Tsunami education

I wrote this post a couple of days ago, but didn’t put it up for fear it would seem too far-fetched. Then I read this article and realised that I was indeed on the right track.

The question you may be asking yourself isn’t ‘what can I do to help?’, because that’s obvious, but ‘what can I do as a teacher?

One thing this present tragedy has shown is that whilst natural disasters do generally happen in far away lands, we can no longer take for granted that we, or our children, won’t be there at the time. Cheap air travel has changed all that.

As I watched the horrific news footage of the wave coming ashore in Sri Lanka, I asked myself why no-one had known that when the sea suddenly recedes for no apparent reason (as it did), this is actually the trough that precedes a tsunami, and from that point you have 5-10 minutes to seek protection on high ground or in a tall building. And the answer, of course, is that no-one had taught them. That’s fixable for next time.

And there will be a next time. I propose that we should ensure every child gets a basic education in how to respond to the threat from a natural disaster. It should be similar to the way we now teach children how to act if caught outside in a thunderstorm, and would conform to four criteria:

  1. covers a broad range of potential disasters
  2. brief enough to be memorable
  3. taught as a life skill, not as abstract knowledge
  4. empowering; focuses on what to do for yourself and others, not the consequences of failure.

I’d love for Chalkface to produce some useful resources on this, but realistically we couldn’t produce them in time to catch the public interest. Instead, I’ll point you to the New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence. New Zealand is at risk from just about every kind of natural disaster going, and they take disaster education seriously. They have good, basic resources on


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