Being reactive and resilient when disaster strikes is in the Pinoy blood, but with these disasters getting more dangerous and devastating year after year, it’s better to be prepared before disaster strikes.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), and the Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines (ASEP) recently released “How Safe is My House?”, a 12-point checklist that can help a homeowner determine how safe his house is against an earthquake. In it, you'll find questions such as: “Was my house built by a licensed civil engineer?”, “Is my house regularly shaped?”, “Has my house been subject to renovation?”, “Is my house free of unsupported walls?”, and “Is the soil condition under my house made of rock or stiff soil?” Each answer has corresponding points, and the higher the total score, the higher the probability that the house can withstand an earthquake.
Aside from the checklist, here are other questions you should ask to check if your house can withstand an earthquake:
1. How near is my home to a fault line? According to architect Kaydee Marie O. Velasco, U.A.P, C.B.P., CEO of KMV Architechtural Design Creations who specializes in master planning, architecture, and sustainable practices, the first thing you check when buying a home or moving into one is how close you are to a fault line. “Avoid areas where fault lines are located, since this is where most of the damage will be inflicted during an earthquake. If it’s unavoidable ─ due to old family properties, for example ─ you should build at least 25 meters away from a fault line, even if 10 meters is the allowed buildable ground from a fault line.”
2. What intensity/magnitude of earthquake can the building withstand? Ask the architect or structural engineer who designed your house or your condominium building. “For new buildings in Makati, for example, they are required to withstand at least a 6.5-magnitude earthquake," says Velasco. If you’re hunting for a new home or moving into a new one, look for home and buildings that are “earthquake-safe.” Buildings built before 1992 usually do not have earthquake precautions, so go for the newer ones if possible.
3. Are there cracks on your columns? Cracks on your columns mean that the structure is not stable or safe against earthquakes due to the foundation of the building. If you’re living in a condo, Velasco explains, “The most structurally stable location is near the elevator or elevator shaft, since the foundation there is strongest. But the safest place for evacuation purposes is near the exterior of the building.”
4. Inside my home, which fixtures can easily shatter or break? Cabinets, mirrors, any glass material or furniture that can easily break should be avoided. “There is a 100-pecent chance that these things can inflict damage or injure you during an earthquake,” Velasco stresses.
5. Where can I evacuate? “It’s best to be in an open space rather than inside a building when an earthquake strikes,” says Velasco. Scout for open spaces near your home, such as a village park or parking lot if you’re in the city.