Preparing for Disasters

Preparing for Disasters
Edelissa F. Payumo MD

What is disaster preparedness?
Disaster preparedness refers to measures that we do to lessen or even prevent the ill effects of a disaster. For this topic, we will focus on two natural disasters that we periodically experience, earthquakes and floods.

Why do we need to prepare for these disasters?
First, these are events that we have no control. We can predict them but we cannot hold them off. The Philippines lies along the Pacific Rim of Fire, which is an area in the Pacific Ocean where a lot of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. This causes our country to have frequent seismic and volcanic activities. There is also the threat of “The Big One”, a 7.2 or higher magnitude earthquake from the West Valley Fault that the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHILVOCS) expects to occur anytime. On the other hand, the Philippines is also situated in a typhoon belt and welcomes more than 20 typhoons each year. Along with the rainy season because of the monsoons, our country has recurring problems of flooding.

Second, these calamities may cause severe damages to a community. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that shook the cities of Baguio, Cabanatuan and Dagupan in 1990 killed more than 1600 people and caused 10 billion pesos in damages. The “Big One”, likewise, is predicted to result in the collapse of more than a 100,000 residential houses and the death of approximately 30,000 individuals. Recall also in 2009, Tropical Storm “Ondoy” caused vast floodings in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. This killed more than 500 people and caused 11 billion pesos in damages. Being prepared for such disasters can lead to a reduction in casualties and damages.

How do we prepare for a possible disaster?
I have enumerated below some important things that will help us be prepared for earthquakes and floods alike.

• Keep yourself informed.
Monitor the news for weather updates, warnings, and advisories. Familiarize yourself with terms such as earthquake magnitude scale and rainfall warning system. These will give you a heads up for early evacuation before or immediately after the disaster.

• Evaluate and secure your residence or workplace.
Check the safety of your house against earthquake and floods. Secure heavy furniture and hanging objects and move essential items to the upper floor. Educate yourself on how to turn off main electrical switch and operate fire extinguishers. Fire most commonly happens after an earthquake while submerged electrical outlets and appliances may cause electrocution. Familiarize yourself with the floor plan or at least the emergency exits of your building.

• Prepare an emergency supply kit.
Your kit should include the following:

• First aid kit
• Food
• Bottled water
• Flashlight and spare batteries
• Battery-operated radio
• Candles and matches or lighter
• Whistle
• Blankets, spare clothes and shoes
• Toiletries
• Marker, pen and paper
• Cash

Food should be ready to eat and stocks should last for at least three days. Your emergency kit should be placed in an area where you can easily grab it in case of an emergency. Check the contents periodically for expiration.

• Secure important documents and have an emergency fund.
Important documents should be kept in a water-proof and fire-proof container. You can include here land titles, certificates, or even your priceless collection. You should also have enough savings that should at least cover three months’ worth of your household expenses. This will cover repairs and other expenses to help you get back after the disaster.

• Participate in emergency drills.
This will allow you to know the emergency evacuation plans of your workplace or your community. Familiarize yourself with the things you need to do during earthquake like “duck, cover and hold” and during floods like staying indoors.

Being prepared for any disaster will give you more chances of surviving. It will also help you not to panic when it happens. They say that preparedness is the calm before, during and after the storm.

 

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