08 April 2011

Subic rescue chief: Disaster awareness a must for Filipinos

With earthquake experts warning of the possibility of a “big one,” there is more reason for Filipinos to be more prepared and properly trained to face calamities, according to Rannie Magno, chief of the fire and rescue group of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

Magno, a member of a Philippine team sent to the tsunami-struck city of Sendai in Japan to conduct Oplan Bayanihan last March 18, noted that while Filipinos may have some training in disaster preparedness, they still need to develop a culture of disaster awareness.

“Filipinos must be ready, since the threat of a strong earthquake is highly possible,” Magno said.

In particular, members of disaster response teams should be properly briefed on what to do before and after earthquakes, he said. They must also have the proper tools and equipment in handling rescue operations, he added.

The Philippines, which is located in the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, is susceptible to strong earthquakes, Magno noted.

According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), the Marikina West Valley fault line, one of the active faults in the country, can cause a 7.2-magnitude earthquake at its full movement. The fault line runs through Metro Manila, particularly through the cities of Marikina, Pasig and Muntinlupa.

PHIVOLCS also noted that the Manila Trench, located 50 kilometers off the island of Corregidor, could generate an 8.5-magnitude earthquake, which can produce a tsunami in the Manila Bay.

While in Japan, Magno said he also observed the way the Japanese people dealt with the disaster and noted that while Japan was very well-prepared, the system of notifying residents still needed to be enhanced.

He said that Filipinos who were evacuated from Sendai recounted that not everyone responded promptly after the tsunami warning was issued.

Japan suffered a magnitude-8.9 earthquake on March 11, which caused tsunami waves of up to 37 meters high. The tsunami caused extensive damage in Miyagi Prefecture, particularly in the cities of Sendai and Fukushima, where the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant exploded and leaked some radiation in the aftermath of the tsunami.

Magno stressed that if a tsunami warning has been issued, people should seek higher ground within fifteen minutes.

When asked if he felt any fear during the recovery mission in Japan, Magno said that there was no reason to be scared since his team was well prepared. He also added that he had prior chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear training in the United States.

Magno is also a member of the core group of trainers/lecturers who conduct training for local and corporate executives on Incident Command System, which deals with all types of emergencies at all levels. This system, which was patterned after that in the United States, is to be adopted in ASEAN-member countries.

As of now, Magno is promoting disaster awareness activities in Subic and conducting earthquake awareness seminars and earthquake drills.

Magno, who recently received the Civil Service Commission’s Pag-asa award for his work as SBMA fire and rescue chief, said that he is always guided in his undertakings by the core values of the agency.

“Dala natin ang core values ng SBMA. Iba ang values natin,” Magno said. “Lagi kong sinasabi sa mga tao natin na dapat dala natin ito kahit saan tayo mapunta, para mas dumami pa ang maniwala sa ganitong values. Whatever I do, wherever I go, I look at myself as an ambassador of the SBMA,” he added. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

SBMA Fire Chief Ranny Magno, in hazmat suit, checks radioactivity level at the premises of the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, which was found to be within normal limits. Magno, a member of the Philippine government’s “Oplan Bayanihan” emergency mission, has called for intensified efforts to increase the level of disaster preparedness in the country.