Monday, September 3, 2012

Dr. Baby Jane T. Punongbayan lectures
on Earthquake preparedness.
The alarm rang and everybody immediately ducked under their office tables. When the alarm stopped, we sprang out from hiding and quickly made a beeline down the stairs toward the assembly area outside the NISMED grounds. After everybody was accounted for, we all trooped to the auditorium to hear what the invited observers thought about how we carried out the drill. The simple exercise took only a few minutes, but if it is not put into practice properly, it could scar one for life, literally and figuratively.

Like Japan and Indonesia, the Philippines is one of the many countries that sit right along the circum-Pacific belt, a zone around the Pacific Ocean where the world's worst earthquakes happen on a regular basis. Up to now, despite great advances in science and technology, nobody can predict when an earthquake is going to occur. Thus, as an insurance against harm, earthquake drills need to be done repeatedly until the actions have become part of our instinct.

Prior to this scheduled drill, Deputy Director Dr. Aida Yap met a group of NISMED staff to organize a practice drill. Dr. Rodolfo S. Treyes was assigned as 'sheriff' and took charge of inspecting all the emergency exits and tracing the escape routes. Mr. Doddie C. Bergado demonstrated how to execute the "Duck, cover, and hold" routine that everybody must perform in case of an earthquake. Ms. Edna G. Callanta was responsible for inviting the PHIVOLCS resource person.

After observing the drill, Dr. Baby Jane T. Punongbayan, a Supervising Science Research Specialist from PHIVOLCS (no relation to the former director), gave her comments and suggestions. She regretted not having brought a video camera so she could show us exactly where we needed improvement. She gave a detailed and informative slide presentation explaining why earthquakes occur, what hazards they bring, and what people can do to prevent or avoid disaster. Engr. Erlinto Olavere assisted Dr. Punongbayan in assessing NISMED's earthquake drill, which was on the whole deemed reasonably satisfactory.

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