sea after a large earthquake, without having to wait for instruction from authorities.

The animation is supported by a series of booklets and posters which reinforce the key messages with clear illustrations and more detailed information.

The educational materials will be used by local authorities in East New Britain to make better planning decisions to reduce the risk from these natural hazards and to implement a community awareness program of local emergency response and evacuation plans.

The work was undertaken between 2010 and 2013, in partnership with local representatives from the Department of Mineral Policy and Geohazards Management and the East New Britain Provincial Administration, as part of the Strengthening Natural Hazard Risk Assessment Capacity in Papua New Guinea Project.

This project is part of Geoscience Australia's ongoing work sharing skills with representatives from developing nations in the Asia-Pacific Region to help develop local capacity for assessing the impacts of natural hazards.

The material is available for download from the Geoscience Australia website.