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Earthquake Drills

twsSilliman University, which did not participate in the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s nationwide simultaneous earthquake drill held recently in observance of National Disaster Consciousness Month, is planning to hold earthquake drills. Unfortunately, these have not yet been scheduled and at present, it is not yet known when these will be held.

Disasters periodically test Filipino resiliency. In 2013 alone, the country experienced a monster typhoon and a deadly earthquake which claimed the lives of many and left billions of pesos in damage to infrastructure and property. These disasters have opened the eyes of Filipinos to the need for disaster preparedness.

Earthquakes strike quickly and with no warning. According to National Geographic, “on average a magnitude 8 earthquake strikes somewhere every year and about 10,000 people die in earthquakes annually.” The most common cause of death through an earthquake is the collapse of buildings and other infrastructure. The effect does not end there. Earthquakes are usually followed by mudslides, fires, floods, or tsunamis. Aftershocks caused by smaller temblors also follow in the days after an earthquake. These occurrences can complicate rescue efforts and therefore cause further death and destruction.

Thus, adequate preparation is greatly needed in order to minimize deaths and injuries. National Geographic advised that “loss of life can be avoided through emergency planning, education, and the construction of buildings that sway rather than break under the stress of an earthquake.” Lack of preparation can result in more deaths and injuries. One way to prepare is through earthquake drills. For several years now, no university-wide earthquake drills have been held to help students and personnel react safely during earthquakes. These drills should be conducted so that when a real earthquake strikes, deadly stampedes resulting from panic can be avoided. These should also be done often enough so that with constant practice, people are less likely to panic.

Last February 6, 2012, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake claimed at least 52 lives in Negros Oriental. It was the strongest earthquake in Dumaguete City, according to some residents. Rumors of an upcoming tsunami also led others to panic. Some residents fled to the mountains of Valencia. A destructive earthquake hopefully won’t, but unfortunately can, happen anytime, since the Philippines is situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, which National Geographic Education describes as “a string of volcanoes and sites of seismic activity, or earthquakes, around the edges of the Pacific Ocean”. The next earthquake could be stronger and more destructive than the one in 2012.

If the university prefers to follow its own schedule with regards to conducting earthquake drills, then so be it. With a sense of urgency however, we appeal that these drills are conducted as soon as possible. Earthquakes occur unpredictably and the lives of 9,669 students and 681 personnel, each one a precious member of the Silliman community, are at stake.

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