CDO earthquake drill shows a school could suffer major casualties

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 22 June) – Had a big earthquake hit Northern Mindanao on Wednesday, a public high school here could have suffered “major casualties,” the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CDRRMO) said.

Students and teachers simulate application of first aid treatment to an earthquake “victim” during the drill. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

CDRRMO spokesperson Virgil Lago said although the students of the Cagayan de Oro National High School in Barangay Nazareth were “guided safely” out from their classrooms by their teachers, this scenario will change during a major crisis.

“In a major earthquake, the teachers might not be there to guide the students out from the schools. They could be the first casualties,” he pointed out.

The Cagayan de Oro National High School participated in Wednesday’s earthquake drill conducted around the city and nationwide. The first was during the nationwide earthquake drill conducted in 2015.

This is the second time the school became “a laboratory” for a major quake that may occur in the city.

When the clock struck 9 a.m. Wednesday, the school buzzers sounded and a public address system told the students and teachers that a major earthquake has occurred.

More than 2,000 participated in the drill.

Lago said the problem lies on the evacuation plan prepared by the teachers.

“It was the teachers who prepared the evacuation plan. They know it by heart but we doubt if the students can make a safe evacuation without their teachers,” he said.

Lago said a good evacuation plan should be jointly made by the students and the teachers so that the students will not forget the details.

City disaster officials said the availability of only one gate for the whole school could be a problem during a real earthquake. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

Grade 10 student Gwyneth Magto said their teachers told them what to do during the earthquake drill.

Magto said because she was a Girl Scout, her teachers instructed her to help bring her fellow students to the streets outside their school.

“But I knew already what to do because this is the second earthquake drill I have participated. The first was last year,” she said.

Aside from the evacuation plan, Lago noted that the school has only one gate used for all of its students.

He said a major quake could cause a major stampede among the students who will be scrambling to get out from the school.

Lago noted that the streets around the school that served as evacuation areas for the students have so many electric posts and trees that could fall down during a major quake.

After typhoon “Sendong” ravaged Cagayan de Oro and neighboring Iligan City, killing over a thousand people in 2011, local officials have taken their responsibility in lowering disaster risks.

“Sendong was a major disaster for us but it also taught us the lessons of preparedness,” Lago said.