#MMShakeDrill: Malls test earthquake evacuation

Fritzie Rodriguez

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#MMShakeDrill: Malls test earthquake evacuation
Malls are favorite gathering places of Filipinos. Here's what to do in case you find yourself in a mall during an earthquake
MANILA, Philippines — What will you do if the “Big One” strikes while strolling at the mall?

On Thursday, July 30, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) conducted the first-ever Metrowide Earthquake Drill dubbed as #MMShakeDrill. The activity is in preparation for a 7.2-magnitude earthquake predicted to hit Metro Manila.

The drill happened simultaneously in different locations across 17 local government units, in coordination with barangays, government agencies, hospitals, businesses, schools, and mall operators.

In the absence of public parks and other recreational spaces, malls serve as a popular hangout spot for many Filipinos. There is no way of knowing when an earthquake could happen, and it is highly possible for you or your loved ones to be inside a mall when it does. Do you know what to do?

Duck, cover, hold

Popular SM Megamall which straddles the cities of Mandaluyong and Pasig simulated a rescue and evacuation scenario. 

The drill began at 10:30 AM, with MMDA traffic constables signalling vehicles on major roads to stop for 45 seconds. Meanwhile, shoppers were asked to drop, take cover and hold. They were then asked to evacuate to open spaces outside the mall. 

“The most important thing is to still do the universal preparation, which is “duck-cover-hold,” Engineer Bien Mateo, SM North Luzon’s Vice President for Operations and drill director, told Rappler. 

“We’re really training our guards to assist customers to the nearest exit on the mall’s safe spot,” Mateo added. “We have been doing this annually, training guards and employees.” 

He explained that SM also does “business continuity management,” so services could continue during and after disasters. “Where they can get food, water, use our facilities as shelter,” Mateo said. 

Aside from emergency alarms, SM also has lights that warns deaf persons. (READ: PWD, women, disasters)

SIMULATION. SM Megamall includes PWDs in its evacuation plans

Malls should also provide proper assistance to persons with disabilities (PWDs), according to MMDA Special Operations Officer Emmanuel Miro. During earthquakes, escalators and elevators will stop, so mall staff are expected to assist people using wheelchairs and anyone in need of help. Companions should never abandon PWDs.

Once the shaking stops, rescue teams will guide people to safe exits, gathering them at an evacuation area. SM Megamall used its open parking space for evacuation, where response units were ready. They provided information and communications, medical care, fire suppresion, crowd control and security management.

Responders include the mall staff, MMDA, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Medical Service, Philippine Army Disaster Response Unit, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), local government rescue teams, and the Philippine Red Cross. 

MALL SAFETY. All SM supermalls, alongside other mall operators, in Metro Manila participate in the #MMShakeDrill.

SIMULATION. The drill also simulates emergency situations. In this scenario, an injured pregnant woman receives medical assistance from the MMDA response team

During the drill, people with minor injuries were treated by medics. MMDA street sweepers, who are trained in first aid, also provided immediate assistance. The seriously injured were brought to the nearest hospitals: Medical City Hospital, VRP Medical Center, and Cardinal Santos Medical Center.

“Malls should be well-coordinated with hospitals,” said Captain Rafael Montepio, an AFP military doctor. He reminded responders to have plenty of emergency medication, IV fluids, stretchers, and other necessary equipment.

Meanwhile, the Motorcycle Philippine Federation (MPF) provided transportation for medics and helped with aid distribution. Motorbikes could enter narrow paths that 4-wheeler cannot, said Atoy Sta. Cruz of MPF. 

Passing the test

In a large mall, Miro estimated that at least 1,500 people would be inside, including shoppers, staff, and responders. The casualty count, he said, could be lowered if malls are properly built.

Malls, Miro added, should have back-up evacuation areas in case its original sites get overcrowded.

ORGANIZED. Evacuated shoppers and mall employees are led to designated areas, depending on which floor they came from

Authorities praised SM Megamall for training and giving its staff designated roles. Miro called the drill operations “seamless.” He hopes that all malls would perform just as well during an actual emergency.

He advised schools and other establishments to hold their own drills and make evacuation plans. 

Some participants, however did not take the activity seriously. Sgt. Norbert Soliva of the Mandaluyong Fire Department observed that although many people were doing the duck-cover-hold position, they were still staying in unsafe areas such as near glass walls. 

Overall, responders rated the SM Megamall positively, but still identified areas for improvement:

SM Megamall #MMShakeDrill Assessment
  Rating Good points Room for improvement

Emmanuel Miro

Special Operations Officer

9/10 Well-prepared and well-organized. Some shoppers did not participate. More awareness among citizens is needed.

AFP Medical Service 

Capt. Rafael Montepio

8/10 Responders were able to deliver medical services.

A drill is very different from an actual earthquake. Responders should be well-prepared for the real thing.

More awareness among citizens. They could help report those in need of assistance.


Mary Jane Yu

Street sweeper trained for first-aid

7/10 MMDA street sweepers were trained in giving first-aid. Some still do not know how to properly do first-aid.


Sgt. Norbert Soliva

Mandaluyong Fire Department 


Participants did duck-cover-hold protocol.

Evacuation was orderly.

Some did the duck-cover-hold position in unsafe areas such as those near glass walls.

Some participants were not taking the activity seriously.

Some medical response teams were crowding victims. They should allot a bigger breathing space.

Philippine Army 

Pvt. Airolg Sales

Engineering Combat Battalion


Fast response and deployment of holding area.

Some miscommunication among different reponse groups.

Is your favorite mall doing any of these preparations? – Rappler.com

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