How to prepare for the Big One and other hazards in 8 steps
In a disaster, rescue will usually arrive only after 72 hours.
This we learned at the Family Disaster Preparedness workshop by the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation and Pilipinas 911.
Our facilitators, Toni Zuñiga of PDRF and Ruel Kapunan of emergency dispatch company Pilipinas 911, have been on many a rescue mission. They shared that when disaster strikes, help won’t come immediately because roads still need to be cleared or ports are closed, as what happened during Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
Because every minute in those 72 hours count, PDRF developed the website ph72.org to provide tips and tools on how to prepare for a disaster with your family.
As a group, we established that what we needed to urgently prepare for was the Big One: the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila that is predicted to bring the highest human and economic damage to the country.
Based on the 2010 Greater Metro Manila Area READY and Risk Analysis Projects (GMMA-RAP), the country will incur P2.4 trillion in losses and an estimated 37,000 casualties.
But as we learned, hazards need not become disasters if we are equipped for them. Know what to do in the first 72 hours of a hazard and how you can plan for it with your family:
Step 1: Find out the distance of your home and workplace from the West Valley Fault.
The West Valley Fault runs for 100 kilometers from Sierra Madre to Cavite. The last major earthquake was in 1658. Based on history, the fault has moved in an interval of 400 years, so the next one can come within our lifetime or that of our children’s.
Note how far it is from your home, your children’s schools and your workplaces, as this will help you plan for the next steps.
Step 2: List the people included in your plan.
In the event of a natural hazard such as a typhoon or earthquake, our instinct would be to run to our families. But what if your line of work involves being on duty in emergencies, or what if it isn’t safe to leave the place where you are?
This is why all household members, including domestic helpers, should be involved in disaster preparedness planning to avoid panic and decisions that could endanger one’s self.
List your household members’ names, contact details and the places that your family members are most likely to be in each day during the week.
If you plan to leave Metro Manila during a disaster, determine your out-of-town host or contacts, and make sure to inform them that they are part of your preparedness plan (they need to get ready for you, too).
Step 3: Decide on a meet-up point and where you expect to go after the disaster.
Use the information from the first step to help decide which is the safer option between staying or leaving where you may be at the time of an earthquake.
From here, you can determine if you will go to a meet-up point. If you will, plan on a waiting time, noting how long it will take to move from one place to another by foot.
Based on the faultfinder maps, decide on what routes to use to go to your meet-up point and last destination. After the Big One strikes, the major road that may be safest to traverse is EDSA.
Full coordination is necessary because you need to consider that in an earthquake, you cannot move by car because roads will be disabled and cell sites will be down. To navigate, Kapunan advises to use offline map maps.me.
Step 4: List resources for your emergency kits at home and at work.
An important reason for also planning as a family is because you will need to budget for emergency go-bags per household member. Zuñiga emphasizes that just as a plan will differ per family, so will your resources.
The list of basic supplies includes the following:
- Food (non-perishable, cooked in easy open can)
- Rubber shoes
- First aid kit (including wound dressing, pressure bandage)
- Battery-operated/crank radio
- Duct tape (for emergency purposes such as repairing shoes)
- Extra clothes
- Thermal blanket
These are also listed in ph72.org. Consider also anyone who has special needs, such as a medical condition. If you have pets, make sure to count them in.
During the workshop, we also gained useful insight on what items are best for emergency situations, per our facilitators’ rescue experiences.
Kapunan says a can of tuna paella is helpful if you want to have a meal since it has both rice and fish. Candy also helps to keep your energy up especially if you are hypoglycemic.
Other important materials are a mask, a tourniquet, a water purifier and a solar power bank. The mask would help prevent suffocation from dust, while he cited that a properly applied tourniquet could help increase survival rates to anyone who is injured and bleeding. If in case you run out of water, a water purifier will allow you to safely drink from any water source.
Your go-bag from work and home will also have different supplies depending on your needs. For the most basic needs, you can just pack a go-bag with water, food, candy, tape and a thermal blanket.
Documentation is also extremely important during a disaster. While you should have a hard copy of your identification documents such as birth certificates and marriage certificates, scan these and upload them to a USB. Include easily identifiable photos of yourself too as it will help rescuers tag any missing persons or those they have been able to provide aid to.
Step 5: Decide on the best place to go after the earthquake.
After an earthquake, you should collectively decide if you will stay home, go to an evacuation center, or relocate outside Metro Manila.
Some of the considerations would be how long you will stay, how much food and water you will need, and the security of the area.
Other considerations could include a household member needing constant medical care, and for this you will need to identify a place where a hospital is nearby. Note however that depending on the location, hospitals within Metro Manila may also be destroyed by the earthquake.
Step 6: Practice earthquake drills at home and see where there are gaps.
Among the participants, none of us had ever practiced an earthquake drill at home; our only experiences were in the workplace or in school.
Our facilitators emphasize that a plan on paper is not enough. Practice drills such as the duck-cover-hold, first aid training, and surviving on limited resources. From here, you may flag gaps in your plan and draw up a revised one.
Check if your plan is still valid every quarter of the year, Kapunan advises.
Step 7: Regularly stock up on resources and check the expiry dates of supplies.
After assembling your emergency kit, you will need to note the expiry date and restock as needed. Kapunan advises to stock up on at least two weeks worth of supplies at home and to regularly check their expiry date as well.
Step 8: Keep updated on natural hazards through the following apps and websites.
Stay disaster-ready by having a regular source of information on disasters:
- Phivolcs – dost.phivolcs.gov.ph
- MMDA – mmda.gov.ph
- NDRRMC – ndrrmc.gov.ph
- Quake Alert
The ultimate goal of all this preparedness planning is to get life back to normal. While planning seems like a chore, empowering people will spell the difference between life and death.
This is necessary for nurturing generations of resilient Filipinos.
“If children see their parents and grandparents planning for a catastrophe, then it will be seen as a way of life,” says Kapunan.
Watch out for our next report which will help Filipinos identify various weather disturbances in the country.
To learn about workshops on disaster preparedness, visit pdrf.org. For emergency dispatch services, visit pilipinas911.com. For tools and tips on disaster preparedness, visit ph72.org. JB