Editorial: Improve prepping for disasters

The ideal time to announce a suspension of class is the night before. An early anticipation of possible disruptions to public commuting and avoidance of risks presented by flash floods, electrocution, and other accidents in inclement weather allows families to focus on staying safe in their homes or evacuating to safer premises.

Unfortunately, the authorities’ suspension of classes frequently fails to satisfy stakeholders. The usual dissemination by local government unit (LGU) or school information officers about the suspension of class and work hovers around 6 a.m., an hour only the laziest or the foolhardiest of commuters departs from home.

Parents who harp against delayed “walang pasok (no class)” pronouncements are understandably wrought over concern for their children or themselves who will end up undertaking the round-trip commuting, only for these efforts and expenses to go to waste because the students are either turned away from the campus or dismissed early.

Access to the internet permits one to follow the #walangpasok hashtag on Facebook and Twitter to get real-time updates on class suspensions from the news media and other official sources. Not all citizens have this access.

According to the officialgazette.gov.ph, Executive Order (EO) 66 prescribes the rules on the automatic suspension of work and class, which hinges on the typhoon signal system of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

The Pagasa must send out a forecast about the weather on the following day no later than 10 p.m. of the previous day. On the day when the suspension of class or work is needed, the Pagasa forecast should not be later than 4:30 a.m.

The Pagasa then relays its forecast to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and news media for dissemination to the public.

In many homes, parents and students wake earlier than 4:30 a.m. to prepare for school or work even when there is no inclement weather expected. This is in anticipation of transport time, which worsens during flashfloods and typhoons.

Thus, a 4:30 a.m. Pagasa typhoon signal announcement comes when many have already begun to commute.

EO 66 provides a caveat, though, that if the Pagasa is unable to release a typhoon signal warning, local executives as heads of the local DRRMs must declare the suspension of class and work.

Local executives are more informed which areas in their community are prone to flooding even after a short downpour or are at risk of landslides and other weather-caused disasters.

The NDRRMC text alerts on orange or red rainfall warning help warn citizens. However, the text messages are often delayed, serving more as confirmatory information rather than early warning.

Given the many priorities facing local executives and LDRRMs during disasters, citizens must also carry out initiatives to protect their families and communities.

After assessing the potential risks and expenses, parents, guardians and other adults in the household must make the call whether they or their dependents will leave the residence during inclement weather.

If there is no suspension of class issued yet by school and government authorities, a parent must keep children and minors at home rather than court accidents. For a valid reason, such as inclement weather, a student can be excused for being absent from class or may request to take an on-site exam at a rescheduled date.

Aside from physical risks, students entering classes on days when their parents or older siblings are absent from work and thus are not entitled to their day’s pay, also have little or no money for food, fare and school projects.

In this season of typhoons, monsoon, flash floods and other natural disasters, the timely suspension of class and work considers most importantly that a bit of rainfall accumulates into a host of disasters, from the ecological to the personal, for many Filipinos.