Duck, cover, and hold!

Most of us would remember this mantra as part of our earthquake preparedness training which we have probably undertaken last year—right when the news about the West Valley Fault Magnitude 7.2 Earthquake, more popularly known as “The Big One,” gained its much needed attention from the public.

The hype may have slightly waned, but OCD CALABARZON together with the member agencies of the Regional DRRM Council, remains steadfast in its commitment to increasingly heighten the awareness and safety of the public on earthquake preparedness not only in the community level but more vitally, in the individual level.

As part of this advocacy, OCD CALABARZON, in coordination with the City of Sta. Rosa DRRM Council, spearheaded the conduct of the Citywide Earthquake Drill on 31 March 2016 in Sta. Rosa City Hall, Laguna as the chosen regional ceremonial venue.

The ceremonial pressing of the buzzer at the Sta. Rosa City Hall at 9:00am signaled the beginning of the city-wide drill that was joined by Mayor Arlene B. Arcillas, Dir. Vicente F. Tomazar of OCD IV-A, Mr. Antonino Lu of the Sta. Rosa CDRRMO, and representives from DILG IV-A, BFP IV-A, AFP SOLCOM, PRO IV-A, and the Sta. Rosa City PNP. This similarly signaledthe start of the one-minute imaginary shaking caused by the earthquake, which was followed by the simultaneous simulation of the various scenarios set in the different areas of Sta. Rosa’s barangays.

Sta. Rosa’s resources and capabilities showcased during the drill included the usual components of such simulation exercises like the activation of the Incident Command System; field hospital management and emergency medical services; camp kitchen and evacuation camp management; Urban Search and Rescue resources particularly for vehicle extrication and high angle search and rescue; and Collapsed Structure Search and Rescue.

But what could be considered unique for this simulation exercise was not only its wide coverage--the scenarios were scattered in over four barangays--but also the evacuation of actual prisoners, as managed by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology; the use of the Local DRRM Office-owned K9 Team in Laguna for bomb sniffing and search and rescue purposes; and the involvement of youth volunteers, in the form of Boy Scout of the Philippines volunteers, for crowd management.

The drill aimed to assess not only the strategic, operational, and tactical protocols and capabilities of Sta. Rosa’s Local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, barangay responders, and other local responders, but more importantly, the drill tested the knowledge on what to do and the levels of preparedness of the affected communities for such a disaster.

A critiquing session ended the overall earthquake drill activity where the umpires from the RDRRMC member agencies identified the City’s best practices and pointed out the gaps in their plans and operating procedures. This was geared towards enhancing the City’s disaster preparedness and response mechanisms which will consequently contribute to the drill’s overarching goal of a more disaster-resilient CALABARZON.