Key Takeaway: This second of three posts about preparing for the predicted Valley Fault earthquake that will devastate the Greater Metro Manila area discusses the things that can be done in preparing for an earthquake – before, during, and after it strikes.
This is the second of a three-part series I am writing regarding preparations for the predicted West Valley Fault earthquake in Metro Manila. For Part 1 (Maps and Home Safety Check), click here.
Good morning and happy new week, readers! To my Filipino readers, I hope you enjoyed your Independence Day long weekend, refreshed body and (nationalist) soul and ready to take on the exciting opportunities the week ahead presents.
Since three weeks ago, I’ve noticed that before the benediction in the Concluding Rite of the Mass in the church I go to, a prayer for protection from natural calamities is said. Although our world today in general needs this what with the increasingly worrisome storms, I can’t help but wonder if it’s related to the news about the Big One – the potential magnitude 7.2 earthquake along the West Valley Fault line that the metropolis is now preparing for. It’s true that the earthquake is one of the things being most frequently talked about here – and just as well. I believe that we need to be better prepared for an event like this. And preparation, as its name implies, is done BEFORE the event happens, and if done well can better equip you for said event.
Part of preparation for any event includes knowing what to do during the event itself, and after the event. In the previous article, I’ve discussed the fault line maps and the (concrete hollow-block) Home Safety Checklist; here, I’ll discuss concrete things (pun unintended) that can be done before, during, and after an earthquake.
In relation to this, I’d like to remind my fellow Metro Manileños that on Thursday, 30 July, a metro-wide earthquake drill will be held from 3:00 to 8:00 pm – to simulate both daytime and nighttime conditions. Both electricity and mobile phone coverage will be cut – as these are expected to happen in the event of the actual earthquake.
The following guide is based on PHIVOLCS’s guide to earthquake preparedness, with additions or syntheses made by myself.
Before an Earthquake
I can break down pre-earthquake preparations into three: Planning, Securing, Practicing, and Praying.
- Know the earthquake hazards in the areas you frequent the most (e.g. home, workplace/school, etc.) as well as from a macro point of view. The Valley Fault System Atlas is one good way to know the latter.
- Know all the evacuation points, especially the one/s closest to your home and workplace/schools. Get their contact details and familiarize yourself with the layout of the place/s as well as how to get there.
- Follow standards and/or best practices in structural design and engineering practice when constructing any building – or if the building is already standing, evaluate their structural integrity. You may need to renovate or even rebuild in this case.
- Assemble emergency supply kits. We will discuss this in Part 3.
- Prepare a Family Disaster Plan with your family, officemates, and classmates. We will also discuss this in Part 3.
- Attach heavy furniture to the walls – this may be done by strapping or even bolting them. You may altogether want to keep tall and heavy furniture away from your bed as in the event of an earthquake at night, it could fall on you and crush you.
- Evaluate the stability of hanging objects, such as ceiling fans and chandeliers. If they are not stable, repair, replace, or remove them.
- Store breakable items, harmful chemicals, and flammable materials in bottommost shelves or storages, and even then, said shelves or storages need to be secured.
- Ensure your emergency infrastructure is working. Regularly replace expired fire extinguishers and emergency supply materials, and check if alarms and communications systems are working well.
- Familiarize yourself with any and all exit routes possible. Know how to take them by reflex!
- Memorize the locations of your emergency infrastructure – fire extinguishers, alarms, and communications systems. Practice using them in a pinch beforehand.
- Place your emergency supply kits in easily accessible places so that they can be grabbed at a moment’s notice. You may want to keep at least some of its components near you: I place my transistor radio and flashlight beside my bed each night.
- Practice the effectiveness of your disaster plans with your family and colleagues/schoolmates.
- Conduct, and participate in, regular earthquake drills and other earthquake-related activities like preparedness seminars.
I cannot stress the importance of prayer. It is perhaps the single biggest preparation one can do: to pray for protection, as well as for the strength and willingness to prepare for this upcoming trial and the courage to cope with it when it comes.
During an Earthquake
Unfortunately, what we have seen from disasters – natural and manmade – in the past is that Filipinos tend to panic when something happens. It’s understandable: with such a devastating event happening, one is afraid of losing everything, especially their own life, and so is determined to get to safety ASAP. However, we need to understand that this mentality may actually hinder us more. This is the first and most important thing anyone should do in the event of an earthquake.
In a structurally sound building
- Stay inside.
- If possible, open any doors for quick exit.
- Drop to the floor before the earthquake can knock you down. Duck under a sturdy desk or table, and hold on to it. Alternatively, cover your head with your arms.
- Stay away from tall and heavy furniture and breakables.
- Be alert for potential falling objects.
- Quickly move to the nearest open area. This means staying away from trees, power lines, posts, and concrete structures.
- Move away from steep slopes, as landslides may occur.
- If you are near the shore, move as far away from the water as you can, to prevent being struck by potential tsunamis.
In a vehicle
- Head to the nearest open area at once, and then switch off everything.
- Keep the door closed as this will serve as protection from any falling debris.
After an Earthquake
Be prepared for any aftershocks. Remember, an aftershock can deal the final blow to any compromised structure.
If you are indoors, immediately take the safest and fastest way out.
- Use elevators.
- Enter damaged buildings.
- Use telephone lines unless absolutely necessary or in an emergency. No, checking on loved ones does not count; I am pretty sure the other 10 million people in the metro would like to do the same.
- Check yourself and others with you for injuries.
- Check water and electrical lines for damages.
- Switch off any gas stoves and apparatuses IMMEDIATELY.
- Proceed in an orderly fashion if there are a lot of you.
- Leave a note stating where you will be going if you will evacuate your house or workplace/school.
- Keep updated on news.
In the next part, I’ll discuss one of the more concrete and immediate things that we can do: assembling an emergency supply kit and constructing a communal home/work/school disaster plan.
Again, these posts aren’t meant to scare you – although I myself am afraid – but are meant to guide us all to prepare. After all, preparation beforehand is always the necessary remedy – though of course, nothing can beat the most effective and my favorite one of all – preparation #4.
Have a blessed week ahead!