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On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) wreaked havoc in the Eastern Visayas, leaving a death toll of more than 6,000. After staying in our country for sixteen hours, last year’s strongest typhoon in the entire planet traversed the West Philippine Sea and finally exited the Philippine Area of Responsibility.

The storm surges brought by the cyclone have caused massive destruction especially in Guiuan in Eastern Samar, Tacloban in Leyte, and the seaside communities of Palawan.  The National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) responded by deploying 35,463 personnel, 1,351 vehicles, 163 aircraft and 118 sea vessels to the devastated areas, where power outages and breakdown of telecommunication systems were reported.

Twenty-five international humanitarian agencies arrived in Tacloban to assist the victims, and address the needs and damages brought about by the typhoon. It was said to be the biggest disaster response, relief and recovery effort in our nation’s history.

According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected areas will need at least more than 300 billion pesos. The NDRRMC states that rebuilding the affected areas will take three to five years.

Emergency and evacuation plans were well plotted in different islands of the country, but the strength of Yolanda was more these could handle.  Now, measures are being taken to ensure citizen preparedness for such calamities. In line with this, the NDRMCC recommended that Storm Surge Advisories should be raised two days before the expected onslaught of the hazard.

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In November of 2013, Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) wreaked havoc in the country with six landfalls, particularly in Guiuan in Eastern Samar, Tolosa in Leyte, Daanbantayan Island in Cebu, Conception in Iloilo and Busuanga in Palawan. Over a million houses were destroyed and over three million families were affected in ten regions, displacing about a million Filipinos.

Based on an assessment made by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), 47% of 172 respondents said that they understood what a storm surge was, but failed to visualize it. To aid the affected areas in their recovery, JICA created a Land Use Plan to determine the “No Build Zones” and “Safe Zones” in Tacloban.

Humanitarian and rehabilitation missions were plotted by the government, which were supported by international agencies. 38,000 affected workers had engaged in the restoration of public and economic infrastructure through the cash-for-work program. 165 child-friendly spaces, providing psychological activities, were made available for almost 42,000 children, while 1,827 temporary learning sites were established. School supplies were given to 384,000 pre-school and school-aged children.

Currently, the Strategic Response Plan for the devastated areas requires at least 33 billion pesos. So far, the country has received 45% of the needed funding.

Ongoing projects include tapping the 33 million fallen coconut trees for shelter and livelihood. The Department of Science and Technology, together with the Habitat for Humanity and other private partners, have also joined forces to build climate-adaptive houses, which can withstand intensity-eight earthquakes and wind gusts of up to 250 kilometers per hour. In the next three years, stakeholders target to build 30,000 core houses and distribute 30,000 shelter repair kits.

In his visit to the country last December, the United Nations (UN) Secretary Ban Ki-moon inspected the decimated areas. Until now, the UN continues to assist the Yolanda survivors through UNICEF, the World Food Program and the UN Development Program.

Apart from prominent leaders, international celebrities also took the lead in spreading hope. Pop sensation Justin Bieber encouraged his fans to contribute to his campaign in exchange for the privilege of watching him record his upcoming album. Arriving on December 10 last year, the singer played basketball and sang with the children in Tacloban. Barely two months later, England’s Soccer Captain David Beckham also dropped by to visit bunkhouses and interact with the children. Beckham and his wife donated 20 boxes of second-hand clothes subject for auction through the British Red Cross in Chelsea. The proceeds would benefit the typhoon survivors.

The whole nation is working towards recovery. As the Tacloban Airport resumed operations last November, The Department of Public Work and Highways (DPWH) installed temporary bunkhouses while the Department of Education released over P1 million for the construction of makeshift classrooms.  Meanwhile, the Department of Energy (DOE), the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and other concerned agencies joined forces for the safe installation of electricity and other lifelines in Tacloban, where business operations and classes have already resumed.

In Metro Manila, Oplan Trabaho was mounted, meant as a job fair for the displaced survivors, who flew in free from Visayas.

Last February, the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) commemorated the 100th day of Yolanda through their Worldwide Walk for Haiyan Victims held in all ecclesiastical districts of their church. In doing so, INC had set two new world records– by having the biggest number of participants in a charity event, and by holding the longest charity walk in multiple venues in different time zones.

As the third most disaster-prone country in the world, the Philippines experiences an average of 20 cyclones a year. This is why the humanitarian community recommends preparedness planning nationwide.

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Three of the deadliest and most destructive earthquakes in Philippine history happened in the past two decades. In 1990, a 7.9 magnitude quake trembled Luzon, resulting to 3,792 casualties. In 2012, the quake in Negros Oriental inflicted damages worth 6.5 billion pesos. A year later, 222 lives were claimed by a 7.2 magnitude quake in Bohol.

Duck, Cover and Hold is the immediate action and effective method to protect yourself once an earthquake strikes and you are caught indoors. Drop to the floor; take cover by going under a sturdy desk or furniture; and cover your head with your arms or hold on to the furniture’s legs. When the furniture moves, you need to move with it.

The so-called “Triangle of Life” is a misguided theory of earthquake survival. It is the technique of finding the nearest solid item that can encase you in a protective triangular space. The practice suggests lying down and curving to a fetal position next to a table, sofa, bottom of the bed, or any large object that will compress slightly but will leave a void next to it where you can fit and hide.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) Director Renato Solidum, Jr. has debunked this idea in 2005, saying that, “It actually doesn’t lead to the correct procedure.” Still, the erroneous technique becomes viral in social media whenever earthquakes transpire.

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Fire incidents often occur in the most unexpected times, putting both lives and property at risk.

Majority of the fire incidents in the country are caused by electrical malfunctions, leaks in LPG tanks, improper disposal of cigarettes, and misuse of matches and lighters. More common causes include forgetting to turn off stoves and putting out gas lamps and lit candles.

Learning how to extinguish fire on a person’s clothes or hair without firefighting equipment is an important component of fire safety.

Basic steps to remember when caught on fire:

STOP – Do not run and do not panic.

DROP – Drop to the ground and lie down flat with legs out straight. Cover eyes and mouth with hands to avoid facial injury.

ROLL – Roll around until the flames are out. A rug may also be used to smother the fire by rolling it around the body.

After successfully doing the method, stay away from fire, quickly exit the burning building, and seek medical help.

 

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As we propagate safety and preparedness in the upcoming holiday season, it is important to know how to avoid fire incidents. Some of the preventive measures include regular inspection of electrical wires with the help of a licensed technician, creating an emergency exit plan with family members, practicing fire safety drills, installing smoke alarms and regularly changing their batteries, and most importantly, having a fire extinguisher and knowing how to use it.
 
Specific extinguishers are needed for different causes of fire. Thus, classifications were rated according to the combustibles concerned.
 
A: Light materials (paper, plastic, dried leaves and wood)
 
B: Flammable liquids (gas, paint, thinner and rugby)
 
C: Energized electrical equipment (appliances and electrical tools)
 
D: Combustible metals (sodium, zinc and potassium)
 
E: Cooking fuels and oils (cooking oil and LPG)
 
The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) recommends installing either class ABC or ABCD extinguishers in homes, offices and schools.
 
To operate these devices, it’s best to remember the PASS METHOD:
 
P – Pull the pin from the handle.
 
A – Aim the hose at the base of the fire, not at the flames.
 
S – Squeeze the handle slowly to discharge the agent.
 
S – Sweep from side to side and stand back approximately 8 feet from the fire until expended.
 
Whenever there is fire, always keep a safe distance from it and escape the building as quickly and carefully as possible.

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