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Yes, We Can Be Safe

By Dr. Ted EsguerraSeptember 10, 2017

‘If we prepare before, during and after a disaster,’ according to PH’s foremost emergency medicine expert

“IF YOU WANT peace, prepare for war.” This adage from Roman general Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus is not about war or has something to do with turmoil. For me, it means that when you prepare for the “ugly” things to come, you will be more at peace because you will have the necessary skills and gadgets in order to survive when times get tough.
Do not wait for disasters to strike. Even before any incident can happen, one (and that means his or her family) must have an emergency action plan (EAP). It is simply what one must do “before,” “during” and “after” any disaster.
As a start, an EAP can be customized to suit a certain location, such as hospitals, schools, and even churches. Let me share to you some “what-to-do” checklists should various emergencies arise:
Any EAP must start with following principles before any crisis:

1) WHAT TO DO
2) WHOM TO CONTACT
3) WHEN TO EVACUATE
4) WHERE TO MEET OR EVACUATE
5) HOW TO EXECUTE THE PROCEDURES

FIRE
Fire is the most devastating element that can affect any human and civilization. It is categorized with earth, water and air but it is not a matter. It is a chemical reaction of a changing matter. Its by-product of decomposed material is released as volatile gases we call smoke which contains toxic fumes that are as dangerous as fire itself like hydrogen cyanide, phosgene, carbon monoxide, among others.
The safest way to deal with fire is to prevent it. It is done by doing Risk Assessment which includes Fire Prevention, Fire Detection, and Fire Fighting.

What to do before a fire:
– Discuss a fire plan with family, co-workers, and community members.
– Note as to what type is your house and what community you are in.
– Never overload electrical outlets. Do not practice congestion of extension sockets.
– Have your electrical wiring checked annually. If building a house, have the electrical components installed by a professional electrician.
– Do not leave cooking unattended. Turn off hobs, regulators or unplug electrical stove after cooking and when not in use.
– If using candles, place them over metallic plates like wide tin can cover. Blow them off when sleeping. Do this also with a mosquito coil (katol).
– Do not leave your electrical gadgets being charged for a long time.
– Throw cigarette butts at proper bins. Fully extinguish amber before throwing.
– Keep lighters and matches away from children.
– Do not store combustible materials (e.g. paper, wood, batteries) near heat sources.
– Do not practice illegal tapping of electricity.
– Practice good housekeeping of your home and workplace. Avoid clutter.
– Avoid wearing clothes with long loose sleeves when working near heat sources. Do not place curtains near a stove.
– Never place LPG tanks in a very confined cabinet under the stove. It must be exposed.

What to do during a fire incident:
– First, do not panic!
– If you witness a fire incident in your place, follow R.A.C.E. (R = Rescue those who are in immediate danger of fire. Do so without endangering yourself. A = Activate the alarm, inform others by shouting or activating pill station alarm box. C = Confine the fire by closing doors and windows to starve fire with oxygen. Do not lock doors for easy access of rescue fire team. E = Extinguish with fire extinguisher or by a bucket relay. If fire is too large, evacuate to assigned areas.
– If you have a fire extinguisher, remember P.P.A.S.S. (P = Position yourself with you back towards the exit. P = Pull the pin of the fire extinguisher after twisting to break the lock. A = Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire. S = Squeeze the lever of the fire extinguisher. S = Sweep the nozzle or hose side to side.
– If in a workplace and with a horse reel, do so but be sure you are near the exit. Get a companion to operate it together.
– Never go back to a building on fire to get your things.
– Move upwind and avoid the smoke.

What to do after a fire:
– Secure and protect the fire site from vandals and theft. Protect exposed areas from further damage by the weather. Lock entry points.
– Do not return to any building unless the authorities announce that it is safe for re-entry.
– Avoid entering totally damaged areas as they might have unstable overhead structures, sharp debris under, and even some presence of smoke.
– If with partial damage, have your house structures seen and repaired. Have your house electrical wirings examined and repaired by professional electrician. Electrical appliances which were soaked in water during the extinguishing of fire must be checked or replaced.
– Medicines and stocked fresh food which were not destroyed by fire but exposed to heat or fresh food product displaced somewhere during the emergency must not be consumed.
– Contact your insurance company, if you have any, to report the loss.
– If you plan to leave the site, try to remove safely any valuable remaining in the building. Ask assistance from authorities to do so if area is unstable. Request the police or barangay tanod to keep watch over your property during their patrol. Leave your address as to where you will relocate.

TYPHOON
A typhoon is a type of large storm system having a circular or spiral system of violent winds, with hundreds of kilometers in diameter. These storms or tropical cyclones develop in the western part of the North Pacific Ocean.
Once the typhoon enters the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), they are given a local name by PAGASA, an agency which also gives public storm signal warnings and other weather bulletins.

What to do before a typhoon sets in:
– Discuss the plan with your family or community members.
– Be updated about the progress of the typhoon through your local radio, TV, social media, and even from your local disaster response/ rescue office. Every barangay, municipality, city, province and region has a dedicated office, personnel, and logistics to run a response/ rescue office.
– Come up with a Family Communication Plan, Family Disaster Plan, and Community Disaster Plan (inquire from your local disaster response/ rescue office). Know when to activate it.
– Prepare a family emergency kit or Go Bag per member. You may also come up with a big bug-out bag for the whole family. You can also stockpile essential items.
– If with Internet access, go to the site of Project NOAH for hazard mapping; check maps for tendency of flood, landslide or storm surge. Visit the website of PAGASA for typhoon tracking.
– Check your drainage and roof gutters, downspouts, and rain pipes for leaves and other debris. Clean them always.
– Inspect roof and ceilings for holes.
– Strengthen doors and windows if need be. Fix if broken.
– In the community, collaborate with neighbors to clean drainages.
– If you have elevated areas in the house or have a second or third floor, transfer the electrically powered appliances there to avoid possible flood damage.
– As to storing supplies, you may buy ready-to-eat food products depending on the number of household members. Stockpile water and other essential things.
– If your DRRM office announces a pre-emptive evacuation, do so. Never argue with the people in authority.

What to do during the typhoon:
– Be on alert mode. Get updates from your DRRMO, local news stations (radio, TV and online weather services through social media).
– Do not travel! Typhoon warning is announced days earlier so postpone schedules for travel.
– Prepare emergency supplies, go bags, and evacuation protocols.
– Note if your area is prone to landslides, storm surge or flood.
– Stay inside the house if there is no announcement of evacuation.
– If the wind is strong, close windows and roll down curtains with weight anchors to serve as barrier should the glass gets destroyed. Curtains will stop the particles being blown everywhere.
– If you see signs of water rising, better turn off the main sources of electricity. Do keep your electric-powered items stored in higher areas and refrain from using them during flood.
– If there is no electricity, note the safe usage of candles.
– Do not go out as flying debris might cause injury or death. Do not wade along flooded areas to keep yourself from contacting water-borne diseases. If it is inevitable, wear protective gears such as raincoats and boots to protect yourself. If you were submerged in the flood, wash and clean body parts exposed to the floodwater. Cases of electrocution also happen when wading in flooded area.
– If you are told to evacuate, grab your go bags and calmly comply. Follow the safe corridors to the assigned evacuation sites.

What to do after the typhoon:
– Monitor and get updates from your local radio, TV, social media, websites of PAGASA and Project NOAH should these be accessible. You may also get updates from your local disaster response/ rescue office.
– If with injury like open wound, clean and disinfect them and cover. Do not wade in the flood with an open wound submerged under the water.
– If already evacuated and you come back to your house that has been heavily damaged, make sure that you heed the advice of the authorities regarding its safety and stability. Do not re-enter if there is no clearance.
– Wear protective equipment like boots, gloves, helmet and long sleeves in inspecting your house and avoid loose overhead and scattered debris on flooring. There might also be animals like snakes or centipedes which can bite or sting you. Be aware of the water-borne diseases such as Leptospirosis which can be contracted not only from flood but from moist soil, scattered debris and other things if in contact with an open wound.
– Watch out for live wires or any electrical outlet that may be submerged in water. Do not put on breakers. Get advice from professional electricians before using electricity.
– Do not use submerged electrical appliances. Have them checked by an electrician.
– Send to the hospital any family member who exhibits fever, rashes, and other symptoms to avoid spread of a communicable disease in your household.
– Boil water before drinking as they may be contaminated.
– Clean utensils and other stuff. Dispose things that may be a ground for mosquitoes to breed.
– Do not do sightseeing over disaster areas following a flood. Your presence may hamper urgent emergency response and rescue operations.
– If you need to travel in any form of vehicle, do so with extreme care. Roads might still be destroyed or filled with debris or mud.
– Have your house or workplace inspected by a professional electrician and repair personnel.
– Always secure your area. Lock doors and windows and be on security alert.

From his book Readiness in Times of Emergencies and Disasters’ Handbook (Innovative Educational Materials, Inc., 2016) which also includes tips to become ready when other disasters strike such as earthquakes, landslides, even acts of terrorism.
Dr. Ted ‘Everest Doc’ Esguerra, obtained his doctoral degree in Bicol Christian College of Medicine, Legaspi City, Albay. As an operational doctor, he has served in many fields and expeditions including the earthquake in Nepal where he and his team facilitated Air Medical Evacuation of trauma cases from the field to hospitals. He was also the Expedition and Wilderness Emergency Medical Services Physician of the Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition Team and the Voyage of the Balangay. He is trained on Urban and Wilderness Rescue, Aviation Medicine, Expedition Medicine for Tropical and Alpine Mountain Operations, Tactical Medicine, and Disaster Management.