Awareness during calamities

Natural calamities, such as landslides, the collapse of structures, among others and their subsidiary effects, can happen anytime and as quickly while man-made disasters can be predicted. Located within the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is an earthquake-active area, and in the path of typhoons, making people vulnerable to natural calamities.

Time and again, concerned government agencies and local governments institutionalized measures to prevent or at least minimize casualties and heavy damages to properties during the times of calamity. However, achieving zero casualty seems to be difficult because of various factors. These include the evacuation of people from danger and high-risk areas, the limited number of rescue equipment and personnel, the inadequate provision of needed materials, but more importantly, the readiness of affected communities and individuals to respond to calamities. These often result in several casualties in various parts of the archipelago.

People may belittle the impact of natural calamities and their subsidiary effects to life and property, and leave things to fate. But one cannot rely on fate.

Response coordination has only recently been more coordinated. Prior to the passage of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, there was the obvious absence  of or limited coordination among concerned government agencies, local governments, and civic groups, in the implementation of a holistic disaster management plan to prevent the loss of lives and damage to property.

With the enactment of the enabling law, a blueprint on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation interventions is now in place to synchronize and unify activities to achieve zero casualties during calamities. This blueprint has been cascaded into the grassroots level.  Responsible bodies, so-called disaster risk reduction management councils, have been organized from the national to barangay levels. These councils are institutionalized with multi-sectoral approach in preparing for disasters, whether natural or man-made, and in reducing the impact of calamities to life and limb. The different local bodies are the Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, Regional Councils and the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council. Disaster risk reduction training have been given to those who comprise the different disaster councils to ensure their preparedness during the actual response to natural calamities and man-made disasters.

With the region being one of the regularly calamity-stricken areas, the capabilities, efficiently and effectivity of the various councils have been tested during several moderately strong typhoons that have struck the region for the past several years. Results show a significant improvement from previous disaster efforts prior to the passage of the disaster management law.

Local officials have the discretion to implement a system of suspension of classes. We should remember that when Signal No. 1 is hoisted over an area, it will be automatic that there will be no classes in the pre-school and elementary levels. Signal No. 2 would mean the automatic suspension of classes in the pre-school up to high school level while Signal No. 3, and above,  would mean the automatic suspension of classes in all levels. Further, when Signal No. 3 and above will be hoisted over an area, work in government offices will be automatically suspended. The word automatic means no classes and work in the specified sectors without officially being declared by concerned local chief executives. On the other hand, local chief executives are empowered to declare the suspension of classes and work in various levels during bad weather even if there are no declared signals from Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration .

Unfortunately, there are many people who refuse to understand and comprehend the authority lodged upon local chief executives. Disaster risk reduction and management start in our very own homes. We can assess whether or not our family will be exposed to danger during bad weather, thus, it will be a judgment call on our part. The best way is to let our children stay at home if we feel and believe that they will be exposed to eminent danger. We should not always rely on declarations of local chief executives in the suspension of classes and work.

If we feel we are exposed to extreme danger during calamities, it is common sense and our obligation to move to safer places or seek shelter and not for harm to be done to us or for the government to rescue us. Let us also cooperate by policing our own ranks to help achieve zero casualties during calamities.

Let us save our own lives. Let us be proactive in dealing with the situation so that government can concentrate its efforts on those who really need urgent assistance during difficult situations that confront us.