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Saturday, June 20, 2009


I am not about to spew doomsday speak and cause panic and alarm. (Click on link below) But Manila does have its history of earthquakes dating back as early as 1658. The thing about earthquakes is that they're unpredictable. They don't give warning signs. They just happen. And sometimes they occur wreaking destruction and claiming casualties.

Such was the case with the July 16, 1990 earthquake that hit Northern Luzon. That day will remain etched in my memory for as long as I live. Now may I share with you lessons we've learned first hand from that experience.

Preparedness is best prior to emergencies. Power will be cut off. Ditto water supply. Here's what we all can do:

1. Always have canned food available in your pantry to last at least a week until situation simmers down. Make sure you have gas for cooking food and boiling drinking water.

2. Have an Emergency first-aid kit where all household members know where to find it.

3. Candles and matches for the long brownouts. Make sure rechargeable flashlights are charged! Don't know if mobile phone transmission towers will be working, but it's a good idea to have a charged spare battery. Expect phone networks (mobile and landlines) to go berserk a la 9/11.

4. Have a packed bag ready with the basic essentials for each family member in case you need to leave your home. Include a change of clothes, toiletries, first-aid kit, cash (ATMs will be down the first few weeks until situation normalizes) and other items you think are indispensable. A whistle just in case another big aftershock occurs and you find yourself trapped in the rubble, rescuers will be able to find you when they hear you blow on the whistle.

5. Sleeping bags and tents also umbrellas and raincoats will definitely come handy as some may prefer to sleep in their yards instead of inside their homes as aftershocks will occur after a big earthquake.

6. Best to wear comfy clothes and sturdy shoes after a big quake. Easier for you to get around. Always have a full tank in your car/s.


1. Ask your neighborhood association, PTA, district, barangay for plans during a big earthquake. How prepared are they? Form a group that will handle emergencies. Designate an area in your neighborhood for relocation (basketball court, park, gymnasium, school, etc.) and have the local council declare this as so.

2. Ask your school to make mandatory fire and earthquake drills. (We used to have a lot of that in elementary back in Baguio in the 70s, and when the earthquake did happen, I tell you, it helped a lot.)

3. Have a qualified engineer check your residence and assess how the structure will hold up in case of an earthquake. If budget allows, make necessary repairs now! Or move out to a stronger house if you're renting. Know emergency exit points in the building you live in and/or work at.

4. Inspect how your house is set-up. Are mirrors, frames securely attached on walls? Are bookshelves potential traps in doorways, corridors? Do you have several bric-a-brac free- standing on top of furniture, cabinets, shelves? These could cause severe injuries when they topple off during an earthquake.

5. Pinpoint to your local Barangay, District, Councilmen, Mayors, Congressmen potential danger spots or weak structures like old houses, half-demolished buildings, etc. and make sure they do something about it!


The first thing to do is stay calm. Move to a flat clear space if outdoors. Stay under sturdy desks if indoors. Never take the elevator. Best not to go with the crowd, panic may ensue and cause a stampede. Look for alternative exit points. When driving, stop car until earthquake ceases. Avoid driving on bridges after a big aftershock, the bridge may have suffered damage and not passable to vehicles.

When the situation has simmered down, and all members of the household are accounted for, join a volunteer group to help out in first-aid, a soup kitchen, a clean-up drive, etc. It will take your mind off the tragedy and make you feel you are somehow in control and on top of the situation. It's also a good way to reach out and give to those less fortunate.

Starting today and everyday, be grateful for everything you have. Hug your kids/parents and tell them how much you love them.

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