By Stephanie Sevillano

(PNA file photo)

MANILA – All public schools nationwide must conduct unannounced fire and earthquake drills, according to the Department of Education (DepEd).

Based on DepEd Order (DO) 53, signed by Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte on Friday, these drills aim to ensure learners’ disaster preparedness.

“Aligned with the Department’s commitment of ensuring [the] safety and well-being of learners and school personnel, all public schools are hereby required to conduct unannounced earthquake and fire drills every first and third week of every month,” the DO said.

For proper coordination, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Coordinators in schools must work closely with the school heads for its “planning, implementation and monitoring.”

“These drills are to ensure that learners are properly guided on what should be done during and after an earthquake or occurrences of fire in schools,” it said.

“All schools in the National Capital Region (NCR), Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, and Bulacan, shall create a separate and specific disaster plan for a magnitude 7 or higher earthquake,” it added.

DepEd ordered schools to disclose these plans in detail, in case it involves “mass casualties.”

“The plan shall specifically lay down the response should there be a scenario involving mass casualties of learners and personnel,” it said.

DepEd said “effective preparedness plans” are crucial in saving lives, considering the level of risk the country is facing in terms of natural calamities, earthquakes and even man-made risks.

“Local drills and simulative exercises are preventive measures that familiarize escape routes and reinforce proper actions in the occurrence of a calamity. Frequent practice of these drills and exercises would eventually turn these actions into automatic reflexes that would manifest during an actual calamity,” DepEd said. (PNA)