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Legarda: Designate Open Spaces for Refuge During Earthquakes

March 27, 2011

SHOULD A STRONG TEMBLOR HIT THE COUNTRY, OPEN SPACES WOULD BE THE SAFEST REFUGE FOR THE PEOPLE, SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA SAID.
“It is vital for any city to have designated open spaces that are not only used for recreational purposes but also as evacuation areas when natural hazards, such as earthquakes, occur,” said Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change.
“However, this could pose a problem to some communities with only limited spaces left. It is always in hindsight that we realize that we have little or no urban space left for this purpose as urban development in the past was too eager in utilizing every square centimeter in Metro Manila,” she added, noting that a study by the Pacific Strategies and Assessments (PSA) showed that only less than one percent (1%) of the total land areas of cities in Metro Manila are open spaces.
Legarda said that local governments and barangay officials must determine open spaces, such as parks, fields, sports arenas, in their communities and craft an evacuation plan that would help citizens find out the fastest and safest way to reach these locations when tremors occur.
But with the sheer lack of open spaces, particularly in urban areas, the integrity of houses, buildings and other critical infrastructure would be essential to survival.
“One of the best protections against earthquakes is sound engineering practices. If there is no time to go to open spaces, those living and working in high-rise buildings should be assured they are in an infrastructure that is able to withstand strong temblors,” Legarda explained.
“Also a crucial aspect of survival from disasters is informing the public on what to do. Even with open spaces surrounding them and with an evacuation plan in place, if people are unaware that they must head to these areas when an earthquake occurs, then disaster preparedness measures remain ineffective. A country that is prepared against disasters is one with a government that has built the necessary mechanisms and citizens who know what to do when hazards strike,” Legarda concluded.