By Mary Angela S. Barlongay
The Philippines is no stranger to natural disasters. The country experiences floods, storms, earthquakes, landslides, and thunderstorms every year. And each year, more and more people die. Typhoon Yolanda was the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines, killing more than 6,400 people, by official count. Last October 2015, Bohol was struck by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake, killing 222 people and leaving 976 injured. It also destroyed almost 73,000 structures. Just last April, Batangas experienced a magnitude 5.5 earthquake, damaging the largest Roman Catholic church in Asia—The Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours. It also led to around 14,000 people to evacuation centers.
Being prepared and knowing what to do might lessen the number of casualties during calamities. Here are some tips on how to get ready for the Big One or any other disaster:
1. Be fully informed.
It’s better to prepare when you know what you’re preparing for. Look out for updates on the news or on the radio as to what type of disaster might be coming your way. Knowing ahead lets you know the places you should avoid, the thing you should prepare, and the people you should call for help. The national emergency hotline is 911; national disaster and risk reduction and management council hotline is 911 5061 to 65; Red Cross 143, 02) 527-0000, 02 527 8385 to 95; Philippine National Police (PNP) hotline patrol is 117; Bureau of Fire Protection (NCR) 02 426 0219, 02) 426-3812, 02 426-0246
2. Know your area’s evacuation route and nearest evacuation center.
Plan ahead and know where you should take shelter when a disaster comes. If there’s an earthquake, stay away from places near a fault line. If it’s a typhoon, avoid places that can easily be flooded. If you have kids, teach them the safest escape routes from your home. Choose a safe location where each family member can go to when they get lost.
3. Stay safe when you’re away from home.
If you’re always in the office or at school, know its evacuation plan. Have a communication plan to contact family members and to receive emergency notifications.
4. Prepare a disaster-ready/survival kit.
During calamities, you and your family might be away from home for days so it’s important to have the basics in surviving. The most important things you’ll need are food, water, clothes, basic first aid supplies, medicines, and emergency equipment like flashlight and matches.
5. Be mindful of people with special consideration.
This includes infants, kids, seniors, and people with disabilities. If you have a family member who needs specific medicine or special equipment, or has difficulty in moving quickly, make sure to plan ahead on how to evacuate quickly and prepare the things they will need.
6. Never leave a pet behind.
Nobody gets left behind, and that also include pets. Some evacuation centers may not allow pets inside for safety and sanitary reasons, so it’s better to stay at a friend or relative’s home that allows furry friends. Remember to pack some food and an emergency kit for your pets. Also, let your pet wear their tag so that when they get lost, someone can easily contact you of their whereabouts.
7. Practice emergency skills.
It helps if you know a thing or two about first aid. You can save a life if someone needs CPR and you’re there to the rescue. It also helps if you know how to use a fire extinguisher, proper tying of roles, perform basic first aid, and safely shutting off all home utilities or appliances to prevent short circuit and further damage.
8. Disaster-ready apps and websites.
You can now easily monitor disaster updates through your phone or computer using apps like Firechat, a US-based app that helps people communicate when traditional networks do not work, and local app PH Weather and Earthquakes. These apps provide earthquakes alerts, indicate the magnitude, and predict earthquakes from the Philippine Institute of Volcanic and Seismology (PHIVOLCS). PHIVOLCS and the Department of Science and Technology also created a web app that lets you know the location of the faultlines in the country.
9. Be a help to others.
Disasters create tremendous damage to the community, which needs your help to be a better, safer place for everyone. There are organizations in the Philippines, like the Philippine Red Cross and Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation that welcomes everyone who wants to do humanitarian work. Even a little help from you can make a big difference in other people’s lives.
10. Pray and have faith.
God has shared multiple principles and passages about preparedness in the Bible. Just like Noah, who did not wait for the rain to build an ark, we should also prepare for the worst and hope for the best. God will never forsake us. Never lose hope because losing hope, by itself, is already a disaster.