DLSU President Br. Ray Suplido FSC says that the evacuation of all buildings on campus during the second Metro Manila Shake Drill last June 23, Wednesday, is an accomplishment for DLSU. According to University Safety Office Director and Security Office OIC Dr. Jocelyn Dayanan, there was a 100 percent evacuation of buildings during Wednesday’s drill, which was part of the government-mandated metro-wide drill. All campus activities were momentarily interrupted as all students, faculty, and staff were evacuated by security incident response personnel.

The Metro Manila Development Authority had previously announced the drill via text blasts and news broadcasts to ensure that all sectors of the city would be prepared to cooperate in the activity.

Beyond the regular drills that the city holds for various calamities, the Metro Manila Shake Drill was conducted in preparation for the so-called “Big One,” an earthquake estimated at 7.2 magnitude, expected to hit Manila within this lifetime. Last year, a similar drill was also held in anticipation of the same scenario.

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Timely evacuation, protocol implementation

The drill began at exactly 9 am, signalled by the blare of sirens that could be heard all over the campus. Prior to the sounding of the siren, DLSU incident response personnel began setting up tents and stationing themselves around evacuation points. The siren resonated for 12 minutes while the drill lasted 20 minutes before everyone was allowed to return to their buildings and campus activities resumed.

Dr. Dayanan narrates that various personnel and contact persons were stationed at each building to facilitate the evacuation. While evacuation time was being recorded during the drill, each building was swept twice by patrol guards to ensure that they were empty. Evacuees were only allowed to return to their buildings after all of them had been fully evacuated. Dayanan reports that the length of time taken mainly depended on the building’s height. Br. John Hall required the least amount of time to evacuate, while the Br. Andrew Gonzalez Hall required the most.

The protocol during an earthquake entails staying in place as the incident happens, before evacuating to designated areas. “You just have to drop, cover, and hold on. After [doing] that, then that’s the evacuation,” says Vice Chancellor for Administration Edwin Santiago.

Likewise, Br. Suplido shares that leaving a building must be done in a timely fashion. He shares, “The criterion, according to Mr. Santiago, is ‘one floor, one minute.’ In other words, if you’re on the 12th floor, you’re given 12 minutes to exit. If you’re on the first floor, [then in] one minute you should be out.”

The occupants of the DLSU buildings were evacuated to designated assembly points. These included Taft Avenue, the St. La Salle Hall driveway, the Rizal Sports Stadium, the Leveriza parking area, the Marian Quadrangle, the Henry Sy Sr. Hall open field, and F. Reyes Street. People in buildings were expected to evacuate to these open areas and to maintain distance from the structures to avoid getting hit by the falling debris during an actual earthquake.

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Post-drill assessment, other drills

Dr. Dayanan shares that this year’s drill was an improvement compared to previous ones since more people were evacuated. She narrates that “less convincing” was needed in getting people to cooperate with the drill compared to drills conducted in recent years.

Santiago likewise echoes this sentiment, saying, “Generally, what I can tell you is that I’m happy this time because we have a hundred percent evacuation of the buildings, unlike the previous [drill].”

Br. Suplido posits that the improved performance was due to the metro-wide publicity of the drill. He also celebrates the cooperation shown by the members of the DLSU community. “I think it’s a compliment to the different members of the community [that] when they were requested to vacate, they did. That helps everyone. The [security] has to check how smoothly it was done; no rushing [and whether it was] done quickly and smoothly,” he says.

However, Dr. Dayanan observes that there was a lack of seriousness among participants of the drill. She illustrates that the “duck, cover, and hold” procedure was not strictly followed by most participants, and that even when they were told not to, some evacuees stood very near structures such as Velasco Hall, which would have been precarious in an actual earthquake incident. She encourages the community to adopt a more urgent mindset of the drill, and urges student organizations to help inculcate this, so that on the occasion of an actual earthquake, people would be prepared.

Santiago likewise laments the lack of urgency among participants. “I’m quite disappointed in how people take the drill. A little seriousness can help. May mga estudyante kasing minamadali mo na nga, nadedelay pa [There are students who still stall even when asked to hurry]. I know it’s just a drill, but we have to work on our response lately,” he shares. “I hope people can take this drill more seriously next time.”

Br. Suplido also explained that in more advanced drills, other aspects would also be considered, such as what to do if there are casualties and what to do if it rains.

Dr. Dayanan explains that in case of injuries or casualties, the medical office will be ready to respond at once, especially if transportation to a hospital is not immediately possible. Furthermore, she states that stretchers are strategically placed around campus, and first aid kit sites are available near the campus gates at all times. She shares that it is the goal of the Security Office to ensure that all of the guards at DLSU are trained in first-aid procedure.

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Br. Suplido also points out that “bottlenecks” in the evacuation could be an issue. According to him, one building they are looking into is the Br. Andrew Gonzalez Hall. He posits that as more offices replace Andrew classes that are being shifted to other buildings in campus, the building will gradually become less congested.

In all, the University conducts numerous drills to prepare for various contingencies. “We have a year-long series of drills,” Santiago declares. Aside from earthquake drills, there are also drills for other possible scenarios, which include the ambulance drill to determine how fast the ambulance can reach its destination and to make sure that routes are cleared, the elevator response drill to test how fast guards can respond to trapped victims, and the emergency medical response drill to probe clinic response time.


On the side of the participants

A student who was at the Enrique Razon Sports Complex, Camille Sy (II, AEF-BSA), describes that the drill was a success. Sy states that everyone complied with the respective rules during the drill. “It was successful since ayun nga, hindi naman mabagal ‘yung whole thing,” Sy shares. Once the chime went on, students at Razon were assisted by the guards to vacate the building and to go to the assigned evacuation area. Although some students moved in a leisurely manner, the rest swiftly heeded the guards’ instructions. The evacuation area for the Razon building is at F. Reyes St., in front of the DLSU Retreat House.

Meanwhile, Joanna Ayonon (II, IBS), who was on the 12th floor of the Andrew building, recalls not hearing the alarms. “The alarms were not heard all the way to the 12th floor of the building. We were wondering if the drill [had] already started,” Ayonon recounts. The designated evacuation area for the Andrew building was along Taft Avenue.

Carlo Yaptinchay (II, BS-MGT), although not aware of the evacuation areas, compliments the guards for their efforts to accommodate all of the participants. “I was not aware of the evacuation points, but the guards assisted us and told us where to go.”

According to a student named Henry* (II, APC), the drill started as he arrived on the 10th floor of the Henry Sy Sr. Hall. He was settling down when a guard approached him and informed him of the drill. He observed that no one in the area ducked and covered, and that they just started walking downstairs slowly as soon as they were informed of the drill. He supposes that some students might not have been aware that the drill was going to happen.

Nonetheless, it seems that many students were anticipating the drill. Minutes before the drill, many students had already gathered at the Henry Sy. Sr. Hall grounds. The people at the Job Expo were also prepared to leave their posts.

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When asked about what else the University could do to be more involved in drills like this, DLSU Professor Rey Mones responds that drills should be done regularly for everyone to be ready for an actual calamity. “[In] a crisis situation, we should anticipate that anything could happen, especially in an earthquake situation because you don’t know when and where it will occur. Having a mindset of readiness can spell the difference in such a situation,” he says.

* Name changed for anonymity

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