De La Salle UniversityAre we ready for Multi-hazards

Are we ready for Multi-hazards

ARE WE READY FOR MULTI-HAZARDS?

DLSU researchers partner with University College London’s EPICentre in a bid to make Philippine schools resilient when natural hazards strike. 

Resilience to Multi-Hazard

On March 11, 2011 while teaching at an international school in Japan, De La Salle University Civil Engineering faculty member Dr. Lessandro Estelito Garciano experienced and witnessed how Japanese school children evacuated from their school when a magnitude 8.0 earthquake hit Tokyo: they moved together calmly and quickly, had clear direction, and acted accordingly. For a disaster of that magnitude, the children were kept safe due in large part to the built-in preparedness of the school system. 

That experience as well as similar occurrences in Japan, although in lesser magnitude, have inspired him in his continuing research work, with his interests mainly on wind, earthquake and flood hazard mapping, Bayesian updating methods, risk assessment, reliability theory, and multi-hazard assessment of historical structures, hospitals, and schools.

In 2013, he became part of the ASEP (Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines) Study team that assessed the situation in Bohol after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake reduced into rubbles more than 14,500 structures–including centuries-old heritage structures – and resulted in over 200 deaths, and almost 1,000 injured (estimated figures based on NDRRMC reports). 

This urgent need to assess the vulnerability of our national cultural treasures led to the mobilization of consulting firm

ARS Progetti SPA (Italy), University of Santo Tomas’ Graduate School Center for Conservation of Cultural Property and Environment in the Tropics, the DLSU team of Prof. Andres Oreta, Garciano, and Engr. Kirk Yu, and experts from University College London’s (UCL) EPICentre, Prof. Dina D’Ayala, and Dr. Carmine Galasso at the request of the Department of Tourism with funding from the World Bank through the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery. The main focus of this work was to conduct a “detailed vulnerability assessment of selected cultural heritage structures 

to identify, prioritize, and provide initial cost estimates for risk reduction investments for structural strengthening and restoration.“

After this project, the UCL and DLSU team shifted gear and focused on schools. XU–ERC (Xavier University–Engineering Resource Centre) led by Engr. Dexter Lo joined the circle. For two years, UCL–DLSU–XU worked on the project Safer Communities through Safer Schools (SCOSSO), looking at the safety of school buildings in the Philippines against natural hazards.

Since buildings are critical infrastructures and are also used as evacuation centers in times of emergencies, these buildings must be assessed for multiple hazards.

Through SCOSSO, they were able to survey more than 120 buildings, which were evaluated for structural and non-structural vulnerability against natural hazards such as earthquake, tsunami, flood, and typhoons. Part of the project was conducting workshops for various stakeholders including government, private, and non-government organizations across the country.    

The success of SCOSSO served as the platform to launch PRISMH: Philippines Resilience of School Infrastructure to Multi Hazard project, funded by the British Council’s Newton Agham Institutional Links Programme, in partnership with the Commission on Higher Education. Started in April 2017, the project will run until April 2019.   

Garciano points out that PRISMH seeks to advance the assessment and evaluations of the schools, which are exposed to multi hazards. “Some areas are more prone to typhoons, some areas are more prone to earthquakes, some areas are more prone to flooding, etc. Because each area’s requirements are unique, the response should be tailor fit,” he says.  

The PRISMH team adopts two measures to better equip school communities, Garciano shares. One is called soft measures, which include the development of early warning systems and evacuation materials. The other is called hard measures, which involve analyzing the infrastructure, including its blueprints and integrity.  The team provides recommendations on how to improve the structure at risk. 

Currently, they have identified three school locations to review. One is in Tacloban, an area identified for typhoons, Cagayan De Oro for flood, and Surigao for earthquakes. These locations were selected based on the frequency of multi-hazards.

In February 2018, they conducted another workshop with the Department of Education personnel on the topic of disaster resilience. 

“Our school children are vulnerable to these natural hazards. But if the students in Japan can respond accordingly

to earthquakes, we can also do it,” he says.

DID YOU KNOW…?

A study conducted by the Geneva-based United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and the Belgian-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters shows that the Philippines over the past two decades experienced a total of 274 natural calamities. The Philippines is the fourth most disaster prone country in the world.

The Philippines is also in the Top 10 in terms of people most affected during calamities.

Dr. Lessandro Estelito Garciano is chair and associate professor of the Civil Engineering Department of the Gokongwei College of Engineering.

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