Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What to do in times of emergency: lessons that should be learned from yesterday's 6.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked Cebu, Central Philippines

A 6.9 magnitude earthquake has rocked Cebu, Central Philippines at noontime yesterday. I was at the third level of a mall when the quake happened and I was one among those who rushed to go out the building. When I say "rush" I didn't mean like running but only walks faster than normal and being attentive. There was panic inside but I tried to be as calm as I can and took a deep breath although I was feeling a little bit nervous.

I thought the quake would soon stop but when it continued and even got stronger I have but only these words to come out from my mouth: "help me God!" Upon reaching the escalator going downward I was met with a heavy traffic of people. There was great commotion as everyone wanted to come out first. For fear of stampede, I took the less crowded going upward escalator and walked against it until I reached the ground floor and came out of the building safely.

Outside, a huge crowd of people already occupied the streets. Their faces registered clear imprints of shock and fear. It was not until a few hours later that people began to run in the streets after someone had said that a tsunami is coming. Cebu city lies along the east coast of the island province and the tsunami alert number 2 issued by the authorities made the people to panic more than what the earthquake has able to cause. I just ignored the people and stayed as calm as possible because I know that the tsunami alert number 2 was only for precautionary measure and not to be so much worried about. I went home immediately, though.

I was actually much worried by the earthquake than the rumor of a tsunami after. What made the earthquake different from other calamities is that it comes like a thief. No one could predict when it's exactly coming and where despite the most advance technology of today. Scientists are still finding ways and studying more on how to predict earthquakes. It remains a puzzle yet to be solved. But there was a time in my childhood in my hometown when the ducks in our backyard all gathered together in one particular place. Several minutes later,  came the earthquake. I have also noticed back then that when ants began to migrate to higher grounds that rainy days and/or a flood would be expected in a few days. Perhaps some animals have more acute senses than humans to detect future natural activities and calamities.

Yesterday's quake should have thought us many lessons. It is important that we know some of the most basic knowledge on how to deal with when such a kind of situation/calamity occur as well as in times of emergencies. A little learning, as what Alexander Pope would have us all reminded, is a dangerous thing. Misinformation can only lead to confusion, chaos, and panic. The following are just some of the few but most important things to do to survive in times of emergency:

Before any action, what you need is "STOP".

  • "S" is for Stop. Take a deep breath, sit down if possible, calm yourself and recognize that whatever has happened to you.

  • "T" is for think. The most important survival asset is your brain. Use it. Do not panic. Think first, take no action. Unrecoverable mistakes and injuries, potentially deadly in a survival situation.

  • "O" is for observe. Take a look around you. Assess your situations and options. Take stock of your supplies, equipment, surroundings, and personal capabilities. Absolute basic necessities are a good knife (like a quality folding knife), fire starting equipment (like matches), and mirror/major signaling.

  • "P" is for plan. Prioritize your immediate needs and develop a plan to systematically deal with the emergency and contingencies. Then follow your plan. Adjust your plan only as necessary to deal with changing circumstances.

One more thing you need to remember: a positive mental attitude is the most important survival resource.

2 comments:

  1. Napoleon, I am so happy that you made it out of that without a scratch. I was praying really hard for you and any everyone there. I know that had to be very scary. Here in my part of the US (Virginia) earthquakes rarely happen, but this past summer our area was hit with a strong one compared to what we have felt in the past. When things like that happen it makes people realize how helpless and how "out of our hands" things really are.

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  2. Your words of comfort are highly appreciated, Betty. Thank you for your prayers. Some things we can't control, but then we can always try to control our attitude towards them and, consequently, change their effects on us. God is our mighty Protector. Psalm chapter 91 assured us of this: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, 'My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!' For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper, and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not approach you. You will only look on with your eyes, and see the recompense of the wicked. For you have made the Lord, my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place. No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent. For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down. 'Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. 'He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him, and honor him. 'With a long life I will satisfy him, And let him behold My salvation.'"

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