In general, most emergencies are efficiently managed if the first responders are well trained and appropriately equipped to handle such situations. But most of the barangays cannot afford to organize or acquire sophisticated emergency rescue teams or equipment and often have to make do with whoever and whatever is available at the moment until proper rescue personnel arrive.
In the case of resource-rich Barangay San Antonio, however, a barangay rescue team has been in place since 2000. Back then, the team was composed of Fire Rescue Personnel. In early 2008, the barangay leadership established its very own Emergency Response/Rescue Program which integrated the Fire and Medical Teams under the supervision of the Barangay Disaster Coordinating Council. The barangay can afford to do this because it has a mixed residential-commercial area where the Ortigas Business District of Pasig City is located. It is the location of about 39 high-end condominium residences and 60 high rise buildings where more than 7,000 commercial establishments operate. As a result, the barangay’s real property tax collections alone are more than sufficient to fund the establishment of a sophisticated emergency response program.
And since the barangay is located along an earthquake fault, the 25,000 residents and the 140,000 employees who are working in Ortigas Center are highly at risk to earthquakes and the resulting fires. They are the ones who would benefit from the existence of an emergency response program. At the very least, the program helps them prepare for all kinds of emergencies and assures them that they can depend on a highly trained pool of volunteer emergency responders in times of crisis.
The most defining moments of the ER team were the rescue of 12 victims of Typhoon Ondoy in Pasig, the evacuation of 300 families during the Fire Rescue Operations in Barangay San Antonio and the rescue of 6 victims from the motor vehicle accident in Bagong Ilog in Pasig. The Emergency Response Program delivers the following services to its beneficiaries: First Aid, Basic Life Support, Medical Assistance for Events, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, as well as Flood, Earthquake and Landslide Search and Rescue, among others.
From April 2008 to June 2010, about 415 residents of Barangay San Antonio, 133 residents of nearby barangays and 595 people passing through the barangay have benefitted from the program. The program has also responded to over 291 medical emergencies, 182 cases of vehicular accidents, and over 35 fire incidents around the Metropolis, covering the same period.
The barangay ERP is a “living” system that changes and improves based on lessons learned. It has mechanisms to include direct participation/consultation with organizations and response agencies at all levels to develop a sense of community ownership. The program entails emergency response trainings for barangay employees, community leaders and other groups. It involves coordination with various organizations such as the Pasiguenas Organization for Women Empowerment and Recognition, Inc. (POWER); Antonio Village Homeowners Association and Senior Citizens Association, Association of Building Managers, Ortigas Center Association, Inc. (OCAI), Pasig City Rescue Team, National Disaster Coordinating Council, and PHIVOLCS.
Regular meetings with Building Administrators, officers of OCAI, and Homeowners Association ensure that they are updated with new developments and information on services from the Barangay.
The Barangay San Antonio communications system consists of 2 hotlines with recorders which can be accessed 24 hours, an alert panic button switch, and 30 handheld radios that are enhanced by a repeater system based in Antipolo.
In early 2010, the Command Center (CC) was set up in the newly constructed Barangay Hall. The CC provides real-time visibility as it operates 10 strategically located, closed-circuit cameras. The TV screens are monitored by eight personnel reporting in three shifts. Emergency and disaster situations such as accidents, traffic and other serious incidents are monitored by the CC, which also operates as the barangay dispatch center for ambulances, fire trucks, and security vehicles. The CC provides a highly preventive mechanism for the surveillance and apprehension of criminals and for immediate and prompt response to calls for help.
In May 2010, the BSA Incident Command System (ICS) was established as another mechanism that provides an effective unified command and minimizes confusion during times of massive disasters. It is a flexible framework with a standardized set of structures for everyone to work under. The ICS will be used for fires, evacuations, and multiple casualty incidents, planned events, and major natural hazards/disaster response. The ERT head will be the Incident Commander who will have overall responsibility over the incident or event.
The formulation and implementation of a strategic disaster/emergency preparedness plan at the barangay level ensures sustainability and replication of the program. The Barangay San Antonio ERP model has been replicated through the organization of emergency responder teams in Barangay Pineda and Kapitolyo in Pasig, V. Luna Hospital, and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The ERT of Barangay San Antonio has also been deployed to assist in rescue efforts in other municipalities and regions. There are now plans to help organize and train ERTs in every building located within the Barangay. This will ensure sustainability of the program.