Ready for the big one

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Friday, March 21, 2014


I’M GLAD to hear that Mayor Monico Puentevella assured us who call Bacolod City home that our local government is very much ready for the next big one.

Puentevella was on hand to witness the nationwide simulated earthquake drill at the Rizal Elementary School along Araneta Street last Wednesday.

The good news, the mayor crowed, was that the personnel of the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office are well trained and ready to respond to emergencies. For one, volunteer groups Amity and Chamber brigades have proven their mettle during disasters.

Before the fire drill, Mayor Puentevella said that the earthquake drill would be “a challenge and a gauge for our city in terms of our efficiency in disseminating warning to the public and our instant response to disasters.”

According to Puentevella, the national and regional offices of the Office of the Civil Defense picked Bacolod for its Nationwide Simulated Earthquake Drill to test our readiness. So, the elementary school is ready.

Rizal Elementary School’s disaster preparedness, however, does not necessarily make the entire city prepared. Wednesday’s earthquake drill was certainly not felt at the Hall of Justice. Would the court employees, the judges, the lawyers and the litigants know what to do in an earthquake?

The Regional Physical Framework Plan of Region VI warned that “the southwestern and northern tips of Panay and Negros are prone to high intensity earthquakes while the rest of the region can experience ground shaking but in low varying degrees. Hazards posed by earthquakes are ground shaking, liquefaction, landslides, ground rupture and tsunami.”

Negros Occidental has extremely vulnerable towns and cities that face the Negros trench. At risk to an 8.2 magnitude earthquake and three meter-high tsunami wave heights are the cities and municipalities of Bago down south to Kabankalan and Sipalay, according to the 2007 Tsunami Hazard Map of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and the Department of Science and Technology.

The implication is that the likelihood of the next big one in Bacolod is quite remote. While we’ve experienced earthquakes, they tended to be more on the benign side. Our City of Smiles is far from the major earthquakes faults that Region VI has warned our fellow Negrenses.

The better disaster preparedness would be to test our resiliency to temblors. Phivolcs and Japan’s National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention has determined that Philippine masonry houses that use the required size of concrete hollow blocks and reinforcing bars and meticulous application of mortar can “improve its performance in a magnitude 6.9 earthquake.”

Are our buildings ready for 6.9? During the 2013 Bohol earthquake, the magnitude of the earthquake at the epicenter was recorded at Mw 7.2. Here in Bacolod, the temblor registered magnitude 5.

How far could our public structures withstand say an intensity of 6? Unfortunately, none of the disaster preparedness failed to mention benchmarks. I hope our CDRRMO looks into this, so that our disaster preparedness can cover all the bases.

*****

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 21, 2014.

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