MANILA, Philippines – In an effort to improve disaster preparedness at the community level, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on Wednesday, March 19, held a nationwide earthquake drill.
The Office of Civil Defense’s (OCD) regional offices held drills in different schools and government offices, demonstrating how to properly respond when earthquakes strike. Students, teachers, government officials and local responders were also invited to participate.
NDRRMC executive director Eduardo del Rosario, who led the ceremonial launch of the campaign from Bicol University in Legazpi City, Albay said the event highlighted “community empowerment at the grassroots” – a crucial element in disaster preparation.
Communication is key
Del Rosario noted that proper information dissemination in the community level is key in creating a culture of resiliency, as it raises residents’ consciousness on what they can do to lessen the impact of such hazards. When a calamity strikes, residents would know where to go and what to do.
The drills served as a communication exercise for the NDRRMC operations center. It tested the effectiveness and efficiency of communication lines between the national and regional offices.
Reports were forwarded to the operation center during the drills to check how long it took relevant information to come in. The response time and corresponding actions taken by responsible agencies will also be evaluated.
OCD Public Affairs chief Mina Marasigan said it is important to communicate infrastructure damage, casualties, and evacuations in the first few hours after disasters, as this will help the government assess what level of response is needed.
Preparing for the worst
Aside from earthquake scenarios, the exercises also included fire drills, aftershock simulations, and medical exercises to test various agencies’ response. In Albay, a 6.7 Sorsogon earthquake was simulated, which was followed by a fire scenario.
Marasigan emphasized the importance of preparing for the worst in disasters.
“We need to anticipate the worst in a disaster because we have to know what we really need to prepare for. We also need to vividly picture what we need to avoid,” Marasigan said.
On October 15, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked Bohol and its surrounding provinces in the Visayas. It left around 220 casualties, thousands of residents displaced and billions worth of property and infrastructure damages. (READ: Bohol residents struggle to recover from quake)
A 2004 Metropolitan Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS) study also indicates that the Valley Fault System remains a big threat to the metropolis. The final report estimated that 40% of residential buildings in Metro Manila will be damaged, with 34,000 dead and 114,000 injured.
Marasigan said sharing relevant information is crucial to make people care about different hazards.
“Sometimes, the line, “scare to prepare,” is apt for people because knowing the consequences would help them realize the importance of preparing,” she said.
Are we ready?
The OCD has been working with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) to teach the public on what to do before, during, and after disasters.
The offices created an online video campaign – Project Disaster Information for Nationwide Awareness (DINA) – that gives critical information for different hazards.
On the Project DINA video below, OCD gives tips on how to lessen destruction and injury after earthquakes.
Phivolcs has also recently developed a tool to check the earthquake readiness of houses in the Philippines.
Marasigan added that she is confident that the government is better prepared to respond to earthquakes now.
“We have been putting in place mechanisms to equip local leaders and communities to respond to the impacts of an earthquake,” she concluded. – Rappler.com
Help build resilient communities. For more information about disaster risk reduction and management, visit the Project Agos microsite. It is a platform that combines top down government action and bottom up civic engagement to help communities deal with climate change and disasters.