DISASTER READINESS MINDSET SAVES LIVES DURING ‘BIG ONES’
The sight of collapsed buildings and a death toll surpassing 20,000 left behind by two strong earthquakes in Turkey and Syria on Feb. 7 must be more than enough reason for everyone in this ailing planet to accept “Big Ones” as frequent occurrences that would keep on wiping out communities and resources if no prompt, resilient measures are put in place.
As a country and a region that is no stranger to big quakes, we feel devastated watching the aftermath of the magnitude 7.8 and 7.5 tremblors that rocked the two countries – with Syria having been ravaged by 12 years of war and terrorism and Turkey mired with economic crisis – which direly impacted the lives of nearly 23 million people according to initial estimates of the World Health Organization.
It is disturbing to learn based on reports that disaster preparedness particularly in Turkey is painfully lacking, with building regulations not rigorously implemented that led to more than 3,000 buildings collapsing in record time, and response and rescue operations prolonging instead of relieving the agonies of those buried in the rubble, leading to a high and still increasing death toll.
While delegations have been sent by various governments, including the Philippines, to the two countries to assist in the rescue, relief, and medical assistance, we worry that this latest wrath of nature would as usual go down to history as a record catastrophe, but one that will eventually slip from our minds as nations have to move on to tackle equally pressing world issues and emergencies.
Until another Big One strikes elsewhere, and the cycle of destruction would continue, until again we have to deal with more unusual phenomena, still unprepared for not learning lessons and doing something to survive its impacts.
Living in these critical and unpredictable times and with the Philippines lying within the Pacific Ring of Fire, we cannot overemphasize on the value of sound preparedness against earthquakes and other calamities.
In terms of natural ones, we all know its nature: it cannot be predicted and sadly we cannot prepare enough. It could happen now and catch us off-guard, or nothing going for a long time that would make us think we have been exaggerating in being on our feet.
But we prefer having a thorough contingency plan that would as much as possible make every one of us survivors, not only of an earthquake but also of other calamities like typhoons and global health emergencies.
Haven’t we suffered enough and learn from the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic and a number of devastating typhoons, hurricanes, and earthquakes?
While it frustrates us to know that a government that is wanting on its capability to protect its people and populations heedless of warnings are a common dilemma in many countries, we remain in our belief that nations will realize and act on the urgent need to have a disaster preparedness system so that a catastrophe such as an earthquake does not have to leave behind a catastrophic result.
Experts have warned about the movements of various fault lines around the earth and said in fact casualties, such as those counted in the Turkey-Syria earthquake, may have been prevented if governments did something to protect their citizens and people made precautions on their own guided by a plan crafted by their governments.
As we always say, we can never have a foolproof plan for unpredictable events, but having a plan without implementing would be more unfortunate.
We should plan ahead on always becoming the survivors, not helpless victims.