Green foliage and sky-high buildings tower over the Ateneo Professional Schools (APS) building in Rockwell. It looks aesthetically pleasing and secure enough, but who is to say that it is safe from any natural calamity? With the frequency of natural disasters that hit the Philippines, one can never be too complacent or careful in anticipating their occurrence. Prevention is still the best policy, and the noteworthy attitude of vigilance exuded by the heads and members of the Ateneo Loyola campus should be followed by the rest of the APS Community. In a seminar held last October 16, 2013 at the Ateneo Loyola campus, disaster mitigation and crisis management expert Seiji Suwa of Kobe, Japan shared his experiences and some advice on how to properly anticipate and deal with natural calamities from the perspective of an educational institution. The following are some guidelines from the said seminar:
1. Students must be flexible thinkers. This might be an easier said than done. Picture yourself suddenly caught up in an earthquake drill in Justitia and the only exit available is the narrow stairs to the Ground Floor. What would you do? Students must be able to compose themselves and think rationally and critically during times of emergency. This will enable them to make judgment calls and be creative in finding the best way to respond to a given situation. This is vital because emergency situations can never be completely predicted. As things do not always go according to plan, students must be capable and willing to take the lead and address complications as they come.
2. Know the ins and outs of the APS. In addition to knowing the school’s response plan and guidelines for action, mastering the area around you can greatly affect the way you respond to a calamity. Knowing where the exits are, the safe or danger zones and the fastest ways to get to or away from them will clearly matter when time is of the essence. Think imaginary blueprints of the building ala Mission Impossible. Look up, down, left, right from your study area. You may store these visual imprints in your mind, because these may come in handy when disaster strikes.
3. Get to know the people around you. Knowing the persons usually in the building would allow authorities to determine those who are missing and could potentially be in danger. This fast recognition and reaction time usually spells the difference between life and death. So the next time you meet or converse with someone along the hallways, smile that megawatt smile and gain friends.
4. Immerse yourself in different activities. Being open and ready to try new things will help establish the open-mindedness needed by a flexible thinker. These help students gain the confidence to surpass challenges that they may face in emergency situations. To illustrate, when streets were flooded by Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, student-mountaineers did not hesitate to cross the waters and help others since they already faced similar situations in traversing rivers and turbulent waters during their hikes.
All these guidelines are intended to help the APS Community move towards greater social awareness on the effects of climate change. One can never underscore the importance of disaster preparedness. After all, hell hath no fury like Mother Nature scorned. P
*Editor’s Note: The author is a member of the Environmental Law Society of Ateneo (ELSA)