• Communication woes bug quake drill

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    Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Crisis Monitoring and Management Center head Ramon Santiago admitted on Monday that a review of the agency’s four-day shake drill showed that problems on communication system hindered the flow of earthquake rescue and response operations.

    Santiago’s assessment dovetails with the reports presented by the four quadrant commanders.

    The MMDA had assigned four quadrants that simulated different disaster scenarios for the shake drill: Veterans Hospital in Quezon City (north quadrant), Villamor Airbase in Pasay City (south quadrant), LRT Depot in Santolan, Pasig (east quadrant), Intramuros Golf Course in Manila (west quadrant).

    The problems cited in the drill include bad radio communication, weak Internet and lack of communication with cooperating agencies.

    A well-established communication system would be useful for the quadrants to send information to command centers that will assist them to get help and for authorities to respond and rescue.

    According to commander Elsie Encarnacion, the north quadrant was not able to contact San Juan, Caloocan and Valenzuela directly. She reported that Valenzuela City failed to establish their communication unit because of technical problems while the cities of San Juan and Caloocan were only contacted on July 16, the third day of the drill.

    Encarnacion also said that their satellite phone could only contact the west quadrant. And only eight out of the 23 cooperating agencies rushed to their command posts but Department of Health stayed on.

    West quadrant commander Aldo Mayor also reported problems with communication facilities, lack of available radio frequency and too much traffic (or noise) on radio. He recommended that better equipment be bought like portable repeaters and radio integrators to establish a wider range and smooth flow of communication.

    MMDA Chairman Danilo Lim said that compared to last year’s shake drill, the communication system is better this year.

    “There was much improvement in our communication. In the previous exercises, no communication could be made between quadrants and from the quadrants to the local government units to the emergency center,” Lim said.

    “It is not yet perfect but compared to the previous two drills, within less than two hours we already established communication,” he added.

    The Metro Manila Shake Drill aimed to ensure disaster preparedness in preparation for the “Big One,” or the possible magnitude 7.2 earthquake to be generated by the West Valley Fault.

    JOVILAND RITA

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