The Philippines has had its share of disasters—20 typhoons batter the country each year, some of them supertyphoons. Floods of biblical proportions inundate cities and rural towns, triggering landslides. The country also sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a zone where 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes occur.
While we can’t prevent natural disasters from happening, we can prepare for the worst. Knowing what to do when catastrophe strikes can spell the difference between life and death—and in these unpredictable times, it’s best to keep these survival tips in mind.
According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and seismology (Phivolcs) deputy director Bartolome Bautista, a strong earthquake is imminent for the Philippines. He notes that the Marikina West Valley fault line, which runs from San Mateo, Rizal to Taguig City and passes through the densely populated areas of Makati, Marikina, Paranaque, and Pasig, is “ripe for another movement [since] the last time the fault moved 200 years ago.”
World Bank consultant Peter Yanev echoes this warning in his report It Is Not Too Late: Preparing for Asia’s Next Big Earthquake, which focuses on the Philippines, Indonesia, and China. He emphasizes that high-rise buildings are at risk and recommends the “review and update [of] existing building codes and their enforcement, specifically for earthquakes.” Here are some measures that you can take before, during, and after an earthquake to minimize the threat of damage.
• Prepare a handy emergency bag that that you can grab and take with you. It should contain essential items that will make you self-sufficient for at least three days, including at least four liters of drinking water, ready-to-eat food, a first aid kit, clothes, a blanket, a flashlight with extra batteries, copies of important documents, and other necessary items like a whistle and a Swiss or multifunction knife. Place your bag in a very accessible location.
• When constructing a new house or building, make sure you get a reliable contractor who will follow best practices in structural design and engineering to ensure that your home is earthquake-proof. If you live in an old house, evaluate its structural soundness and see what parts need to be strengthened or retrofitted.
• Bolt or secure heavy furniture, cabinets, and shelves to the wall. Check the stability of ceiling fans, chandeliers, and other hanging objects that might fall.
• Conduct and participate in regular earthquake drills, whether in your office or home.
• Stay away from glass windows, cabinets, and hanging fixtures. They may break and fall on you.
• If you are outdoors, stay away from trees, power lines, electric posts, and concrete structures.
• Move away from steep slopes to avoid being crushed by landslides.
• If you are near the shore, stay away from the water. Move to higher ground. Remember that earthquakes can trigger tsunamis.
• If you are in a vehicle, stop and get out. Stay away from bridges, overpasses, and flyovers, which may sink, break, or collapse.
• Check yourself and the people around you for injuries and provide first aid if necessary.
• Inspect and check around you for dangerous conditions, such as fires, chemical spills, downed power lines, and structure damage.
• Put out small fires with a fire extinguisher.
• Listen to the radio for announcements and instructions.
• Prepare yourself for aftershocks, which can sometimes be large enough to cause damage.
• If you need to evacuate, leave a message that states where you are heading. Remember to bring your emergency bag.