Feature: What’s with earthquake drills, anyway?

  • April 10, 2017
  • Rene V. Carbayas

By Rene V. Carbayas


ISABELA CITY, Basilan Apr 10 (PIA) – Drill is to engage people in an exercise with the goal to fix something in the mind or habit pattern of people by repetitive instruction. In short, it is a practice to perfect processes and systems of people to achieve harmony, synchrony, and better response.


In preempting people’s readiness on disasters and calamities, drills are vital elements of preparedness to effectuate resiliency.


Every year, the government of the Philippines engages the public to participate in the quarterly National Simultaneous Earthquake Drill (NSED) to prepare for the “Big One,” a major earthquake that may occur in Metro Manila, in particular, where the probability of severe devastation and destruction of property and lives is very high.


In Basilan, drills are of value because of the probable devastation that may occur when the Sulu Trench moves. Records show that the last time it moved decades ago caused severe damages. PhiVolcs predicts bigger devastation in the Zamboanga Peninsula and the islands of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.


Learning from drills


In the recent first quarter NSED in Basilan, about sixty personnel from the Provincial Police Headquarters in Isabela City, including police from Luzon who were deployed to Basilan, participated in the earthquake drill.


Rescue and response teams from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO), the Red Cross, Kabalikat communications group, and the Bureau of Fire Protection provided the needed support in the drill.


Rene Mabilog of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD)-BASULTA pointed out the lack of planning as a major cause of the lapses in the processes of the conduct of the drill. Mabilog is the lone personnel of OCD-ARMM who facilitated the conduct of the drill.


As observed, the drill was pulled through but some lapses in the procedures and coordination were identified.


For Deputy Police Provincial Director for Operations Edwin Romero, it is crucial that careful planning and proper orientation and training should have been provided to the participants prior to the drill. A one-day meeting and orientation is never enough. Since it is a drill, a practice, every stakeholder organization should sustain a capability-building program on disaster risk reduction management (DRRM). And this should be in every organization’s consciousness all the time.


A police officer from Luzon observed that the local DRRM team should already have a well-organized structure, like who is in-charge of the incident command, and the different heads of member-agencies who have roles in the DRRM council to take part in every drill. It is difficult for the local DRRM team to conduct drills with different people playing roles in every drill conducted, at least when the provincial DRRM is involved.


In Basilan, the public is yet to fully grasp the value of drills; not just for earthquakes and natural disasters but also when man-made conflict situation happens, like wars, armed conflict, and bombings, or the like. But some observed, with the years of conflict experience, Basileños have developed some form of resiliency.


Drills that could save lives


So what’s the big deal about conducting drills, anyway? For some, this could be a waste of time, a disturbance to work, causes traffic, or some plain compliance to national government’s directives and orders. Yes, for the sake of doing it.


So, how do we prepare for disaster? Is there a need to, when people panic when the real thing comes? This is what most people would say. And even responders and rescuers could be victims of disasters. Then, who will respond?


This is exactly the point. When a major disaster strikes, the first line of defense is ourselves. This is keeping ourselves safe and survive the aftermath, so we may also provide the necessary support to others who may need help.


In emergencies, our bodies and minds would naturally react to unusual things. And to prepare this body and mind to be able to respond soundly and rationally to situations, they should develop resiliency. This body and mind should be pounded with right information on what to do, when to do it, and how to do it to be alive. This is the value of earthquake drills.


A number of earth shakings are happening in some parts of the country recently. Based on news reports, one could only tell whether people are indeed prepared to respond to disasters. But this could remind us that this is the real thing. If one must survive, everyone must appreciate and value drills so that the body and mind could automatically respond to “duck, cover, and hold.”  (ALT/RVC/PIA9-Basilan)

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