Let me break from my regular blogging to ruminate about this very relevant topic.
Yesterday, at around 5:11 p.m., a magnitude 6.1 earthquake shook Central Luzon, centered in Castillejos, Zambales. Seventeen casualties have been reported so far, mostly in Pampanga where some buildings have collapsed, with that number expected to increase. Metro Manila also felt the tremors, with high-rise buildings visibly swaying in videos uploaded to the internet.
Frankly, I had no idea that anything was wrong while it was happening. We were in the car going home, and I was busily planning an upcoming event. My husband, who was driving, apparently felt a jolt, but he thought that we had just hit a small obstacle on the road. We only learned about it when my mother called to ask where we were. Apparently, she and my Dad had been resting at home when their bed had started to shake.
Our first thought, of course, was the welfare of the children. We hastened home and found them all–kids and yayas–unhurt. The two boys, who had been playing in their second-floor bedroom, hadn’t felt a thing–in fact, my eldest was disappointed that he’d missed the whole event. My toddler and her yaya had just descended down the stairs–thank God–and had been in the empty garage when it happened. Nothing had detached, or broken, or fallen over; even my collection of location mugs arrayed on the shelves was intact.
My next thought was, were we prepared if this had happened on a larger scale? What if a magnitude 8 quake had struck; the “Big One”? Would my kids and “angels” have known what to do and where to go? Were our emergency bags and equipment complete? And I was shaken (pun intended) when I realized that the answer was NO.
The kids’ summer classes had been suspended, so in the interest of indulging my paranoia, I also decided to ditch clinic so that I could keep an eye on them and update our bug-out bags. While I did that, I also briefed the household on some easy-to-remember safety tips for when the earthquake is actually happening:
- Stay away from windows, heavy objects like unanchored bookshelves, glass (like mirrors or glass sliding doors), and hanging appliances like chandeliers or ceiling fans.
- Drop to the ground, hide under a sturdy table, and hold on. This is the classic DUCK, COVER, AND HOLD maneuver. Don’t rely on doorways because they’re no stronger than any other part of the house. Do this even if you’re in a high-rise building.
- Do NOT get into the “Triangle of Life“. There is no data that substantiates the claim that it can protect you. Look for a table or a strong desk to hide under.
- If you are in bed, curl up and put a pillow over your head.
- Don’t try to run out, go up or down the stairs, or gather belongings during the earthquake itself. Most injuries occur this way, with people falling and sustaining sprains or fractures, or getting hit by flying objects.
- Stay indoors until the earthquake is over and you are sure that there is no falling debris that can hurt you. If you must, use the stairs rather than the elevator.
- If you are already outside, find a clearing away from trees, power lines, or structures, and drop down while protecting your head.
- If you are in a car, drive slowly to a clear space and wait inside the car with your seatbelts fastened.
- If power lines fall on your car, stay inside and wait for help.
Refer to the Red Cross Earthquake Safety List and Phivolcs Community and Family Earthquake Safety Guide for ideas on what else to do before, during, and after an earthquake. The latter also has a list of what to put inside emergency or bug-out bags (BOB) for every member of your family.
Have you ever experienced a major quake? What did you do?