Baguio City evacuation sites 'hazardous'

MEMBERS of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) found the designated evacuation areas of some schools and offices in Baguio City to be hazardous.

During the fourth and final National Simultaneous Earthquake Drill (NSED) conducted in the city, it was found out that evacuation centers were located in barangay roads outside buildings, aside from hazard-prone electric posts and two or three storey houses that may collapse in the event of a powerful earthquake.

"Evacuation areas are not simply open areas. A survey must first be conducted to find out its potential hazards before designating it as an evacuation area," said Staff Sergeant Jake Belino, drill umpire from the Philippine Air Force-Tactical Operations Group 1.

Belino pointed out the need for schools to adjust and utilize open spaces near their buildings as assembly points before transferring to a safer evacuation area.

The RDRRMC asked the stakeholders to revisit and update their evacuation plans with the help of the Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The conduct of the fourth NSED also revealed risky evacuation areas and poor alarm systems.

"We suggest for schools to invest in an alarm system that will distinguish warnings for emergencies, different from the usual break or dismissal bells," added Belino.

Drill umpires also noted the lack of seriousness of students, even teachers and some government employees.

Felizardo Garcia, chairman of the Baguio-Benguet Public Information and Civic Action Group, said lessons from the 1990 killer earthquake have been
forgotten.

Various scenarios for the next NSED is set to be elevated to test the capability and execution of plans of stakeholders, aside from the usual "duck, cover and hold" earthquake response.

"Our main mission in conducting the NSED is to protect and equip our next generation. DepEd (Department of Education) will continuously commit to level up as well as addressing the issues raised," DepEd Baguio DRRM focal person Elyzaldy Karim Javar said.

The NSED is organized quarterly by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to build a muscle memory of earthquake preparedness in every community.

More than 90,000 individuals in the Cordillera Administrative Region took part in the drill.

Offices, schools, establishments and government agencies performed the Duck, Cover and Hold earthquake response, while alarms rang at 2 p.m. to signify a powerful shaking. After which, evacuation followed.

Approximately 150 umpires from various agencies and expert groups were deployed to assess the conduct of the earthquake drill in several areas.

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