Two big earthquakes shook the world in February 2016 reminding us of the impending big West Valley Fault earthquake that might hit our country anytime soon.
A magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit Taiwan February 6, 2016 right in the middle of the country’s festivities for Chinese New Year, leaving a death toll of at least 34, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. More than 100 are believed to be trapped in rubble and more than 500 have been left injured by the natural disaster. A lot of the devastation occurred in what is suspected to be a poorly-built 17-story building located in the worst-hit city of Tainan.
A few days after, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck 57 miles off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Thankfully, there was no need for a tsunami warning.
In May 2015, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) made an announcement on the looming massive earthquake that could strike our country. It said that it’s been 300 years since the last West Valley Fault earthquake, and, judging from the pattern, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake is bound to happen soon.
PHIVOLCS released informational material, including the Valley Fault System Atlas and a self-check guide for assessing the stability of homes, to ensure that every citizen is adequately prepared. Does this include your family?
Go through this 10-point questionnaire with all the members of your household. At the end, you should have answered “yes” to each one.
1. Have you identified safe places in your home, school and office? Wherever they are, each family member must be prepared for an earthquake. This starts with knowing the safe spots in the places they usually go to. For kids, this could mean at school and for adults it’s the office. Identify furniture and areas in these places that could be your safe place in the event of an earthquake. These could be under sturdy furniture or against an interior wall, or in an interior corner. Look and remember these places inside your home as well.
2. Has the whole family practiced how to do the “Drop, Cover and Hold On” together? Movements should be limited during an earthquake. As much as possible, they should be used to go to a safe place and Drop, Cover and Hold On. Don’t wait for an earthquake to knock you down; go on your hands and knees and drop to the ground. Cover your head and neck under sturdy furniture or with your hands, and hold on until the shaking stops.
To be able to react quickly during an actual earthquake, the whole family must practice this every so often. There may only be a few seconds to protect yourself in an earthquake and urgency is key.
3. Does each member of the family have his own Disaster Supplies Kit? Don’t have just one Disaster Supplies Kit -- each member should have his own at home, in school or at the office, and in the car. A supplies kit should last you 72 hours and should contain: non-perishable food (canned food, powdered milk, etc.), water, a flashlight with spare batteries, a whistle, a portable radio with spare batteries, first aid kit with a manual, special needs items (medication, eyeglasses, items for infants), sanitation and hygiene items, important documents and cash, and clothes.
4. Do you have a family emergency communication plan? Your family may be in different locations (kids at school, parents at work) when an earthquake happens. A family communication plan ensures that your family will know how to reach each other after an earthquake.
A family communication plan includes each member having each other’s contact information listed down and, if possible, memorized, and deciding on an emergency meeting place to reunite after an earthquake. Ready.gov provides more info on how to make an emergency communication plan and provides downloadable templates for kids and parents.
5. Is your house earthquake ready? According to PHIVOLCS Director Dr. Renato U. Solidum Jr., an earthquake resistant house would not collapse even at a magnitude 9 earthquake. Check the stability of your home with the 12-point questionnaire prepared by PHIVOLCS and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
In addition, go through your home and look for potential hazards. These could include tall, heavy furniture like bookshelves and cabinets, heavy picture frames and mirrors, loose hinges that will not hold a cabinet door shut during an earthquake, hanging plants, breakables that are kept in high places, and flammable liquids.
6. Does everyone know what do during an earthquake when they’re inside a building? When an earthquake happens and you are inside a building, stay where you are. Head to your safe place. Remember to Drop, Cover and Hold On. Don’t stand under doorways as these do not provide protection from falling and flying objects. Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors, and anything that could fall on you like light fixtures.
7. Does everyone know what do during an earthquake when they’re outdoors? Move away from buildings, streetlights, and electric wires. Don't forget to Drop, Cover and Hold On. If you are surrounded by buildings, duck inside one to avoid falling debris. Stay where you are until the shaking stops.
8. Does everyone know what do during an earthquake when they’re in bed? Stay there and cover your head and neck with a pillow. It would be difficult to move around and avoid hazards at night and in the dark. It would be safer to Drop, Cover and Hold near the bed.
9. Does everyone know what do during an earthquake when they’re inside a moving vehicle? Stop as quickly as safety permits. Stay away from buildings, overpasses, trees, street lamps and electric wires. Avoid going over bridges and overpasses as they may have been damaged by the earthquake.
10. Does everyone know what to do after an earthquake? After an earthquake, check for injuries. Look around and survey your surroundings. Turn on a radio and check your mobile phone if you still have service. Listen for possible tsunami and aftershock alerts.
Each member of the family should know what they should do if they find themselves trapped under debris. Every member of the family should also have emergency phone numbers memorized.