One more stair exit is all it takes for newly built school buildings in Cebu City to be easier for students and teachers to escape from should disasters like a fire or an earthquake come around.
But like the unreformed Scrooge of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” the Cebu City government chose to be miserly vis-a-vis safety and settled for edifices with only one stair exit—one less than required by the National Building Code and the Fire Code.
The irony is that the city not too long ago boasted disaster preparedness owing to constant fire and earthquake drills in the schools. That boast now appears as wilting straws in the wind in light of the Department of Education in Central Visayas’ report on the hazards that the schools are.
How, in the name of all that is good, can the city conduct a proper fire or earthquake drill for up to 2,000 students occupying a building with only a single staircase? Any drill would only be for compliance and would not prepare the people concerned for a raw disaster.
Office of the Building Official (OBO) chief engineer Joy Ylanan virtually accepted culpability when she admitted that issuance of permits was bypassed in the construction of school buildings in barangays Pardo, Talamban, Basak San Nicolas, Tejero and Talamban to hasten the completion and use of the buildings.
Isn’t the OBO supposed to ensure that buildings to be constructed would be safe and not be an agency driven by haste? Haste in the construction of buildings makes waste, not in cash, but in precious lives when disaster strikes.
As a city engineer who refused to be named said: “It’s troubling. If there’s a fire or earthquake and the students go out, they only have one stair exit to use and there would be a stampede.”
It’s a pity that the lack of foresight with which the whole city was planned has now warped the way our school buildings are built.
Why, though prosperous, does Cebu City spend the least for building schools in Central Visayas? The DepEd-7 report states the city spends only P4.2 million for a two-story classroom compared to P4.5 million spent by other local governments in the region?
Are the cost savings owing to missing stairs worth the lives that would fall casualty to calamity? What kind of concern do our officials have for the end users of the schools?
If construction of school buildings is this lousy, should we expect work on school curricula or training and continuing education for teachers to be better?
City officials should take to task the OBO and other concerned agencies for their lack of foresight. Those missing stair exits need to be put in place before the next school year opens and the next calamity hits.
Heartless thriftiness in the making of buildings for our children, our future, should never be tolerated by a progressive city.
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