Create protocols to respond to bomb threats
YESTERDAY’S bomb hoaxes in Cebu City schools prompted school and local government officials to review and improve their disaster risk reduction plans.
Cebu City Councilor David Tumulak immediately met with school principals and DepEd officials yesterday afternoon at the DepEd Cebu City Division Office for a briefing on what they did after receiving the prank calls.
“The best thing to do is contact the nearest police station,” Tumulak said.
Among the observations during the incident was that it took a long time before the information about the bomb threat reached the police.
Tumulak said when an employee of the DepEd first received the prank call, it was first forwarded to their own disaster coordinator, then to the division office then to City Hall, which then informed the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO).
“It was an eye opener for all of us especially in terms of response and reporting of the incident because it takes time. During our meeting and debriefing this (yesterday) afternoon, we informed the school officials that if they receive information like this, they should report it immediately to the nearest police station,” Tumulak told reporters.
Tejero Elementary School principal Jeralyn Rico said that after they learned about the bomb threats, he immediately called the police and the city disaster office, who arrived in a few minutes.
News about the bomb threats however immediately spread and sent several anxious parents to school to get their children.
“Nangabot man hinuon ang parents pwerting daghana kay nakadungog nga dunay bomba. Nangahilak na hinuon ang mga bata,” Rico narrated.
(So many parents arrived after hearing about the bomb threat, causing fear among the children who began to cry.)
The parents slammed the front gate of the Tejero Elementary School, and destroyed the side gate to be able to get inside the school campus.
“Pwerting gubota hasta ang security guard gidukdok sa ulo kay mosulod jud sila, (It was chaotic. Even the security guard was hit in the head because they wanted to come inside the school)” she added.
To avoid panic and injury to the students, Rico said she told the teachers to bring the students back to their respective classrooms.
Zapatera Elementary School assistant principal, Luzviminda Pingol said that after their office received the prank call, she immediately ordered the guard to close the gate and not allow anyone to come in or go out.
Then, she told the teachers to look for suspicious objects that might be planted with a bomb.
As the parents rushed to the school, they climbed the fence just to get inside the campus.
“Nakakat gyud sa koral ug gipatid-patiran ang gate kay kuhaon nila ang ilang bata. Nagtuo intawon ang mga bata nga dunay linog,” Pingol noted.
(They climbed the fence and kicked the gate because they wanted to get their kids. The students thought there was an earthquake.)
But the school administration did not allow the parents to get their kids until everything was cleared by the police and the disaster team.
In a separate interview, Councilor Joy Young highlighted the need for school officials to remain vigilant in these incidents.
Young, who is the deputy mayor on education, said that as a general procedure, school officials should immediately take schoolchildren outside the campus during bomb threats, whether hoax or not.
“We can’t do anything if it turns out to be a hoax. We just have to be prepared for it. We have to continue to be vigilant,” he said.
DepEd Schools Division Superintendent, Dr. Bianito Dagatan said he will call the parents for a meeting so that they would know how to handle a
situation like what happened yesterday.
He said closing the school gates did not mean that they did not want the parents to enter the school; rather, they just wanted to prevent a stampede.
Schools should also coordinate with barangay officials and their division office.
Tumulak said teachers can adopt a coding system during disasters.
“By coding, for example, white meaning prepare or red meaning they need to evacuate. No need to mention about bomb or threat,” he said.
He praised the school teachers who handled the situation well.
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