On unsafe homes and evacuation centers

One attribute of the Catandunganon’s resiliency as far as dealing with the frequent typhoons is his capability to adapt to the winds becoming stronger.

In the wake of super typhoon Rolly’s 315 kph gusts, a lot of residents whose homes were either destroyed or damaged by the howler decided to build back better.

Most replaced their GI and wood truss roofing with reinforced concrete slabs while those who had enough savings replaced their torn-down homes with new ones of the sturdier materials.

Now, they are ready to face the next weather disturbance with confidence that they would be able to withstand all it can hurl at their homes.

This is just plain common sense, which is something that is sometimes missing in the bureaucracy.

A prime example is the evacuation center that was built at San Isidro Village, Virac.

The original design had GI roofing, which is susceptible to getting blown off.

The mayor at the time, Samuel Laynes, sought a redesign of the roof to reinforced concrete, which was fortunately granted.

Still, the revision was not enough as the two-storey building had wide open spaces at one side, allowing wind and rain to enter at the height of Rolly.

Apparently, the original design was meant for use in danger zones exposed to volcano eruptions, with the evacuation center’s kitchen and laundry areas separate from the main building.

Three years ago, the national government also began construction of three GI-roofed evacuation centers in San Andres, Pandan and Viga.

The San Andres edifice was built in a flood-prone area near a river while the other two were in relatively safer locations.

But what dismayed many engineers and disaster personnel is the design: more than half of one side is open to the elements, which could allow strong winds of Category 5 typhoons to tear the building to shreds.

Why designers of government buildings, except the DPWH Catanduanes District Engineering Office whose new office building has been made typhoon-proof, do not take into account the island’s regular exposure to typhoons is beyond understanding.

Just last week, no less than the Director of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) led the inauguration of the new Virac District Jail at a site in Calatagan Tibang that was donated by the municipal government of Virac.

Aside from dramatically reducing the congestion rate at the local jail, especially at its crowded facility at the municipal compound, the new one’s dorms are airy, cool and big enough for the Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs).

There is one thing that is missing from the two buildings: provision for the installation of typhoon guards at each of its wide wall openings that have only steel bars as barrier from the elements.

When a typhoon hits, the PDLs stuck inside could die from exposure to stinging wind and cold rain.

Without funding from the BJMP national headquarters, the jail warden would have to solicit from the local government unit and kind-hearted individuals the needed materials like phenolic boards, flat bars, expansion bolts, welding rods and the like.

This early, he should start looking for funds and begging for help.

At the same time, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council should perhaps convene technical personnel from the DPWH, Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE) and the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) to craft a local manual for ensuring building resilience against typhoons.

Plans of future government buildings could be subjected to review by a PDRRMC technical committee.

Tips for typhoon-proofing one’s home against calamities could be shared on social media or downloaded to barangays for homeowners to implement on their own.

With one or two months to go before the really powerful storms arrive, there is still enough time to do this simple measure.

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