How a hazard-prone Marikina school is preparing for disasters
MARIKINA CITY, Philippines - With sirens wailing in the background, teachers and students of Valeriano Fugoso Memorial Elementary School performed the duck, cover and hold procedure inside their respective classrooms. With the all-clear signal, they lined up outside the classrooms and moved out to the open field.
Having performed earthquake drills for more than 4 years now, it is apparent that the community knows what to do when an emergency happens, as seen in their active participation during the Shake Drill awareness campaign of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
'Muscle memory' preparedness
"I’m new here in Fugoso. It’s just my fourth year here. But since I came in, we have been doing earthquake drills. It’s not only done in June, but all year round we practice that," said Marivic Mariano, a Grade Six teacher.
Mariano added that most of the drills were unannounced.
"There is a time every month when a sudden drill takes place. Some are announced, while most of the time they're unannounced. One is caught in the act, in that sense," he added.
Marikina is no stranger to disasters. The city suffered the most casualties during Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, with 78 recorded deaths and millions in damages. In 2012, the southwest monsoon Habagat ravaged through the same areas forcing 28,556 people to be evacuated during the floods.
Because the school is located within a flood prone area, it is important that students are ready for any type of disaster to strike.
While Marikina has not been impacted by any recent earthquake, the West Valley Fault is due for its next tremor. With the Boys Town area being only 2.07 kilometers from the West Valley Fault, it is susceptible to the impact should a tremor occur along the said fault.
Because of the several geohazards within the community’s vicinity, it is important that government should not be the only one that prepares for the disasters, but also individuals, families and communities, so that they can be able to sustain themselves when disaster strikes.
In a previous interview with PHIVOLCS Director Ricardo Solidum, he said: “Essentially, preparedness should always start in the individual and family level. In case of very extreme disasters, you may not expect help right away from government or from other people because they’re also affected.”
The frequent drills in the school are not ordered by the local government unit (LGU).
According to Mariano, it was the school’s initiative, with the support of the LGU, and the Department of Education (DepEd), whom she treats as allies in making sure that the students and their families are ready when disaster strikes. (READ: What should LGUs do during disasters?)
Mariano added that students are given forms with questions on them to ask to their parents, which is then returned to the school. This is to make sure that even at home, where the students spend most of their time, they are still able to practice the lessons that they learn in school.
Jennelyn Vigilla and Jonalyn Bautista, parents of Grade 1 students, said that they are ready in their respective households. They have go bags, ready to be used anytime. She emphasized the importance of preparedness in the family. "It’s hard when a disaster happens. That’s really difficult if you're not prepared."
As a whole, Valeriano Fugoso Elementary School’s active participation in MMDA’s earthquake awareness campaign shows how schools, families and communities should go hand-in-hand in preparing members of the community for any disaster that can happen anytime.
The school is all set to join the Metro-wide Earthquake drill set on June 22. - Rappler.com
Pocholo Espina is a Rappler intern and a student of the Ateneo de Manila University. Jaira Roxas is a Rappler intern from the University of the Philippines Los Banos.