As Marawi recovers from the siege that has caused devastation to the city, its students are empowering themselves by enhancing their emergency preparedness and response skills.
Over 3,000 students of Mindanao State University (MSU)–Marawi recently joined the disaster preparedness caravan organized by PLDT wireless unit Smart Communications, through its brand TNT.
The TNT Tropang Ready caravan is a learning activity that tours schools all over the country to boost the disaster readiness skills of students and their friends (tropa). The program also aims to mobilize them to lead their families and communities to safety during calamities.
The youth plays an important role in disaster preparedness, according to Ramon R. Isberto, PLDT and Smart public affairs head. “They have the mobility, the skills, the technological know-how—they have what it takes to spread the culture of preparedness,” Isberto said.
Smart has included MSU Marawi in its Tropang Ready lineup as the city begins its recovery, according to Darwin Flores, Smart community partnerships head. “By equipping students and faculty with vital knowledge on emergency preparedness and survival, more people in the community here can also learn,” he said.
Resource speakers included representatives from the Philippine Red Cross, and preparedness experts from training provider Emergency Management Center.
PRC Lanao del Sur-Marawi chapter administrator Sittie Alliyah Adiong discussed hazards, disaster risk and preparedness. “It is important to understand the links between these concepts. For us to be ready for any type of disaster, we really have to prepare,” she said.
EMC’s Louie Domingo demonstrated how to conduct a proper “duck, cover and hold”: duck or drop to the floor in half-kneeling position; take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture or against a wall; and hold on to the piece of furniture.
He also showed the contents of a “Go Bag,” a survival kit containing a flashlight, bottle of water, mobile phone, garbage bag, T-shirt, flashlight battery, and other essentials that could last up to 72 hours.
For Alinah Daili, a student leader, the training enables them to be prepared in case of an emergency, whether natural or man-made. “Disaster readiness should not be taken for granted,” she said.
“We hope to teach other students and communities with the learnings we gained from the training,” said Henry Van Espegadera, a member of the seniors’ council of MSU.
Interactive booths, games, and other activities further illustrated preparedness, such as making a paracord bracelet, which doubles as an emergency rope and contains a whistle that can come in handy during emergencies.
Selected students and staff of the university also took part in the “training of trainers” on emergency response. During the whole day workshop, participants were trained on simple self-defense and survival techniques which they could apply during any type of disaster. They were also taught a technique to protect themselves called “Cocoa”: “critical terrain, obstacles, cover and concealment, observation and avenues of approach.”
With their newly acquired skills, the students and school personnel are seen to have the capability to teach other communities on emergency response and survival techniques.
Their experience in Marawi made them realize the importance of technology and communications in times of conflict, said Cesar de la Seña, MSU-Marawi vice chancellor for research and community extension. “We appreciate the learnings brought by Smart, because now, especially because of our experience, we realize how important technology is in coping with disaster,” he said.
Adiong noted that communities could benefit from collaborations between companies and government and nongovernment organizations. “The Red Cross and Smart Communications have a longtime partnership in disaster response. Smart helps ensure that communication remains available in affected areas,” she said.
“MSU, known as the hope of Lanao, plays a big role in disaster preparedness for the community of Marawi. Through the students’ leadership and skills in emergency response, they will be able to impart their knowledge and eventually benefit their communities,” said Smart community partnerships senior manager Nova Concepcion.
Empowering the youth is just the beginning, said De la Seña. “This program brings so much hope to the university; we wish to be part of more projects with greater impact to the community,” he said.
TNT Tropang Ready is part of Smart’s advocacy on disaster preparedness, #SafePH, which promotes preparedness through mobile solutions and on-ground activities to help communities mitigate disaster risks.
The program has recently been recognized the winner in the Community Engagement category at the prestigious Golden World Awards, which recognizes public relations practices that meet international standards of excellence. ###