PRC intensifies its water-based rescue operations in time for the La Niña crisis
More than a year has already passed, but the fact remains devastating tragedy brought upon by Typhoon Ondoy continuously haunt us in more ways than one. The overwhelming magnitude and scope its terrifying wrath had completely caught us off guard. In the midst of the said chaos, one thing remained certain: none of us were prepared.
Learning from this rather formidable experience, Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Chairman Richard J. Gordon himself stepped up to do what must be done a long time ago—focus on preparedness, rather than blatantly wait for a disaster to happen before taking action. So, other than training the PRC's pool of volunteers, which he also tried to expand through Red Cross 143, he also engaged in strengthening PRC's capacity by personally heading the acquisition of equipment that could augment this particular cause.
Among the numerous rescue and response equipment acquired through his efforts are PRC's two (2) Lighter Amphibious Re-supply Cargos (LARCs).
LARC is an aluminum hulled amphibious vehicle that is capable of transporting five (5) tons worth of cargo, or approximately 50 passengers—both on land and on water; and as far as rescue and response operations are concerned, it can be used as a mode of transportation that could immediately bring victims of flashfloods, and even of disasters at sea, to safety.
Having the said vehicles at hand, PRC Chairman Gordon then personally asked for the assistance of the Philippine Marines to generate competent crew that could operate the said equipment; thus, last Tuesday (February 1), the two institutions initiated a comprehensive training program that focuses on amphibious vehicle operation.
The pioneer batch of this training course consists of several volunteers from PRC National Headquarters and Batangas, Cavite, and Valenzuela, Olongapo, Manila Chapters, who specialize on emergency response. And in order to maximize the said opportunity, Chairman Gordon also invited representatives from the Philippine Coast Guard, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Fire Rescue and the Olongapo City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office to join the said activity.
"We should not forget that the Philippine Red Cross is an auxiliary arm of the government; so, should we decide on opening a new door for response capacity development, it is also our duty to invite them in," Chairman Gordon explained in line with the abovementioned joint participants.
In fulfillment of the said training course, yesterday (February 3), the amphibious vehicle operation trainees hopped on board PRC's LARCs as the two vehicles conquered the waters of Manila Bay. There, Philippine Marines Inshore Battalion's Maj. Noel Precioso headed the discussion on basic commands and maneuvering techniques intended for LARC operation.
After a brief lecture on water-based navigation, all the trainees were then asked to put their newly-acquired skills to test by actually sitting behind the wheel.
Joining the said event was PRC Chairman Richard J. Gordon himself. And though he was already impressed with the current outcome of the said activity, he was very vocal with his intention to further improve the said training course, in order to further intensify the disaster preparedness program—not only of the PRC, but of the government as well.
"After this program, I am personally looking forward to an aptly prepared Philippines," Gordon uttered with high hopes.
"Hopefully, with these newly-developed skills, we could once and for all avoid mass casualty incidents during water-based calamities," he also added.
To date, there are only five existing amphibious vehicles (LARC) in the country—three (3) of them belong to the Philippine Marines, while the remaining two (2) are PRC's.
It is also deemed as a first for the Red Cross to have valuable equipment as such, since among all the Red Cross National Societies, only the Philippine Red Cross has its own amphibious vehicles that could support its water rescue capacity.