The 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit Tagbiliran City, Cebu, and Bohol on October 15 was one of the worst that the Philippines has ever experienced, leaving over 150 people dead, over 350 injured, and more than 9,000 families displaced. Because of the unpredictable nature of earthquakes, it’s important to keep in mind the basic steps to take in case one happens.
During the earthquake
1. Stay calm. Drop close to the ground, duck under a table or any other strong piece of furniture and hold on to it until the tremors subside. You can also take cover by staying under a doorway if there are no tables nearby, but be sure that it’s the load-bearing type.
2. If you’re in bed when the earthquake happens, stay in it and keep your head covered with a pillow for protection. If there is an unstable light fixture above the bed, get out of it and move to an area that’s clear of any hanging objects.
3. Move away from windows and doors that can swing open and close to prevent getting injured. Likewise, stay away from anything that can fall on you that have not been secured earlier, such as bookcases, breakables and hanging light fixtures.
4. If you’re outside your home, stand far from buildings, trees, electrical posts and other similar structures that can fall if the quake is strong enough.
After the earthquake
1. Don’t leave the house until the tremors stop. Many studies have found that a lot of earthquake-related injuries take place when people try to get out of their homes or buildings while the ground is still moving.
2. If you live in a condo or an apartment, avoid using the elevators to try and evacuate the building; you’ll risk getting trapped if the power goes out.
3. Check on your family and see if anyone is hurt or needs medical assistance.
4. Check your home for any broken gas, power and water lines. If there are, shut them off to avoid further damage and danger.
5. If you’re outside, stay away from damaged buildings, posts, or pillars that can fall on you.
6. Turn on an available radio to listen for emergency updates like tsunami warnings.
7. Aftershocks are to be expected, so avoid going back indoors, move away from unstable structures and try to find an open field where you can stay.
While there’s really no way to tell when an earthquake will strike, there are things you can do to prepare your home anyway, especially if your home is close to a fault line.
Making your home earthquake-ready
1. Keep cabinets, display cases, refrigerator and other heavy furniture and appliances secured to the wall with bolts or anchoring straps.
2. Make sure that you affix latches to cabinets and closets to keep the doors closed and the contents from flying out.
3. Arrange your shelves so that the biggest items are at the lowest level, and the lightest ones are at the top. This will prevent further danger if things start falling off the shelves.
4. Check to see if appliances and electronics such as televisions and computer monitors are placed on surfaces wide enough that they won’t wobble and fall. Strap them down if necessary.
5. Keep hazardous chemicals and other flammable materials away from your gas tank to prevent a fire in case of a gas leak.
6. Move the beds away from windows as these can break and cause injury. Also, move the couch out from underneath light fixtures, which might come loose and fall in an earthquake.
7. Prevent hanging pieces, like picture frames and mirrors, from falling with double-sided tape or Velcro.
8. Repair wall cracks and other damages that make your home’s foundation weak and prone to destruction.
9. Make sure that your doorways are clear from obstacles at all times. In case of high-magnitude earthquakes, you will need to evacuate your house as quickly as possible.
10. Put together a first-aid kit and keep it where you can easily grab it. After an earthquake, you want to assist people who sustained injuries however you can.
Remember, while it’s a big loss if your home and possessions are destroyed during an earthquake, it’s more important that you keep your family and yourself out of harm’s way at all costs, so don’t hesitate to leave everything behind if you have to.
Photo from GMA News Online