Surigao Rescue Community Reassess Disaster Preparedness

To prepare the province from possible calamities now that the country is entering the typhoon season, the Surigao Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) took the initiative of gathering members of the rescue community to an informal luncheon meeting last Monday, October 18, 2010 at Hotel Tavern Surigao, to update everyone on the current preparedness of the province in response to air and maritime disasters.

SCCI President Jake Miranda saw the need for the members of the Provincial and City Disaster and Risk Reduction Management councils to be proactive and identify pre-emptive measures rather than just assign committees.

Quick Action Response Team (QART) representative Ralph Rowan gave a briefer on the preparedness of the agencies responsible in case of an airplane disaster. The need for an ambulance at the airport was stressed and a community-wide fire drill was scheduled. It was also known during the meeting that there were only between six to nine ambulances available at any one time in Surigao City, making it difficult to quickly ferry patients and casualties from a plane crash site since the Bombardier Q400 and the ATR-72 aircraft that fly to Surigao carry almost 70 passengers each.

Caraga Regional Hospital’s Dr. Panfilo Tremedal was tasked to head the airplane disaster drill which will involve the CRH, QART, private hospitals and the Bureau of Fire Protection. The PNP representative also committed to crowd control and traffic management during the drill and the actual disaster. It was also learned that the nearest Philippine Air Force asset is located in Cebu, to come to Surigao in case of the need for complicated rescue that the PAF can provide. The Philippine Coast Guard’s nearest stationed asset is six hours away at Cagayan de Oro.

PCG Commander Nestor Torre likewise presented the preparedness of the Coast Guard in case a typhoon like Typhoon Juan would hit the province. Several measures were identified including the need of every wooden passenger vessel to have maritime broadband radio, fire drill aboard ships, permanent stationing of the Coast Guard at the City Boulevard, and dissemination of safety information through AM and FM radio.

The city government through its representative, Engr. Elmer Tecson, committed to seeking assistance from the city council on requiring wooden ferry pumpboats to carry marine band radios, and allocating a permanent space at the boulevard for the Coast Guard.

The provincial government through Provincial Administrator Romy Cal will study the viability of purchasing a steel-hulled ferry to become the province’s logistics and rescue vessel. The provincial government would procure the vessel while the Philippine Coast Guard would commit to maintain it and spend for its fuel during rescue operations.

Radio manager Jun Galeon also committed to disseminating information to fishermen to always wear orange or bright-colored clothing at sea and to bring with them AM radios and flashlights when going on fishing trips.

The meeting was also attended by representatives of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary, Quick Action Response Team, Miranda Hospital, and the PNP.

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