IT WAS the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on Oct. 13. That it got very little attention in the Philippines on Tuesday – everybody seemed focused on the pathetic power struggle in the House of Representatives – was worrisome considering the fact that our country is one of the most vulnerable to disasters. This yearly observance set by the United Nations is a call for global cooperation to mitigate disasters.

Specifically in our country, one way to reduce disasters, especially natural hazards such as typhoons, flooding and landslides, is by consulting and following geohazard maps, and local government units (LGUs) should take the lead in this. And yes, it goes without saying that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) must ensure that local officials understand the details on these maps.

DENR, particularly its Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), should not only distribute the geohazard maps, but also, and more importantly, educate LGUs on how to read the maps and how these will help them in their disaster risk reduction and management efforts.

In many instances in the past, natural hazards turned into major disasters because of the lack of understanding of the geohazard maps. Communities were built on landslide- or flood-prone areas and other danger zones because they were not aware of the risks.

The MGB must explain to every mayor, city or municipal administrator and even down to the barangays the details and significance of geohazard maps.

We have to use science to save lives and livelihood. We need to translate science into practice and one way to effectively do that is to make sure that geohazard maps are understood by all, especially by local chief executives and disaster risk reduction officers. There should be information and education campaign on the importance of the use of geohazard maps.

Our local officials need to have the valuable, life-saving information regarding risks present in their communities, all of which can be found in geohazard maps. With the knowledge of the risks present in our communities along with effective early warning systems, we should be able to radically minimize the casualties and damages when a natural hazard strikes.