Photos by Chris Carlos

Everyone was caught off-guard when sudden jolts from the ground were experienced inside the building last Monday. Parts of Northern Luzon, such as some provinces from Region 3, and cities in Metro Manila experienced tremors.

An earthquake with a 6.1  magnititude was reported by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHILVOLCS), with its epicenter located at Castillejo, Zambales. The disaster had devastated the town of Porac, in Pampanga, the most.

Quite startled by the aftershocks experienced days prior, MINT College—led by Disaster Risk Reduction and Readiness professor Joy Mejia—spearheaded a disaster preparedness seminar yesterday, with RAHA Volunteers Fire Department officers Francisco Vargas and Jesse Infante.

The said seminar covered the topics like what to do during earthquakes or fire, and how to do first aid. Officer-in-charge for Emergency Medical Services Department Francisco Vargas began the seminar by first sharing his experience in Porac, Pampanga to clearly paint a picture of what a high-magnitude earthquake can do.

(Trigger warning: graphic description)

Kung nabalitaan niyo ‘yung lindol, ‘yung mga rubbles na nakuhanan, lahat iyon, buong fourth floor,” he said. He also described an incident while they rescue people that got stuck or buried at the toppled down supermarket. “There was a point wherein we have to amputate a woman’s leg to get her out of the debris. Her parents got angry at us, but we managed to explain to them the urgency of the situation,” he shared.

He said that our country is prone to 20 earthquakes in a day, with 10 to 15 series of aftershocks that follows after. “But these aftershock series could have at least three to five strong ones, that’s why we need to prepare ourselves,” he said.

He then proceed to do a quick rundown of what to remember when tremors begin:

  • Prepare a GO Bag (emergency kit), and if possible, always have it with you.

  • Asses your environment. Always know where is the nearest emergency exit from where you stand.

  • Take your disaster drills seriously to know how you can safely evacuate from a place.

Vargas also suggested using a free app called Project Tremors to know if your area is near a fault line. It is an earthquake update mobile application developed by the Department of Science and Technology-PHILVOLCS.

If an earthquake or aftershocks are felt in the area, he asked the audience to always stay away from glass (if indoors), and from trees or electric posts if outside. “Don't panic. Remember to conserve your energy and be extremely mindful, especially when sudden jolts can disorient us already,” he reminded the students, faculty and staff present.

As a precaution, Officer Vargas also advised everyone to quickly find a hard cover for their heads and use it in a way not to obstruct their sight.

He also suggest that while waiting for the tremors to subside for a bit, they can also find cover under sturdy tables or hold on to door frames, as it's the most sturdy part of a building or room if there are no tables nearby to hold on to.

Vargas also explained that they cannot use phones as it would be busy for emergencies. He suggested instead that if they're out of the establishment safely, they can approach emergency officers to ask to make a call to check up on their families. “We always allow that. You may ask any officer for a quick call for your parents and your siblings,” he said.

An emergency kit is a must-have for everyone. Vargas also shared what should be in it. “A handy flaslight and whistle are the most important thing you can have during a disaster,” he said.” But these kits should be prepared according to the person who'll use it.”

He then enumerated what should be inside a handy emergency kit, which Vargas suggested to be a pouch which you can always carry with you:

  • Handy flashlight

  • Board markers (a dark-colored and a white ones)

  • Whistle

  • Crackers or candy (that can sustain you until rescuers arrive)

As for Jesse Infante, first aid trainer and OIC of the Fire and Rescue Depart spoke about how to stop fires and apply first aid, like how to treat cuts, proper coverage of wounds, what’s inside a first-aid kit and basic CPR.

He first enumerated what should be in a first-aid kit, like dressing and cover pads, rubbing alcohol or Betadyne (as disinfectants), band aids, and a triangular bandage.

He also taught the audience on how to properly conduct basic CPR in case of emergency. “Make your arms steady and only put enough pressure because your goal is to resuscitate the victim while waiting for rescue,” he advised.

He also explained how to use fire extinguishers. Infante said that if a fire reached to the knees and is as wide as your spread arms, put it out immediately. “Always do a sweeping motion in using extinguishers,” he said. He also asked them to remember PASS—or pull, aim, squeeze, sweep—to effectively use them.

All in all Vargas and Infante have reminded everyone to always stay vigilant and to prepare themselves to whatever emergency situation they might experience.

“We truly wish that whatever we taught you today won't be used ever,” Vargas said. “In that way, we know you are all safe. But it would never hurt to be prepared.” W