Lack of open spaces hampers quick evac during quake drill
(The Freeman) - September 29, 2016 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The lack of open spaces was a hindrance to a faster evacuation of some 4,000 students of Lahug Elementary School in Cebu City, the chosen test area in observance of the National Simultaneous Earthquake Drill yesterday.

The 1,000-square-meter campus of the public school in Barangay Lahug is dotted with four-storey school buildings, constricting the passageways needed during evacuation.

The students also had to walk about 100 meters by the roadside of busy Gorordo Avenue towards the football field of nearby University of the Philippines Cebu campus, the location of the nearest open space available to serve as rendezvous area.

In the process, the students also had to perform the "duck-and-cover routine" along the road, causing heavy traffic past 9 a.m., or shortly after the start of the NSED.

These were a few points the school administration as well as the Office of the Civil Defense evaluators observed when they conducted the quake drill in the school,  which is the lone "pilot area school" in Cebu City.

School Principal Helen Estoconin said it took more than their target of two to five minutes for all children to leave the campus because of the small walkways in between the school buildings.

"Sa karon lang gyud, di gyud na mabuhat nato ang two minutes. Kay ngano? In front of the DepEd building and Garcia Building is a school gym (located in between). Unya gamay kaayo ang area (for passage). Mao na siya nga dako kaayo na nga risk nato," she said.

Estoconin said that only a handful of the students were able to go out to the road within the target time. "Those are areas where we can improve on. We need to orient our teachers on an alternative exit area," she said.

Evaluator Dennis Atto of the OCD said that a campus that lacks an open space will be unsafe during an earthquake in case the building collapses. He said that while the Lahug Elementary School buildings are structurally sound, debris could fall and hurt or even kill people during an earthquake.

"As much as possible nga maka-evacuate sila, within a span of five minutes," he said.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Talisay City, Mayor Eduardo Gullas and the entire City Hall staff took only three minutes and fifty seconds evacuate the building during another earthquake drill also yesterday morning.

Talisay City Disaster Risk Reduction Council head Alvin Santillana said 22 barangays, 78 public and private schools, the Talisay City College (TCC), Talisay District Hospital, Hall of Justice, and all offices under the Talisay City Hall participated in the simultaneous "massive" drill, which caused the closure of some nearby roads.

But with the assistance of the City of Talisay Traffic Operation Development Authority (CT-TODA), the police, and barangay watchmen, the roads were closed just for about five months, particularly in Tabunok, Tanke, Laray, San Roque, and that in front of TCC.

He said that the target for their next drill is to evacuate all people in less than three minutes.

Santillana said he was glad that even the mayor took part in the activity and showed his concern for everyone's safety. (FREEMAN)

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