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Friday, July 31, 2009

DPWH to Construct Classroom-Cum-Calamity and Evacuation Centers

With classrooms becoming the last refuge for people
fleeing floods, calamities and wars, a DPWH official has proposed the
construction of school buildings that can double as evacuation centers
in times of emergencies.

              In batting for the construction of the "Home for
Education and Evacuation (HEE) Type School Building ," Undersecretary
Bashir D. Rasuman said it is time for the country to face up  the fact
that it is a calamity-prone area.

            "Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. wants us to
be pro-active and not merely reactive in responding to natural and
man-made calamities, the HEE building is our way of giving quick and
practical relief to those affected by all forms of calamities," said

              Rasuman, who handles the Mindanao operations of the
Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), said the HEE buildings
could also accommodate people evacuating from conflict-prone areas.
Rasuman knows such problems too well, being a native of Marawi.

            As proposed by Rasuman, the two-storey, two-classroom HEE
buildings will be constructed slightly "elevated" from the ground and
will have "water and sanitation facilities to include adequate
toilets, bath, washing areas, kitchen, waste disposal areas etc."

            "Disasters are first and foremost a 'local' phenomena.
Schools are often used as emergency shelters in times of calamities.
As such, our school buildings should be resilient to natural hazards,"
he said in a memorandum to DPWH Bureau of Design Director Danilo
Manalang. Rasuman has asked Manalang to prepare a "special building
plan" for the HEE building.

            Every year, about 20 tropical cyclones enter the
archipelago and leave damaging effects such as floods and landslides.
On the other hand, of the 200 Philippine volcanoes located along the
seismic belt, 22 are classified as active.

            When there are no calamities or peace and order problems,
Rasuman said the HEE buildings "can be used as home economics
(building), mess hall or school canteen with additional features like
kitchen, lavatory etc."

            Rasuman plans to pilot-test the HEE project in "typhoon
and flood prone areas" like Malabon, Navotas, San Mateo , Rizal;
Albay; and other areas in Mindanao .

            Ebdane had earlier ordered the formation of permanent
disaster preparedness teams in the DPWH's 174 district engineering
offices to attend to emergency situations all over the country, which
is known as one of the world's most calamity-prone areas.

            Instead of having ad-hoc and temporary disaster
preparedness teams, Ebdane said the DPWH should have
``institutionalized teams and plans'' to respond to calamities and

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