Friday, April 15, 2005

Earthquake scare

Yesterday, a lot of people became worried when they received a prediction, by email or text, about a cataclysmic earthquake that was suppose to happen at around 5:00 pm. The prophesied temblor did not come. What did come was a call from folks and relatives asking me to come down from my building before five. My workplace is located on the 42nd floor of the PhilAm Tower building in Makati. At the time of the call I was already near my domicile safe and secure. I told the people who warned me that although their concern was much appreciated their faith in an unnamed seer, nun or otherwise, whose warning was dispersed by email, text and phone call was unfounded. The next day, I read Alex Villafania's article that reported Philvolcs rebuffed the psychic warning about the temblor. I just smiled and remembered what one person told me, "At least safe ka kahit na hoax." Again I just smiled but then again she was right. We live in an area called the pacific ring fire, zone of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions . Around 81% of the largest earthquake happen within this ring of fire. Since 1589, the Philippines has been struck by around 42 destructive earthquakes. The first earthquake recorded was on June 21, 1589 its epicenter was in Manila and its Mercalli Intensity Scale, , was VIII (- at this level it would be difficult to stand and cause considerable damage to poorly built ordinary structures. And noticed by persons driving motor cars). Prophecy or not it is prudent to be aware of what to do in case of an earthquake or eathquake related phenomen. In the early 1990s, my Father a geophysicist compiled a list of do's and don’ts in case an earthquake or quake related phenomenon like tsunamis (tidal waves) and landslide occurs. Each has a before, during and after section. I thought this might welcome information to everyone living or visiting the Philippines and any other place located within the ring fire. What to do in case of an earthquake: Before the earthquake - Get informed. Find out all you can about quakes and related disasters. Study your environment. Support community programs aimed at preparing for earthquakes. These include assessing the safety of buildings; strengthening public structures; and preparing evacuation plans. Check your home for potential earthquake risks. Anchor to walls shelves, cabinets and other unstable fixtures and appliances. Large and heavy objects must be placed on lower shelves. heavy, hanging objects must be secured. Conduct earthquake drills. During the earthquake - Above all be calm. Do not panic. If you are indoors, stay there. Get under a desk or heavy piece of furniture. Do not run outside as you risk injury dye to falling objects or electrocution. If you are in a high-rise building, find a table or similar fixture - which can be your shield against falling objects. Don't bother with stairways since these may be broken or jammed with people. If you are caught inside an elevator, keep calm and wait until help comes. If you are in a crowded public place like the market, do not rush out of it. Other people may have the same idea and a stampede may occur. Quakes usually last for only about a minute so there is actually no time to run outside while the ground shakes. If outside, stay away from building walls, electric posts and fallen electrical wires. If at home, turn of the main electrical switch and gas stove. After the earthquake - Before you start checking whether or not your family members have been injured, check your house for beginning fires. These can start from the broken gas lines or electrical short circuit.Check your family members for injuries and apply first aid Check your kitchen utilities. The quake may have broken your gas or electrical stove and water lines. If you smell gas, open windows and shut off the gas stove or gas lines. Do not light a stove or lamp with a match as this could trigger a fire or an explosion. Do not turn on electrical power until you have checked your house wiring for any damages. Do not touch downed electrical lines or objects touched by live wires. Have a battery-operated radio on hand and listen to safety instructions issued by authorities. Stay out of damaged buildings. Inform authorities of damaged buildings and other structures. Don't mill around in waterfront areas as they are high risk and in case tsunamis may have been generated by the quake. What to do in case of a tsunami: Not all earthquakes generate tsunamis. However, when one feels quake while in a coastal area, the earthquake can be taken as a natural tsunami warning. Tsunamis are usually preceded by a pronounced rise and fall of coastal water Before a tsunami strikes - The most effective mitigation measure to avoid damage, injuries and death is to refrain from putting up your residence in a tsunami prone area. If you are in a coastal area, move immediately to high ground as soon as you feel an earthquake. Do not wait to watch for a tsunami. If you can see it, you are too close to escape it. Stay off the beach during unusual tidal action. A tsunami may have been generated from a distant source and no official warning may have reached you. As a community, identify tsunami risk zones and inform people exposed to the risk. Establish a warning system and evacuation procedures Develop protective barriers against tsunamis. Plant rows of sturdy trees, to serve as buffers for tsunamis. When the big waves come in - Move inland to higher ground as quickly as possible When evacuating, don't burden yourself with personal effects. This will only serve to delay you. It is better you check that all members of your family are moving with you to higher and safer grounds. Stay out of the danger zone until authorities issue an "all clear" signal since a tsunami is not a single wave but a series of waves. After a tsunami - DO not use fresh food that has come in contact with floodwaters and pumped out wells. Let the water from the faucet flow for some time until it clears. Check the water before using. Before entering your house or any building, check it for structural damage. Make sure it's not in danger of collapsing. Upon entering your house or any building, cut off electrical power and check for short circuits, live wires and gas leakages. Don't use a match or lamp as a light source because of the danger of leaking gas. Use a battery-operated flashlight instead. If you smell gas, open windows and doors Open all doors and windows to keep your house dry. Clear your house of mud and other debris to control the spread of disease causing germs. What to do in case of landslides: Before the landslide- Plant ground cover or build retaining walls Reinforce the foundation and walls of your home. In mudflow areas, construct channels to divert mudflows from your homeConstruct interceptors along the possible paths of mudflows During the landslide- If you are warned of an impending landslide or mudflow, evacuate at once If you are inside a building during a landslide, stay inside and seek refuge under strong furniture If you re outside and cannot get inside a building, get away from the path of landslide materials or seek refuge behind a sturdy tree or boulder. You can survive mudflow only by avoiding it. If you are in a valley, get out as soon as you hear rumbling sounds from upstream or when you feel the ground trembling. These are signs that mudflow may be coming your way. If you are caught in a mudflow, try grabbing on to large rock, tree, or anything being carried along the flowing mud. This is one chance you may be able to survive. After the landslide- Check the foundation and walls of your home as well as the surrounding ground for damaged electrical and water lines The community must exert effort to stabilize the new land for reinforcement against subsequent damage Damaged land must be replanted.


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