ON July 27, 2022, Wednesday, at 8:43 a.m., a Magnitude 7 earthquake jolted an otherwise sunny and casual morning for the people of the province of Abra.
The powerful temblor left four people dead and about 64 people injured, and damaged hundreds of establishments and homes, including centuries-old churches and heritage sites. More than 50 landslides occurred in the area.
According to the Aftershock Count of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), as of 8 a.m. of July 28, 2022, there were 815 total number of recorded earthquakes, 168 total plotted earthquakes, and around 24 felt earthquakes, all within a Magnitude range of 1.5 to 5.
The Philippines is no stranger to natural disasters, the country being located in the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire,” and regularly experiences earthquakes of varying magnitudes.
Survival and disaster management expert Dr. Ted Esguerra said that when preparing for a disaster before it strikes, there are two things that have to be considered: behavioral and structural.
Shift in response
IN terms of behavioral aspects, there is an old paradigm that no longer applies to today’s settings, which is “you should be helped.”
He said that the new Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 encourages everyone, regardless of age and physical abilities or the lack of it, to be capacitated based on his or her understanding when it comes to emergencies.
“When I say emergencies, these involve all hazards. It can be acts of terror or gunfights, or structural collapse because of earthquakes or hydro-meteorological events. So, whether it’s natural or man-made disasters, they have to understand what the situation is, but there is a baseline to that,” said Dr. Esguerra on the sidelines of the recently concluded Emergency Preparedness Forum for PWDs and Senior Citizens held at the SkyDome of SM City North Edsa in Quezon City.
The forum, which was organized by SM Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Prime Holdings, aims to teach these most vulnerable groups on how to become prepared and resilient in times of emergencies and disasters.
One, Dr. Esguerra said it has to be determined first whether the individual has a mobility impediment; then something must be done about it.
The approach should involve capacitating persons individually, be site-specific, hazard-focused, adopt culturally amenable practices, and everything should be time bound.
“THIS means a one-size-fits-all approach will not work; it should be customized. How can a person who is hearing impaired understand instructions verbally, unless a form of nonverbal communication is adopted? How would people with developmental disorders, like those with Down’s Syndrome, understand instructions? So you have to be repetitive, there is a process, and we review it before, during and after.”
When empowering people, it should include a primary support group and the community. Today, a person should teach himself how to survive, he said, and during his talk at the forum, Dr. Esguerra mentioned that in a disaster, one should learn “you are on your own” or “YOYO.”
“When a person is empowered to learn what to do during a disaster, even when left alone, that person will survive on his or her own. That’s what I call the ‘Starfish Principle,’ where if you cut one portion of the starfish, it will grow back, unlike the ‘Spider Principle,’ where if you cut one, it will die. I believe that an empowered person is a very dynamic person,” he explained.
When it comes to teaching people disaster preparedness, Dr. Esguerra said there has to be a champion who will propagate the message of being prepared mentally and physically for disasters. It can be the government or the private sector, but the best part is for these two institutions to collaborate, adding that such will certainly reap benefits.
Dr. Esguerra also shared these basic tips in terms of disaster preparedness, not just for the differently abled and the elderly but for the general population as well.
One is to increase one’s situational awareness by anchoring it to one’s worth, especially for the differently abled or those with problems on mobility who may not be able to move as fast as the others.
Two, have what Dr. Esguerra called an “everyday carry,” a bag that contains basic essentials: first-aid kit, maintenance medicines for those who need it or even simple, over-the-counter medicines, potable water, flashlight, signaling device like a whistle.
Three is what Dr. Esguerra calls “life skills” such as basic life support, how to administer first aid like bandaging, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), even firefighting.
Fourth is a “contacts list” that contains contact details of important institutions like police, fire department, poison control, more of like a small handbook, preferably wrapped in waterproof or resilient material, or it can be reading materials posted in strategic places such as schools, churches and of course, even homes, or transport vehicles like jeeps, buses or tricycles.
“People can store this list in their cellphones, like what many people do, but what if the phone runs out of battery or falls into water? It’ll be useless already, so this list has to be separate and carried by the person in his body like in a bag, or for those who are wheelchair-bound, it can be placed at the pouch behind the wheelchair.”
Fifth is to train people on whether to evacuate or “shelter in place,” especially for those with mobility problems or developmental disorders, which should be done repetitively since they cannot discern whether to evacuate or shelter in place so they would understand.
More to learn
IT was 32 years ago, or July 16, 1990, when a powerful Magnitude 7.8 tremor hit the Philippines’ main island of Luzon and left an estimated 2,412 people dead, scores injured, with damage worth an estimated P20 billion.
To many, that was the longest 45 seconds in their lives where many Filipinos called practically every god and saint in their vocabulary and prayed fervently for survival.
And of course, there’s the “Big One” that many have been talking about. Does the country already have a recipe to counter disasters, which should be all about preparedness? It will certainly take a lot of work.