• PREPARING FOR THE ‘BIG ONE’

    ‘Engineering missions’ may save lives

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    ONLY A DRILL  Rescue personnel simulate a medical evacuation on Thursday’s earthquake drill at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. PHOTO BY RENE DILAN

    ONLY A DRILL
    Rescue personnel simulate a medical evacuation on Thursday’s earthquake drill at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. PHOTO BY RENE DILAN

    The number of casualties of a powerful earthquake that may hit the country anytime would be lessened if professionals and companies voluntarily help check the structural integrity of public and private buildings, according to the country’s top volcanologist.

    Renato Solidum Jr., director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), this week said studies conducted estimate that a 7.2 magnitude temblor hitting Metro Manila would kill 31,000 people while a 6.5 magnitude would leave 23,000 dead. Many of those killed would be victims of collapsed structures.

    He added that the casualty count would be lower if professional groups like the United Architects of the Philippines and the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers came up with “engineering missions” where their members would go to communities and check on the houses and buildings and make recommendations on how to make the structures resistant to earthquakes.

    “We should be proactive. Why not help them even before the earthquake could happen? Strengthen the houses and buildings. Your corporate and social responsibility is [to help immediately]. In that sense, [there would be few casualties and wounded],” Solidum said.

    “A lot of people and big corporations help after a major disaster strikes just like what happened in [Typhoons] Ondoy and Yolanda. For earthquakes or any other disasters, let’s change the timing. Why not help them even before the earthquake would happen?

    Strengthen the houses and the buildings. Yung corporate social responsibility, tulong na kaagad [help immediately]in that sense yung mamatay yung masusugatan, kakaunti na lang [the number of casualties would be lessened],” Solidum said during a roundtable discussion with editors and reporters of The Manila Times on Tuesday.

    He added that he recently met with officers and members of the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers and urged them to do what doctors do for people who cannot afford health care.

    “If people are sick, they go to the doctor, if they cannot afford, the doctor goes to them [through]medical missions. For earthquakes, the problem will be the ‘sick’ houses, the reason why the houses are sick [is that]people did not hire engineer or architect, they just build… why not do what the doctors do and look at those underprivileged among our countrymen and evaluate. That is what we need,” Solidum said.

    “I challenged them: You know you filled your pockets already, but your life will be fulfilled if you fill your hearts. Volunteer,” he added.

    In turn, companies who help in “engineering missions” may be granted tax breaks or incentives to encourage them to help.

    Solidum said Phivolcs, together with the Japan International Cooperation Agency-Japan Science and Technology Agency and the Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines, has prepared a 12-point checklist called “How Safe is My House? Self-check for Earthquake Safety” for concrete hollow block houses that “can help an ordinary person evaluate the safety of his or her facility.”

    “It has a set of 12 questions. For each question, if the answer is good or positive, one point.

    If no or you don’t know, it’s zero. This is designed for those who want to reevaluate their own house or to guide people on how to construct a house without the benefit of an engineer,” he added.

    The questionnaire can be downloaded from the Phivolcs website.

    Security preparations
    Solidum said the government has prepared contingency plans for various earthquake scenarios.

    Included in the plans are measures to address breakout of violence or chaos that could lead to massive looting of groceries and stores as what happened in Tacloban City, Leyte, in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda.

    “Why do people loot? Commonly because they are hungry. They have no water, they have no food. In all the subdivisions, they worry about their security. They have guns, they have extra security. Yes no problem, but that is not a good way to secure you. Since you are blessed, why not store enough food not only for you, but for the rest of those guys. Give food after a major disaster. If you do this, the people themselves will protect you,” Solidum said.

    He proposed that groceries and supermarkets should remain open during disasters and their owners should give their goods to people in need for free and collect payment later from the government.

    Solidum said the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and local government units should enter into a memorandum of understanding with supermarkets and malls regarding his proposal.

    WITH JACQUELINE BOUVIER ARIAS AND IZA IGLESIAS

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