Prepared for anything: DLSU braces for storms, floods and extended hot days

Kevin Prudon

Year after year, the De La Salle University’s Manila campus and nearby areas are plagued by flooding caused by storms and heavy downpours, with water sometimes rising to thigh-level along Taft Avenue. The Science and Technology Complex (STC) and Makati campus are also fraught with the same scenarios at the onset of the wet season.

In this light, the University is making a constant effort to prepare and shelter the community from any potential disasters. In addition to preparations for the coming of the rains, measures are also being developed to combat the effects of the predicted El Niño phenomenon in the coming months.

College students are waterproof?

The University’s current buildings and facilities are built and maintained to withstand storms and other natural disasters such as earthquakes. According to the Office of the Associate Vice President for Facilities Management, the University’s structures regularly undergo retrofitting and repairs as needed in order to ensure that the strength capacity of the buildings are maintained.

In addition, to mitigate floods which often plague the Taft Avenue area, cleaning and dredging of the University’s drainage system is regularly conducted by the plumbing maintenance to ensure the continuous flow of rainwater, regardless of amount of rain.

Despite the University’s efforts, however, flooding in the area is brought about by numerous factors outside of the University’s control. This includes the amount of waste gathered within the University vicinity, which is often pinpointed to be the primary cause of drainage and manhole clogging. In addition, flooding on Taft Avenue and other areas is also due to the need for periodic dredging of esteros in surrounding areas that lead up to the point of discharge, which is Manila Bay.

Suspension 101

The disruption of classes due to floods happens mostly in the first trimester of the year, continuing until the first half of the second trimester. In AY 2013-2014, a total of seven class days were called off due to storms or heavy downpours in the Manila campus, while the number totaled to nine in the Science and Technology Complex (STC), and six in the University’s Makati campus.

Carlo Flores, Coordinator for Special Projects of the Office of the Associate Vice President for Administration, tells that the University is currently coordinating with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) regarding the possibility of the DLSU Manila Campus hosting automated rain gauges as part of DOST’s Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (Project NOAH). 

“The [rain gauges] will be used determine the amount of rainfall in a particular location and will help project if the campus and its nearby areas will be flooded. Having an accurate prediction system will allow us to call off classes earlier,” he shares.

Classes are automatically suspended without need for official announcement from the University when a typhoon signal no. 3 is raised before 8:00 in the morning, when declared by relevant government agencies before 8:00 am, or when declared by the local government of Manila before 8:00 am. 

The decision to suspend classes rests upon the University if the announcements are made after 8:00 am, or in other cases where the decision to suspend is left by the local government at the discretion of the affected institutions’ administrations. 

In DLSU’s case, announcements on the suspension of classes are communicated through official DLSU trunk lines and social media accounts, and are often cascaded by student-led media organizations and student government units.

In terms of earthquakes, the University is constantly making efforts to plan out emergency evacuations and to make aware the student body of protocols through emergency response materials. 

“This is one of the biggest hazards that DLSU faces because of the population density of the Taft-Vito Cruz area. Expect more announced and surprise earthquake drills to take place starting this academic year,” continues Flores. 

He also tells that the University is in partnership with the Philippine Sports Commission for the use of the Rizal Stadium as an evacuation area if such need arises.

Yes to El Niño

June 13, 2013 was the date when the University was first prompted to call off classes last academic year due to heavy flooding in the area. This year, however, experts have predicted that the coming of the wet season may be delayed due to the foreseen occurrence of an El Niño, a weather phenomenon that occurs when temperatures of the sea surface across the Equatorial Pacific are unusually high. 

While an El Niño has different effects worldwide, Filipinos commonly associate it with a drought or lengthened dry season.

Dr. Gil Santos, Physics Department chairperson and head of the Project Students Involved in Geophysical Weather and Atmospheric Studies (SIGWA), tells that there is indeed a probability of an El Niño setting in based on SIGWA’s readings in comparison with the data from 2013. 

He explains, “Because of the persistent dry condition, the rainy or typhoon season will be postponed for a while or the number of typhoons is reduced, but expect erratic heavy downpour that will cause flooding.”

The SIGWA team is constantly communicating with the administration to ensure that the proper measures are in place at all times. Santos continues, “[The administration is] making sure that the air-conditioning units are well maintained. The most important part is to watch out for indoor [air] pollution since most of the time, students will stay longer in classrooms, the library, or places where there is cold temperature.”

In addition, the University has multiple waste water treatment facilities, where waste water is recycled and used for gardening, flushing of toilets, and other purposes. This greatly aids in decreasing the University’s water consumption.

Monitoring health

According to Dr. Lily Cabuling, Director of the Health Services Office (HSO), there are a number of illnesses to be wary of in the coming season, whether it entirely becomes the usual wet season, or it becomes an extended dry season.

 Some common illnesses that can be obtained during the rainy season are the common cold and dengue, while diseases like Leptospirosis, Acute Gastroenteritis, and Influenza are also associated with the wet season and floods. Cabuling recommends the practice of good hygiene and the maintenance of healthy diets as first line defenses against diseases.

Apart from these, both Cabuling and Santos warn that an El Niño poses additional health risks. Santos tells, “The heavy effect [of an El Niño] is on the health of the people…because of the dry season expect an increase in measles, pneumonia, bronchitis, sinusitis cases, just to name a few, and of course the usual high blood pressure.”

Cabuling adds that heat stroke, sunburn, and heat rash are other things to be wary of given the heat. Health bulletins are regularly posted and updated by the HSO for additional information on these health cases. The updates are also sent via DLSU mail.

By Dana Uson

By Lorenzo del Carmen

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