“Naging successful an satuyang drill ngonian… Magayunon na marhay su pag-evacuate.” This is the general observation of SFO1 Joey Ricky Cezar, Chief of the Bureau of Fire Protection’s (BFP)-Pili Fire Safety Section, after conducting the 1st Quarter Earthquake and Fire Drill at the Department of Agriculture-Bicol Compound in Brgy. San Agustin Pili, Camarines Sur on March 7, 2019. BFP-Pili gave the office nine out of 10 (Satisfactory) rating based on its point criteria for the drill phases namely incident/alarm, mobilization, and de-mobilization phase.

Led by OIC Regional Technical Director for Operations and Extension Rodel P. Tornilla as OIC-Building Disaster Risks Reduction Management Group (BDRRMG) Incident Commander, 220 DA-Bicol employees and clients simulated the six phases of an earthquake drill: alarm, response, evacuation, assembly, head count/accounting, and evaluation after hearing a loud 60-second siren which represented an earthquake affecting the province of Camarines Sur.

Tornilla ordered that the drill be conducted at an unannounced time to thoroughly assess the employees’ capacity and readiness in times of natural hazards and disasters. Members of the BDRRMG including the Assistant Incident Commander, Security/Crowd Control Team, Transportation Team, Supply Team, Communication Team, Warning Team, Evacuation Team, Firefighting Team, Search and Rescue Team, First Aid Team, Salvage Team, and Damage Assessment Team composed of representatives from various divisions and sections of DA-Bicol were activated during the earthquake drill. The BDRRMG also practiced their fire suppression skills.

According to Agribusiness Marketing Assistance Division (AMAD) Technical Staff Mercy Balgemino, the earthquake and fire drill raised her emergency awareness and readiness.

“Mas ready na ako ngayon. Kung sakali mang may mangyaring disaster alam ko na kung ano ang gagawin unlike kung walang drill, matataranta tayo,” she said. 

SFO1 Joey Ricky Cezar, Chief of the BFP-Pili Fire Safety Section, led the evaluation of the DA-Bicol’s disaster awareness and preparedness pursuant to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC’s) Memorandum Circular for 2019 National Quarterly Earthquake and Fire Drill, which aims to prepare and gauge the efficiency of warning dissemination and level of preparedness of offices and surrounding communities when an actual earthquake occurs, to train its personnel on the actual exercise of “duck, cover and hold” concept, and to test and evaluate the office’s contingency plans. Together with him were Fire Officer (FO) 3 Aniano Layosa Jr., FO2 Ramon Sambo Jr., FO1 Gaudencio Atanacio Jr., and FO1 Eric James Bañadera.

The activity was also conducted to strengthen its zero-casualty advocacy during disasters in line with the Fire Prevention Month celebration.

Moreover, Tornilla assured the BFP as well as the DA-Bicol employees of the Management’s commitment and continuous efforts to upgrade the BDRRMG’s knowledge and skills and identification of safe zones to improve occupational safety in the occurrence of natural hazard or disaster.

Currently, the DA-Bicol has 250 permanent employees and 415 Job Order and Pakyaw workers designated in eight divisions and four sections. The BDRRMG identified two safe zones for all employees when disasters occur such as the open spaces in front of the Administration Building and at the back of the Central Bicol Experiment Station (BEST). (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-RAFIS V)