THE STRONG Wednesday earthquake that shook North Cotabato and nearby provinces in southern Philippines was a reminder that we must develop a culture of safety and preparedness.
In a country prone to earthquakes, regular quake drills is a must. The drills should include practice and instructions concerning the location, use and operation of emergency exits, fire escapes, doors and fire extinguishers and other facilities provided for such purpose in buildings, as well as the proper evacuation of buildings by persons in the event of fires and earthquakes.
In Minato City in Japan, there’s an effective early warning system called the “5 p.m. chime.” We can do that, too. Everyday at 5 o’clock in the afternoon in Minato City, the instrumental version of a Japanese folksong is broadcast in speakers. This is a way to ensure that the broadcast system and speakers are working correctly; the speaker network is used to warn people of emergency situations, especially disaster warnings.
We also need to have this kind of early warning system in the country so that wherever people are, they are informed of important announcements especially in emergency situations, thereby reducing risks, casualties and damages.
When the “Big One” occurs, everyone should be ready. Government agencies and all public institutions must be prepared. But to equip us with knowledge on what to do before, during and after such disasters, there should be an effective early warning system, too, and massive information and education campaign.
To ensure that buildings, bridges and other similar structures can withstand strong earthquakes, there should be regular evaluation and retrofitting of public and private infrastructure also.
Local government units, including barangay officials, must determine open spaces for safe refuge when earthquakes occur, and craft evacuation plans that would help people find out the fastest and safest way to reach open spaces and other safe areas.
Disaster risk reduction and preparedness can significantly reduce the impacts of earthquakes. We cannot predict or stop earthquakes but can prevent it from turning into disasters with the right preparations.