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Blue Helmets, Roll Out!

Last Sunday, on the 23rd day of October at St. Rita College, the Exempli Gratia Foundation (EGF) together with the Rotary Club Paranque MetroSouth (RCPMS) hosted the Blue Helmets Volunteer Orientation and Disaster Preparedness Training 1.0. The Foundation invited over 28 participants coming from the Rotaract of Paranaque MetroSouth and the Interact of Paranaque MetroSouth, youth oriented organizations supported by the RCPMS.

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The Blue Helmets Program organizes volunteers and teaches them vital skills in disaster preparedness. Armed with these skills, the Blue Helmets Cadets will know what to do during disasters and will become a ready volunteer base that will help and augment local Disaster Risk Reduction units.

That rationale behind the program because of the Philippines’ location in the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area notorious for violent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Recently, a spate of earthquakes had happened in different areas in the Philippines, the most recent of which was a magnitude 6.5 earthquake in Davao Oriental. There was also the massive 7.2 magnitude Bohol earthquake which leveled buildings and homes happening in 2013.

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It is very important that populous Metro Manila, which straddles the West Valley Fault Line, learns how to effectively react during a disaster. It is estimated that at least 33,500 people will die and an additional 113,600 people will be injured once an earthquake happens in Metro Manila as per the Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS). What will exacerbate the situation is an unready population which will clog up vital emergency services during an earthquake. With an informed population, more lives can be saved and emergency services can do more to help the injured.

The program started with EGF Founding Chairman Ronald ‘Bong’ Rodriguez introducing the Foundation to the cadets, highlighting the different programs that EGF developed to help communities all over the Philippines. Several videos were presented highlighting earthquakes all over the world and the differences in the responses of the populations of various countries. Then a brainstorming session was conducted in which the cadets were split into several teams and were asked to come up with the values that a Blue Helmets Cadet would possess.

After lunch, the cadets again split into several teams and was tasked to perform a typical earthquake scenario with each them given a specific role. The chaos that ensued presented the cadets with an idea of what will happen to an unprepared population during an earthquake.

The high point of the day was the training conducted by Disaster Preparedness Advocate Martin Aguda. Mr. Aguda spent the whole afternoon teaching the cadets about preparing for disasters, emphasizing the need for allocating and saving resources, proper information dissemination and the need to act swiftly. One of the main themes during the training was the Y.O.Y.O concept which stands for Your On Your Own. Basically, it means that during a disaster, you have to be prepared because emergency personnel would have their hands full and individuals need to survive without relying on other people or the immediate help of emergency units. The cadets were also taught some basic first aid and the hands-free cardio-pulmonary resuscitation technique, done to the beat of the Bee Gees classic hit “Staying Alive”.

Katrin Buot, President of Rotaract of Paranaque Metro South, says this of the program. “Sobrang saya! Dami nating natutunan!” [translation: So exciting! We learned a lot!]

Hopefully, this will the start the creation a well-informed and prepared populace that can help during disasters. There can never be enough preparation for disasters and with this program, the Foundation is arming the cadets with knowledge that they can use for the rest of their lives.

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