Let’s gear up for the Big OneThe Big One, they call it, the magnitude 7.2 earthquake generated by the West Valley Fault that could leave more than 30,000 people dead and about 148,000 injured as homes and office buildings collapse all over Metro Manila and parts of Luzon.
Experts say the West Valley Fault moved four times in the last 400 years; the last movement occurred in 1658—357 years ago—which means the megaquake could conceivably happen between now and the next 40-plus years.
How prepared are we?
Battening down the hatches
All over the Lopez Group, companies are battening down the hatches in preparation for the Big One.
Based on the website Project Tremors (http://tremors.instigators. io/#), ABS-CBN is less than five kilometers from the West Valley Fault in Quezon City. At its busiest, some 4,000 people pass through the doors of its Eugenio Lopez Jr. Communication Center (ELJCC), which also recently became the new headquarters of SKYcable.
ELJCC is now earthquakeready with the completion of reinforcement works on the heartland of ABS-CBN. Its Millennium Transmitter, including the mast, on the other hand, has been upgraded to withstand not only tremors but the “new normal” of 350 kph wind velocities.
While the bulk of its earlier preparations had centered mostly on dealing with typhoons and floods, ABS-CBN has also prepared for other scenarios by conducting an unannounced fire drill; geohazard mapping of areas vulnerable to liquefaction, landslides, high intensity 7 and low intensity 7 quakes; and beefing up property management efforts.
Additionally, in time for the onset of typhoon season, ABSCBN has established a permanent command center staffed by HR, Safety and Security, Integrated Public Service (IPS), Regional Network Group and Risk Management.
In line with this, Sagip Kapamilya and ABS-CBN have adopted an integrated approach to doing relief operations that involves the aforementioned departments, says Sagip Kapamilya program director Jun Dungo, who was in the middle of the foundation’s post-Yolanda relief operations in the Visayas.
“Whenever there’s a forecastable calamity, such as a typhoon, we get together at the command center and come up with a collaborative effort in order to do whatever needs to be done,” adds Dungo, who does double duty as head of ABS-CBN Group Public Service.
Within ABS-CBN, IPS is tasked to formally get the word out about weather disturbances to management; with this, the network gets on the move, advising employees, fueling up and reinforcing generators and gathering emergency supplies.
“After Ondoy, we started to create a disaster response framework, with a committee composed of network executives and officers plus Sagip Kapamilya. Before that, we had a committee but it had no definite structure,” says IPS co-head Jerry Bennett.
On regular days, Bennett’s group runs the Tulong Center for kapamilya who seek legal, medical and other forms of assistance. At the same time, they keeps a close watch on weather and other seismological incidents as these also impact on the operations of ABS-CBN’s 53 regional stations all over the country, Bennett notes.
One of the most critical operations is the reporting of news in times of extreme emergency. What could be more extreme than a big earthquake that is going to cut Metro Manila into four segments? The challenge for ABS-CBN News operations is how to keep on reporting in the face of such a big calamity.
The first priority is, of course, the safety of news personnel. There are plans to evacuate the buildings in line with procedures established for all of the staff working within the broadcast center in Quezon City. But news journalists are known to put their lives on the line to cover such big and dangerous natural calamities as we saw during Yolanda and the various wars in Mindanao. The Big One in Manila is no different.
Depending on what time of the day or night the Big One happens, essential news staff has instructions on where to congregate to restart news reporting operations. News staff will be equipped with basics such as satellite phones that will enable them to keep contact with whoever is coordinating news operations at the time. Every effort will be made by news staff to report conditions wherever they may be when the Big One strikes.
Luckily, present-day technology allows for broadcast from almost anywhere. Backup equipment and ample stockpile of essentials like fuel for generators and news vehicles are major concerns. Plans are being finalized to be able to broadcast as quickly as possible for all platforms—radio, TV, online. Having been in tough situations in the past, like coups and typhoons, the news operations staff is confident they will be up to the challenge of the Big One.
The disaster and crisis unit of Energy Development Corporation (EDC) has trained not only other Lopez Group companies and business units but its host communities as well.
According to Dr. Ted Esguerra, EDC is way ahead of others in terms of disaster preparedness, such that its framework serves as a template for other organizations.
Currently, the lead of the 13-person team is working on having a dedicated command center in every Lopez company on top of a main center that includes a database of the personal information of each employee; this will serve as the “soul” of the Group during times of calamity.
For Esguerra, surviving a massive natural disaster such as the anticipated megaquake is a function of physical fitness as much as intelligence or mental acuity.
“What you know comes from what you see. Metro Manila has been flattened, so what happens to your landmarks and markers? But someone who is fit can walk for miles. If you have both, then that’s the best,” he says.
With the Lopez Group power companies back in growth mode, these efforts, which are part of a wider risk management process, have become even more crucial.
The term may change from company to company, the coverage expanded or otherwise modified, but the concept of risk management has always existed.
Thus, enterprise risk management (ERM)—the “process or system to identify the risks of business”—is considered both an old and a new concept, says Rene Mayol.
The former lead of the Lopez Group Business Excellence program, Mayol now serves as lead for business continuity management (BCM) (see related story) of the First Philippine Holdings Corporation (FPH) Risk Management Group.
Early on, ERM in the Lopez Group took the form of the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations (COSO) of the Treadway Commission framework, which focused chiefly on financial impacts. First Gen Corporation was one of the first companies in the Group to formally institute COSO in the early 2000s.
Under the ERM framework are three divisions or subsets: the aforementioned BCM, customer credit and vendor accreditation, and insurance.
Mayol emphasizes that having ERM or BCM is not a guarantee that nothing untoward will happen. However, having these in place will help companies react to or recover from issues.
As citizens—heads of households, parents, commuters, consumers—who come face to face with a myriad of safety and security issues almost at every turn, how can employees apply risk management principles to their daily lives?
Mayol has a straightforward answer: “A healthy dose of paranoia and a laging handa mentality will go a long way.”
He advises: “Do a practical risk assessment of your household, such as flood-prone areas, proximity to fault lines. Consider permanently transferring to safer areas or at least do preemptive evacuation during typhoon season. Read, listen to and heed practical tips shared in quad media.”
First Gas conducts an earthquake drill at its Sta. Rita and San Lorenzo plants in Batangas
The team after a mass-casualty incident drill at EDC
Rescuers in action during the MCI drill held at EDC earlier this year
A “victim” awaits treatment
Clients line up at the Tulong Center in ABS-CBN
Dr. Ted Esguerra demonstrates how to pack an EDC bag
Sagip Kapamilya spearheads a fire relief operation in Tondo and Parañaque
The foundation distributes relief goods in Maribojoc, Bohol