How to be in control when disaster strikes
By Nina Guno
For a country that’s in the Pacific Ring of Fire, disaster preparedness remains elusive to majority of the population.
This explains the destruction and casualties that come with every hazard, and the long and arduous road to recovery after.
Though the Filipino is undoubtedly resilient, we should be working to build a culture of preparedness.
According to a UNESCO video on disaster preparedness, “disasters are not natural; they only occur when people lack preparedness or the ability to cope with hazards.”
The UN defines a hazard as a phenomenon or human activity “that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation.”
Hazards only become disasters when a community experiences “serious disruption” because of vulnerability.
The good news is that being vulnerable can be reduced through planning and preparation. Here’s how you can do your part:
Use these online resources.
A number of sites and apps on your smartphone can give you information on hazardous events and provide tools for disaster risk reduction.
- Weather Philippines – an app which provides accurate and localized weather forecasts
- phivolcs.dost.gov.ph – a site where you can view where the West Valley Fault traverses Metro Manila
- org – a guide to disaster planning and preparedness with free downloadable forms
- me – an offline map which you can use in the event that there is no internet
Make a plan and involve your loved ones.
While we take disasters for granted, there’s a lot that can be done that’s in our control.
Making a plan is the first one, and it should involve those you live with or your loved ones.
Even if you’re prepared, you could end up worrying about people dear to you, which can lead to irrational and life-risking decisions when disaster strikes.
Plan according to which hazard affects you the most.
It’s important to think about what hazard has affected you the most within your residence or work vicinity within the last five years.
Think of both natural and human-induced hazards: Natural hazards include typhoons, earthquakes, and volcano eruptions, while human-induced hazards are those such as fires, industrial accidents, and terrorist attacks.
Besides identifying what you’re most prone to, think of how the hazard impacts you. For example, an earthquake could spell disaster if buildings are not earthquake-proof; otherwise, the chance of injuries or casualties would decrease.
Decide on action steps.
After knowing what hazard to prioritize, you can decide with your family on what steps you can take before, during, and after a hazardous event.
An example would be an earthquake, particularly “The Big One” with magnitude 7.2 that is expected to shake Metro Manila in within our lifetime.
Talk to your family about what their regular weekly schedule is like and their whereabouts. This helps determine where you should evacuate, or if you should stay put.
Imagine the hazard happening at zero hour during a workday afternoon. Where is each family member? At school, at work, on the road?
If you have information on your family’s activities, then you can decide if you should have a meet-up point and where would be most convenient or safe.
If you know that you are near a fault line, then evacuation to a place outside of Metro Manila could be an option.
Consider if there is anyone in your family who needs regular medical attention, such as getting a dialysis. Not only would stocking up on medicine be necessary, you will also need to be near a hospital that is not in a dangerous area, such as near a fault line.
Let’s say you decided to stay home because you have someone elderly to care for and according to Phivolcs, your community is far from the fault line but will experience tremors. Given that rescue efforts could take a few days and recovery could take months, decide as a family how long you will remain at home and what you need to prepare to survive during that amount of time with limited to no access to food, water, and medical aid.
Stock up on supplies that you need.
When people think of a disaster preparedness, they think of an emergency kit or bag. As we’ve established, it’s much more than that.
Still, the emergency bag is an important part of being prepared. Ideally, you have one in your workplace or school, and one at home.
How you stock up on supplies depends on your action steps.
According to the Office of Civil Defense (ocd.gov.ph), your go bag should include:
- Important documents in a waterproof container (another option is taking a picture of your documents and keeping them in a flash drive)
- Radio with fresh and extra batteries (even if you have a mobile phone, telecommunication lines can go down so a radio would be the safest bet for news)
- First aid kit (include aspirin, gauze dressing, pressure bandages)
- Spare cash and coins (note that during a disaster, you may not be able to access a bank)
- Items for specials needs of family members (e.g. medications for those with illnesses, a toy for children)
- Easy-to-serve, ready-to-eat food (e.g. candies, easy-open canned goods)
- Drinking water in sealed containers
- Mobile phones, power banks, chargers (a solar power bank could be handy if there is no electricity)
- Clothing, raincoat, and sanitary supplies
- Sleeping bags or mats and blankets (a thermal blanket is ideal because in case you cannot seek shelter, it can cover you and reflects and retains body heat)
Ideally, supplies should be good for three days or 72 hours. This is because when a hazard first strikes, services and infrastructure will be affected, so it will take time until a rescue team can arrive.
The drills that you will do depends on the hazard you are preparing for. An earthquake drill will require duck-cover-hold and evacuation.
Doing drills will also help you identify danger zones in your home. During an earthquake, these include windows, shelves, and heavy objects, according to weready.org.
These should be practiced at least once a year considering that during a hazard, one’s reaction would be based on instinct. Knowing what to do in advance can help people do the correct action instead of panicking and putting their lives at risk.
Being prepared is a good kind of paranoid.
You might be thinking that all this preparation is to make you paranoid. On the contrary, being aware of disaster risks could literally save a life, as well as other resources that could have been spent in recovery.
In other hazard-prone areas such as Japan and Kazakhstan, these steps are ingrained in children since kindergarten and has become a part of their culture.
Filipinos are certainly capable of that too, and being prepared for hazardous events is one way to building a more resilient population.