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SU to hold earthquake drills

Silliman University, Which failed to participate in the nationwide simultaneous earthquake drill held recently in observance of National Disaster Consciousness Month, is planning to hold earthquake drills in the future.

“There really is a very definite intention to conduct an earthquake drill but as to when that will happen, we still haven’t agreed to a definite schedule,” Prof. Jane Annette Belarmino, head of the Continuing Calamity Response Program (CCRP), said.

“We should have earthquake drills so that if there is an actual earthquake, people know what to do and where to run. The Silliman University Volunteer Fire and Rescue Unit (SUVFRU) is in-charge of the drills. How to go about it is actually up to them,” Belarmino added.

However, Capt. McDiery Concepcion, head of the Public Assistance and Security Office (PASO), said that they have not conducted annual university-wide drills for three or four years now.

“Last year, there were no drills. SUVFRU only had a lecture regarding disaster preparedness,” Concepcion said.

Concepcion assessed that if an earthquake were to strike the city again, the university, and even the government, are not yet ready with the level of preparation they have now.

On the other hand, Princeton Apura, head of SUVFRU, said that they are “on call.”

“We conduct drills to departments who request. But a drill as a university, we don’t have that yet,” Apura said.

Apura said that they used to have drills, but panic can make people forget what to do when an actual disaster comes.

“Although students and teachers were taught what to do during drills, they must have forgotten everything when the real thing happened,” Apura said.

When asked why SU did not hold an earthquake drill last July 2, the day for the national simultaneous earthquake drill, Apura said that the university does not follow the calendar of the government because it has its own schedule.

“For example, the government set the month of March as Fire Prevention Month, we don’t follow that because we also have our own calendar,” Apura said.

According to Concepcion, the memo from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) created confusion because disaster-preparedness month used to be September.

“July did not use to be disaster-preparedness month, but when I received the memo, as early as June, I submitted a proposal to the university for PASO to conduct emergency drills,” Concepcion said.

Learning from the past

A 6.9 magnitude earthquake shook Dumaguete City last February 6, 2012.

Iphraim Cabristante, SU alumni, recalled the event. “I was in my 2nd year [as mass communication student] and I was working as [student assistant] for [Office of Information and Publications (OIP)] back then.”

“I was working from 10-12pm. Everybody was on their way to lunch break. Suddenly, there was a violent jolt. I immediately rushed under the table in front of me. I was so scared because that was my first earthquake experience. I grew more scared when the paintings and frames started crashing down. I had to give credit to the information to OIP for providing fast updates, especially about the suspension of classes,” Cabristante added.

Apura said that the university was “caught unaware” by the earthquake.

“Back in my time, if my memory serves me well, I don’t remember having an earthquake drill,” Cabristante said.

Cabristante, who now works with GMA News and Current Affairs, said that the university should have emergency drills.

“Our campaign in GMA is called IM Ready, a public safety and preparedness program. My 2012 earthquake experience made me more committed in stressing the importance of disaster preparedness,” Cabristante said.

Role of CCRP

Both PASO and SUVFRU are under the CCRP which was created by Dr. Ben Malayang III, SU president. Vice-President for Development Belarmino is in charge of the said program.

“Last year, there was no specific committee in charge of collecting donations for the Yolanda victims. It created confusion. So the president decided to create the CCRP,” Concepcion said.

The CCRP is not only a program that provides relief to disaster-stricken areas. One of its objectives is also “reinforcement of the university’s climate resiliency in its logistical preparations, precautionary measures, infrastructure design and development, and IEC (information, education, and communication) approaches.”

Belarmino said that the CCRP is composed of many branches that are geared towards disaster-preparedness and one way to prepare the students and personnel is by conducting earthquake drills.

Belarmino also said that the CCRP is already in place.

“It is unlike the previous occasions when we were only learning about how to respond to typhoons and calamities. It’s a matter of doing things right,” Belarmino added.

By Stephanie Ria Colinco

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