With the Philippines now well into the most active period for typhoons, a senior member of Congress wants the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) to produce a new template for emergency evacuation centers that would be resistant to CoViD-19.
“We urge the NDRRMC, along with the CoViD-19 Inter-Agency Task Force, to set the standards and guidelines for the new evacuation centers that hopefully will be resistant to the highly contagious respiratory disease,” Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said on Sunday.
“We certainly don’t want the centers to become super spreaders of CoViD-19, in the event that local governments have to move out communities threatened by storm surges or flooding,” Pimentel said.
“Clearly, our pre-pandemic temporary shelters—wherein residents are jampacked into school buildings and gymnasiums without adequate precautions in place—won’t work anymore,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel envisions the new virus-resistant evacuation centers to be less congested to allow more distancing between makeshift tents and to have segregation areas for the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.
“We also expect the centers to have temperature scans, ample handwashing facilities and personal hygiene provisions, apart from ready supplies of face masks,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel is also counting on the centers to be routinely disinfected, have access to personal protective equipment, provide for the contactless distribution of food packs, and to be staffed by first responders who can quickly spot possible CoViD-19 symptoms among evacuees.
The London-based global risk consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft ranks the Philippines as one of the four most unsafe countries in the world in terms of vulnerability to storms, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, landslides and other natural disasters. The three others are China, Japan and Bangladesh.
The Philippines not only lies in the world’s most active tropical cyclone basin, it is also situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire where many volcanoes and earthquakes are formed.
In the 2007-2008 Emergency Preparedness Committee report of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), lead author Terri Rebmann, PhD, RN, CIC, urges: “Whenever possible, an infection control professional (ICP) should be involved in local and regional emergency preparedness planning, and thus available to be consulted as part of the disaster-planning process due to the potential for infection transmission in shelters.
Rebmann adds, “An ICP can assist in developing a needs assessment and identifying surveillance needs, performing surveillance, monitoring infection control practices on-site, and intervening during potential infectious disease outbreaks. If ICP coverage is not feasible, an ICP designee needs to be identified by each shelter and included in the incident command staff of the site as a medical/technical specialist. This should be done in coordination with local public health communicable disease officials who may be aware of additional local/regional resources to assist.”
APIC is a private non-profit professional organization based in Arlington, Virginia for healthcare practitioners dedicated to the principles of infection control.
The full text of the report can be accessed at APIC.org.