Among the various natural calamities mankind may face, earthquakes stand out as the most perilous due to their suddenness. Despite the possibility of high-magnitude quakes providing subtle warnings, the recent earthquake last Nov. 17, 2023, at 4 p.m. that affected a large area of Mindanao exposed our weakness when it comes to disaster preparedness.
According to a primer from the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (DOST-PHIVOLCS), the earthquake registered a magnitude of 6.8, with its epicenter located 28 kilometers southwest of Sarangani, Davao Occidental. The agency attributed the earthquake to the Cotabato Trench and reported a total of 58 aftershocks by 8 a.m. on Nov. 18.
Online videos depicting the seismic activity reveal the forceful shaking of the land, so strong that even a crane on top of a building collapsed. However, what’s worrisome is that people have apparently forgotten the “Drop, Cover, Hold” protocol, a fundamental rule during earthquakes where one must drop to the ground or crawl under a desk, find something hard to cover the head, and hold on to something stable until the shaking stops.
Despite being taught in schools and offices during earthquake drills, this protocol was thrown to the wind as people shouted, panicked, and ran aimlessly. Chaos ensued in public spaces like malls and gymnasiums. When the lights went off in one supermarket, a video showed everyone shouting and elbowing their way to the nearest exit. There were reports of injuries due to these incidents.
This unfortunate scenario underscores a critical issue — disaster preparedness is not deeply ingrained in our “lifestyle.” When faced with a natural calamity, we forget that staying calm is the best way to save our lives — and the lives of others.
The DOST-PHIVOLCS also emphasized another peril during earthquake events: the rapid spread of rumors causing panic. It urged citizens to rely only on information from verified sources such as DOST-PHIVOLCS and respective Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices (DRRMOs).
While the full impact of the earthquake is yet to be assessed, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has already activated emergency preparedness and response protocols. The Civil Defense Regional Offices are closely coordinating with affected LGUs to provide real-time updates.
Addressing the situation, the President said, “Following the (earthquake), I assure you that the government is actively responding to ensure the safety of our citizens. In these challenging times, my commitment to your safety and recovery is unwavering, and I have instructed every relevant government agency to fully contribute to ongoing efforts.”
With the government response in place, those affected by the earthquake would find the timely assistance they need. However, this incident should serve as an early warning for the entire country — earthquakes and similar calamities are unpredictable and will not be the last of their kind. Even with the latest technologies, no one knows where and when the next earthquake will strike.
What we can do in the meantime is to make sure that our family, friends, and the community where we belong are prepared for any disaster and aware of early warnings; otherwise, there will be great loss — and greater regrets.
Credit belongs to: www.mb.com.ph