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Family-based disaster preparedness

THE METRO Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study of 2004 says that a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that will be generated by the 100-kilometer West Valley Fault will occur at any time. This will make Metro Manila the epicenter of this destructive earthquake, according to director Renato U. Solidum Jr. of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin has emphasized that the Greater Metro Manila Area, including the adjacent regions of Central Luzon and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), comprising the economic, political, sociocultural and education hub of the Philippines and home to a third of its population, is transected by the West Valley Fault system.

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This means that about 30 million people are residing or working in this crowded urbanized landscape. These people, composed of both ordinary citizens and civil and military personnel, will all be victims of the Big One.

This will present serious challenges to the response capability of both local and national governments because all their personnel will also be victims, and their facilities and equipment could be damaged or destroyed.

The Big One is projected to result in an intensity 8 earthquake that will produce widespread destruction, thousands of deaths and countless injuries. It is expected to bring down or damage the major bridges and other spans across the Pasig River and its many tributaries, creeks and esteros, which will physically separate and isolate the cities and communities in Metro Manila.

No power, phone service

The destructive ground shaking is expected to make roadways virtually impassable due to the toppling of giant billboards and utility poles. There will be no electrical power and landline communication and the cellular phone system will be seriously interrupted due to overloading of calls or text messages and damage to cell sites.

Monstrous traffic jams due to an expected blackout would result in road accidents if the Big One hits during an evening rush hour on a weekday.

Since the epicenter of the Big One will be the entire Metro Manila, everything located in the metropolis and the surrounding areas, and everyone living in all its barangays will be adversely affected.

Isolated

It must be emphasized that almost all of our communities have numerous utility poles. When these poles topple, entire communities and individual streets will be isolated.

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Republic Act No. 10121, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (PDRRM) law, provides that the barangays are the first responders in the community.

However, the widespread destruction and blockage of roads will delay responders even at the barangay level. This is due to the fact that the barangay first responders will also be victims and will have to care for their families, gather their emergency teams and consolidate their undamaged resources before they can actually respond.

Prepare, organize

Therefore, Phivolcs emphasizes that individuals and families in each and every barangay must be prepared for the Big One.

Citizens must develop their own plans and organize before the disaster strikes, lest they find themselves alone, confused and helpless as individuals, as separate families, as neighbors or as a community. Families residing on the same street or cluster of streets must be self-reliant and must not rely on help from government as a substitute for self-reliance and sustainability.

There is therefore, a need for the citizens themselves to organize a Family-based Street Level Disaster Preparedness Program (FSLDPP). This must be based on a bottom-up plan in support of the Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan.

Objectives of FSLDPP

Develop, train, equip and manage families as frontliners before and during emergencies.

Develop and institutionalize a culture of disaster preparedness among families and neighbors.

Develop and institutionalize collaborative planning programs among neighbors and community stakeholders.

The initial action in developing an FSLDPP is to organize each home and all the members of the household by assigning emergency tasks.

INDIVIDUAL LEVEL

* Locate safe areas and identify hazards in the house.

* Assign emergency duties for every member of the household.

* Stock 14 days of food, water and medicine.

* Organize a “go bag” with a personal emergency and first aid kit for each member of the family with three days of food, clothing and toiletries.

* Designate several assembly areas if there is a need to evacuate the home.

STREET LEVEL

* Locate, inform and organize assets residing in each street, like physicians, nurses, pharmacists, health workers, caregivers, physical therapists, midwives, first aid providers, engineers, teachers, boy scouts and girl scouts, faith-based individuals, and active, retired and reservist military personnel as well as police and fire service personnel.

Emergency brigades

These individuals will play vital roles in the FSLDPP when we organize among all the residents of the street functional emergency brigades, such as food and water, evacuation, search and rescue, security and traffic control, medical control and information control.

A bottom-up FSLDPP must be developed among the residents because every street is unique in terms of population density, profile and physical configuration.

The program must likewise identify facilities like barangay hall, police and fire stations, hospitals, churches, malls, groceries, sari-sari stores, drug stores, hardware stores, car repair shops, funeral homes and open spaces that will be useful sources of shelter, food, water and emergency equipment.

(Brig. Gen. Marcelo B. Javier Jr. [reserve] is a management specialist by profession. He has been a volunteer reservist of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Red Cross [PRC] since 1968. He is currently the commander of the Army’s 15th Infantry “Defender” Ready Reserve Division whose area of responsibility is Metro Manila. He is also the chair of the Disaster Management Service of PRC [Rizal chapter] and a trustee and executive director of Red Cross Muntinlupa.)

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TAGS: Disaster, Earthquake, earthquake drill, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Phivolcs, quake
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