• Earthquake Alert: Preparing Your Little One For "The Big One"

    How parents can educate and equip their children on what to do when an earthquake happens.
    by May de Jesus-Palacpac .
  • children hiding under a table

    Photo from blogs.unicef.org

    Talks about a pending major earthquake that will affect Metro Manila and its surrounding municipalities have been circulating online for the past few months. The earthquake being referred to has to do with the movement of the West Valley fault which is a natural occurrence every four hundred years.

    Recently, an SMS circulated online warning people about an alleged impending earthquake that is said to occur between July 27 and 29, but the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) was quick to clarify that it has no facility to predict earthquakes and that this news is therefore a hoax.

    Many families, especially those who live within fault area, have been preparing for the impending disaster. We asked some of them to share what they have been doing and here's what we gathered:

    “I have a go bag for emergencies,” says Guadalupe Viejo barangay councilor and single mom, Nhessie Agustin. “I have a water bottle, transistor radio, umbrella, first aid kit, flashlight, whistle and more,” she says when asked what she had in her emergency bag.

    Expectant mom Kat Santiago shares, “Our place is less than 2 kilometers from the fault and we live in a mid-rise building. We have an emergency bag placed under the dining table. Our son also knows where he needs to go.”

    Pilipinas Daily editor Cor Emmata says, “I already told my boys that if an earthquake occurs, they should go under the sturdy table in my room. I already placed a small storage box that contains some food, water, whistle, diaper, face mask, first aid kit, flashlight and emergency light with fan and cellphone.”

    Kim Reyes, managing director of a marketing company, has already mapped out an emergency plan with her husband. “My husband is in service, so if something happens, we will be on our own since he'll probably be doing rescue operations. We have a "go bag" at home (my daughter's teacher also required them to bring one for when they're in school), and we've already discussed where our meet-up place will be in case we get separated. My husband also gave me a list of contact persons in the rescue units around town and neighboring towns so we know who to go to. All information about our family, meet-up place, and contact persons are in our "go bags" so rescuers can help our kids find us.”

    Seeking advice from the experts
    Since an earthquake is something that cannot be predicted, it is best to prepare for it. Parents need to educate and equip their children on what to do when it happens.

    Smart Parenting sought the advice of Louie Domingo, a Director at the Emergency Research Center (ERC), and Roman Carlos Barredo, a trained Safety and Health Service Volunteer Instructor for the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), on how parents can get their children ready for the big one.

    Barredo points out that the expected earthquake is no longer a new topic. However, concerned organizations such as the PRC were limited by the lack of resources in the past to spread the word and increase public awareness. “It is good that “the Big One” recently made trending topics over the news and social media,” he says.

    According to Barredo, school-age youngsters are the ones who can be taught life-saving skills. As for infants and toddlers, their protection and safety fall in the hands of their adult care givers, so it's important for them to get proper training.

    Domingo recommends "conditioning" as a way to prepare children below seven years for disasters. “Make emergency evacuation drills fun,” he says. “Have a contest on who can move out of the house the fastest, blindfolded, using only one hand and drawing their way out like a maze game from their room.”

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    Basic things a child must be taught on disaster preparedness
    Some parents hesitate to tell their children about the earthquake warning to avoid scaring them, but Barredo explains that it is only through awareness that anyone, including children, would know what to do when a catastrophe happens.

    Domingo sums it up as “Know and Go”: Children must know what may happen, what they must do and where they can go in the event of an earthquake.

    Barredo seconds this and emphasizes the significance of knowing where to exit and teaching them what their available resources are. Where are the nearest evacuation centers, hospitals and government agencies? Where can they go to get help?

    His recommended disaster management plan is similar to Reyes family's plans of action, saying that families should always know their resources, including meeting points and back-up plans. “Knowledge of survival skills and resources in communication are worthy investments that will result in personal survival,” he says.

    The primary challenge and responsibility of educational institutions is to get the children safely back to their families. Parents must teach their children, especially the little ones, to cooperate with the school authorities to make the process easier for those involved.

    Domingo adds that children who are able must also be taught first aid, including learning how to manage bleeding through direct pressure, reporting to an adult or authority for help, and calling 117 in cases of emergency.

    Practical things to remember during an earthquake
    There have been news that the “Triangle of life theory”, a disaster preparedness article that talks about how spaces and voids next to objects and furniture are the safest way to survive an earthquake, had been disputed by the Philvocs, the American Red Cross, and other emergency response agencies as a hoax. What then would be the best thing to teach children on how to respond during earthquake?

    Domingo says, “hoax or not, know and learn it. It may be another option to help you survive. Both drop, cover, and hold and the triangle of life are theories.”

    Barredo, on the other hand, says that the traditional “drop, cover, and hold” is still the most recommended method.

    The list of guidelines provided by the PRC on their website talks about practicing dropping, covering, and holding on to something in every safe place you can think of and staying there until the shaking stops.

    It also says to stay away from glass windows, heavy cabinets and book cases and to protect your head with a pillow if you happen to be in bed when it happens. These are just some of the things that children can be taught.

    You can also download a free workbook that you can use to teach your children disaster preparedness on the PRC website: http://www.redcross.org.ph/online-resources

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    Reminder for parents
    “Stay calm. Panic and fear impairs good judgment,” Barredo tells parents. “Receiving sufficient and constant training and living in trust are contributors to successful disaster survival.”

    He continues, “The steps that adults take are the same for the little ones. The only difference is that you're helping them take it. So get trained, be equipped, and pray!”

    “Plan, prepare, practice. Nothing beats the proper skills matched with the proper gear,” says Domingo. “Prepare yourself, prepare your family,  prepare your community. You won't be able to do this alone. You will need your friends and other family members to make it work for you for the long haul.”

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