#RescueMarch 2016, Responders go the distance to save lives

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FOR HUMANITY. The Rescue March Challenge aims to foster camaraderie, responder interoperability, and a culture of preparedness. Image courtesy Mara Mercado. Base images courtesy Martin Aguda

Some 700 disaster responders and uniformed men walk from the Bonifacio Shrine near Manila City Hall to Fort Bonifacio to prepare for the worse case scenario, in case the West Valley Fault System moves

MANILA, Philippines (Apr. 26, 2016) — What happens when the West Valley Fault moves and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake strikes? 

With a total breakdown in public infrastructure, roads will be inaccessible to vehicles, and responders will have to make their way to victims on foot. This is no easy feat, since responders have to be physically fit to be able to carry all the necessary equipment, and travel from a staging area to the affected areas.

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LONG ORANGE LINE. The Rescue March responders along EDSA. Image courtesy RG Rey

This is the endurance scenario that volunteers and responders regularly train for, culminating in an annual activity, the #RescueMarch Challenge.

Crisis response

This simulation exercise of an emergency response scenario is based on the Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS), which assumes significant loss of life and damage to property in the event of a major earthquake impacting the metropolis.

This Mass Assembly for Rescue and Care for Humanity helps to drive public awareness on the need and importance of a culture of preparedness, as well as for rescuers and disaster advocates to assess their individual and collective abilities to respond to a crisis.

“This is not a competition, rather a collective assessment of the response capability of each rescue unit,” says Martin Aguda, a safety and disaster risk reduction advocate, and one of the convenors of the Rescue March Challenge.

The timing is perfect, as the Rescue March Challenge comes only days after the first quarter National Simultaneous Earthquake Drill (NSED).

Endurance training

2016 marks the third Rescue March Challenge. The first Rescue March started at the Bonifacio Global City and ended at the Quezon Memorial Circle, while the second Rescue March started from Quezon Circle and traveled to Manila City Hall, the simulated ground zero for 2015.

Some 700 participants from volunteer organizations, the uniformed services, and government disaster management offices, were organized in 7-person teams.

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FAR AND WIDE. Responders from Guagua, Pampanga, prepare for the Mogadishu walk along Roxas Boulevard. Image courtesy Lou Gepuela / Rappler

Among the organizations represented were the Metro Manila local government units, the Metro Manila Development Authority, the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Army, Navy, and Air Force, Central Minor Basilica Fire and Rescue, Ride Guardians Emergency Network, as well as the National Service Reserve Corps unit and military reservists of the University of Perpetual Help system. For the first time, representatives from the provinces of Aurora, Pampanga, and Bulacan participated.

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SERVE AND PROTECT. The Philippine National Police Rescue March contingent below the Skyway. Image courtesy Martin Aguda

Carrying their personal protective gear, provisions and emergency equipment, they walked from the Bonifacio Shrine near Manila City Hall, through Roxas Boulevard, the CCP complex, and EDSA, passing by Villamor Golf Course, one of the planned evacuation areas, before reaching Fort Bonifacio.

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MOGADISHU MILE. Responders from the Bureau of fire Protection and other groups perform the Mogadishu walk along Roxas Boulevard. Photo by Lou Gepuela / Rappler

The Mogadishu walk, an exercise where teams carry an injured individual via a spineboard, was performed along Roxas Boulevard, from the US Embassy until the Manila Yacht Club.

This year’s exercise closes the scenario loop, with Manila as the staging area, and the Army grandstand at Fort Bonifacio as the endpoint. By organizing responders into their respective quadrants, the Rescue March also incorporated elements of Oplan Metro Yakal Plus, the government’s contingency plan.

A safer and more resilient nation

Undersecretary Alexander Pama, Executive Director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and Administrator of the Office of Civil Defense, lauded the Rescue March Challenge for helping promote not just camaraderie among disaster advocates and volunteers, but for also setting the stage for communication among organizations.

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ADVOCATES. Lt Col Tamayo of the University of Perpetual Help system, Dr Ted Esguerra, Director Felino Castro of DSWD and other officials look on as Undersecretary Alexander Pama welcomes Rescue March participants at Fort Bonifacio. Image courtesy NDRRMC / Office of Civil Defense

“Pagdating ng oras, ang mga responders…naka-organize na sila. Yung coordination mas mabilis,” said Pama, who always echoes, “It is only a disaster if we are not prepared.” (When the time comes, the responders are already organized. Coordination is faster.)

by Lou Gepuela | Rappler.com