School kids cannot help but giggle and shriek during shake drill
A long, monotonous alarm followed by the giddy shrieks of young girls pierced the quiet halls of Miriam College as the school took part in the metro-wide earthquake drill on Thursday morning.
Once safe in the evacuation areas designated in open areas, the grade school students giggled and chatted amongst themselves while their teachers made sure that everyone was accounted for.
“Hey, listen to your teacher!” whispered a mother who was among many parents waiting to pick up their children after the morning class.
Agustin Alvarez Jr., administrative officer of the private school along Katipunan Avenue, said around 6,000 students from the grade school and high school departments joined the “Metro Manila Shake Drill.”
He added that they have been regularly conducting earthquake, fire and flood drills, both announced and unannounced, throughout the school year.
Miriam College also has an advocacy program, “ThinkSafe,” to raise safety awareness among its students not just during earthquakes or fires, but in more ordinary occurrences like road safety.
The alarm sounded off at exactly 10:30 am, sending students dropping and covering their heads for protection as the ground “shook.”
Moments later, the shrieking children ran out of their classrooms guided by their teachers and security guards who led them to the open spaces designated as evacuation centers.
The children lined up in an orderly manner as they waited for their teachers to account for all students, chatting and laughing amongst themselves.
“Those who are raising green flags means that no one is hurt and they are all there in the class. A red flag would mean that there were casualties or someone is missing,” said Margarito Fernandez III, an administrative officer.
An ambulance went around the campus during the drill to search for injured students or casualties.
As the children waited for the drill to be over, some parents tried to shush them into listening to their teachers, while others took photographs of their wards taking part in the drill.
Alvarez said their faculty and staff also took part in the drill as volunteers for the emergency response teams, leading first aid, clearing and evacuation efforts.
He said that with Miriam College just 700 meters away from the West Valley Fault Line, they immediately worked to improve students’ awareness of how to evacuate during an earthquake.
“We have to prepare, by raising the awareness of the community and by making sure that our students especially the young ones are safe,” Alvarez said.
Structural engineers had visited the campus and declared that its buildings did not need any retrofitting. Buildings on the campus only reach a maximum height of four floors.
Alvarez, however, was concerned about the high rise buildings along Katipunan Avenue, which might fall down in case of a major earthquake.
“I think these construction projects were opposed but they are still there,” he added.
After the earthquake drill, an outsourced firm will evaluate their school’s performance to improve their preparations for the next drills.
“We have documentations of the event through videos and photos. We will be monitoring these to improve our exercises next time,” Alvarez said.
The drill only lasted for 15 minutes as school officials eventually declared the classrooms safe, prompting the students to go back to their rooms and resume their routine.
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