Metro disaster teams show off skills in 'Rescue Olympics'

MANILA, Philippines – If the "Big One" strikes, are the cities and municipalities of Metro Manila ready? 

The local government units' disaster response skills were put to the test on Tuesday, June 2, in the "Rescue Olympics" event held by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.

Rescue teams from the different Metro Manila LGUs competed in various activities that aimed to test how well they can respond to emergency cases.

Each group was rated based on their teamwork, mobilization skills, preparation, and use of disaster equipment as they hurdled various obstacles and activities: pulling a heavy concrete slab along the ground; extricating victims from rubble; and carrying victims to safety. 

The event comes as disaster officials discuss plans and preparations for the "Big One"– a strong earthquake that experts say is due to hit Metro Manila once the West Valley Fault moves.

The disaster response team from Pasig City was crowned the grand champion in the event.

Best practices

Aside from demonstrating disaster response systems, the event also aimed to share best practices among the LGUs and to discuss coordination with each local unit.

When it comes to a disastrous typhoon or earthquake, several cities are usually affected, not just one or two alone, according to Bong Grajo, director of the Emergency Response Integration Center.

Cities and municipalities need to coordinate with each other so they can deploy the right responders with the necessary skills to emergency sites.

While Grajo expressed confidence in the preparedness of Metro Manila's response units, he underscored the need to keep improving and refining techniques to adapt to worst-case scenarios.

He also said families and small communities should themselves be prepared, because they are often the first ones to help each other before government rescuers can come to their aid.

As part of a campaign to raise awareness, the MMDA will meet with leaders of the 17 LGUs to discuss plans for a metrowide earthquake drill.

To help educate residents about the effects of an earthquake, the MMDA will also be bringing its mobile earthquake simulator to the 84 vulnerable barangays near the West Valley Fault.

The agency has also launched a website, www.bepreparedmetromanila.com, which provides information on what to do before, during, and after an earthquake. – Rappler.com