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Valenzuela's ALERT Center readies city for worst
Photo by: Rodrigo de Guzman
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Valenzuela City residents can expect a better coordinated response from the city government during disasters now that all core disaster response offices are in one place.

City officials on Friday, May 6, 2016 inaugurated the Disaster Preparedness Building at the Allied Local Evacuation and Emergency Response Teams Center, the city government’s disaster response complex that sits across the city hall in Barangay Malinta. 

It is one of the three buildings that comprise the 8,670-square-meter campus, along with the Central Fire Station, which was inaugurated in 2014; and the Red Cross Volunteer Center, which construction is underway.

The Disaster Preparedness Building houses the three main disaster response agencies:  the Valenzuela City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, the Valenzuela City Command and Coordinating Office, and the Relief Operations unit of the City Social Welfare and Development Office. The City Public Information Office and the Office of the Mayor also have satellite offices here.


THE FIRST TO ARRIVE The Bureau of Fire Protection - Valenzuela was the first agency to move to the ALERT Center complex in 2014. PHOTO BY RODRIGO DE GUZMAN.


Dr. Arnaldo Antonio, head of the VCDRRMO, said in Metro Manila today, it is only in Valenzuela where all the frontline offices for disaster response are next door to each other.

Before the ALERT, the VCDRRMO, the Command Center, and the CSWDO Relief were stationed at the City External Services Office, also known as the Action Center, a government complex a15-minute walk away from the city hall.

“Pasig City has what they call the RED Center. However, only the DRRMO and the fire volunteers hold offices there. Quezon City has a DRRMO building, but it is only the command center, the fire station and a satellite of the Office of the Mayor. Unlike those two facilities, OUR ALERT Center houses all of the agencies that make up the Incident Management Team. It’s a one-stop-shop,” Antonio said.

ALL-SEEING The Valenzuela City Command and Coordinating Center manages the city government's closed circuit television cameras and radio communication network. PHOTO BY RODRIGO DE GUZMAN.

INFORM AND EMPOWER Information is delivered via various media by the City Public Information Office. PHOTO BY RODRIGO DE GUZMAN

FROM THE FIELD Reporters may do their disaster coverage from the ALERT Center's Media Center. PHOTO BY RODRIGO DE GUZMAN

Built to last

The ALERT Center’s design was first drawn in 2014 as the city government’s entry to the Liveable Cities Design Challenge, a competition among local governments sponsored by the National Competitiveness Council, Microsoft and USAID. It would land the second place in the city government office-evacuation center category.

City Mayor REX Gatchalian said the ALERT Center was built to withstand disasters the scale of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), which left in its wake Php90 billion worth of damaged properties and 6,300 dead; and the so-called “Big One,” a 7.2-magnitude earthquake authorities expect to originate along the West Valley Fault, a 100-kilometer fault line stretching across Luzon.

With all essential disaster response offices under one roof, the ALERT Center will serve as the city’s emergency operations center functioning round the clock.

The facility is also equipped with a rain catchment system that captures and stores up to 330 cubic meters of rainwater. The City Engineer’s Office has reported the city government also has plans of installing at the roof deck solar panels that would collect sunlight and convert it into electricity.

THE FRONTLINERS The Valenzuela City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office's Search and Rescue Unit. PHOTO BY RODRIGO DE GUZMAN

THE WORKHORSE The Republic Act 10121, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, provides for the creation of Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices in every city, municipality, and barangay. The LDRRMO, the law states, will "be responsible for setting the direction, development, implementation and coordination of disaster risk reduction programs ". PHOTO BY RODRIGO DE GUZMAN

CALLING THE SHOTS The Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council is headed by the city mayor. PHOTO BY RODRIGO DE GUZMAN.

FOR THE COMMON GOOD The City Social Welfare and Development Office dispenses relief goods and runs the evacuation centers during disasters. PHOTO BY RODRIGO DE GUZMAN

SAVING FOR RAINY DAY Relief goods are kept at the ALERT Center in two storage rooms. PHOTO BY RODRIGO DE GUZMAN

Brain and peripheral nerves

City officials often describe the ALERT Center as the “brain” of the city’s disaster response infrastructure, with the 3S Centers as the “peripheral nerves.”

These 3S Centers are smaller buildings across the city that provides quick response to emergencies in the communities with their own disaster response facilities. But should the need arise, a 3S Center can contact the ALERT Center for support, for instance, replenishment of relief goods or additional personnel.

Offices in the ALERT Center and 3S Centers communicate over two-way radio and Internet Protocol phones, Dr. Antonio said. A 70-foot telecommunications tower is also being built within the complex now, he added.

GREEN BUILDING The Disaster Preparedness Building has a rain catchment system that collects and stores rainwater, which the building uses for its running water needs. Plans are also underway to install solar panels on the roof deck to convert sunlight into electricity. PHOTO BY RODRIGO DE GUZMAN.

Last building standing

Speaking during the inauguration, Mayor REX stressed the importance of a government facility as “the last building standing” in the aftermath of a disaster.

“A calamity might hit Valenzuela, but we are ready. People would come here and see a functioning government. [The ALERT Center] is the symbol of the government working for you during times of calamity,” Mayor REX said.  

LEAGUE OF ALERT Disaster response by the city government is better coordinated now that core offices are next door to each other. PHOTO BY RODRIGO DE GUZMAN

2016-05-17 | By: Rodrigo Carganilla de Guzman and Rafael Carpio Canete

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