Earthquake Checklist: Is Your Home Safe And Ready For The Big One?
“Evening. It’s a typical Tuesday, the traffic, the crowd, the sunset at 6:14 as announced by PAGASA. Except that today you are not coming home from work, but from the workshop at Shangri-la Hotel. You are almost home; looking forward to a simple tinolang manok that you know is stewing in your kitchen. You get off from the bus and navigate your village road. As you are walking the last few meters to your gate, you feel a sudden jolt. It sort of pushes you forward. At first you don’t know what it is. But the ground continues shaking, up and down, sideways, getting stronger every second.” (MMEIRS Simplified)
The remaining days of April have seen disastrous catastrophes that left the whole nation in shock and in distress. After an earthquake recorded to have a 6.1 magnitude hit Luzon on April 22 (Monday), tremors quickly followed the Visayas region on April 23 (Tuesday).
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) accounted the latter to have an official magnitude of 6.5. The epicentre of the Luzon quake was located in Castillejos, Zambales, approximately 174 kilometers from Manila. The core of the Visayas tremor, on the other hand, was found to be in San Julian, a town in Eastern Samar. The country was advised to expect further aftershocks. Fearful and feeling a sense of impending doom, a single question resurfaces everyone’s mind: Is the Big One coming? And if so, are we safe and ready for it?
In so far as destructive earthquakes in Philippine history have been recorded, PHIVOLCS lists that there are 13 – the most recent of which traces back to the Bohol earthquake in October 15, 2013. It was a magnitude 7.2. Known to be the deadliest since the 1990 quake in Luzon, more than 3 million people were affected by the tremor. A rough estimate of infrastructure damage amounted to Php 2.2 billion, leading to the closure of establishments and the displacement of 400,000 people.
The energy of the Bohol earthquake is approximately similar to the Big One – the potentially strongest earthquake to cross Metro Manila, as warned by PHIVOLCS. As the country’s location rests on the Ring of Fire (an active geological and volcanic region in the Pacific), there is no telling when the imminent will strike. Due to this, Dr. Renato U. Solidum, Jr., as the undersecretary of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and officer-in-charge of PHIVOLCS, has repeatedly urged and reminded the nation to be prepared. “The next disaster strikes after we have forgotten the last one.”
The first step of planning starts from the home. Is your house safe and sturdy? What are the indicators that you need to check to ensure your safety?
Find Your Location in the Valley Fault System
Determined in a study jointly undertaken by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), PHIVOLCS, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) from August 2002 to March 2004, the Big One is only awaiting to be initiated by a small tug in the major West Valley Fault. A part of the overall Marikina Valley Fault System (VFS), the West Valley Fault runs through many parts of Metro Manila, together with the area’s surrounding provinces.
Once the 100-kilometer fault moves, an estimated magnitutde 7.2 earthquake may be felt by the following cities: Quezon City, Marikina, Makati, Pasig, Taguig, Muntinupa, Bulacan (Doña Remedios Trinidad, Norzgaray, San Jose Del Monte City), Rizal (Rodriguez), Laguna (San Pedro City, Biñan, Sta Rosa, Cabuyao, Calamba), and Cavite (Carmona, General Mariano Alvarez, Silang). On the other hand, the areas of Rodriguez and San Mateo in Rizal, which are on the 10-kilometer East Valley Fault will be quaked by a magnitude 6.2.
Estimating minimum casualties and damages, the Metropolitan Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS) forecasts the loss of approximately 34,000 lives, with 114,000 injured persons. Subsidence and collapse of 170,000 houses are to be epected, with a 340,000 count of houses partly destroyed or damaged. Approximately 8 to 10% of public purpose buildings (such as hospitals, schools, city and municipal halls) will be heavily damaged, leaving 20 to 25% in partial ruins.
As of the study’s writing, Quezon City will receive the most building damage. Out of the city’s 302,818 establishments, 25.8% will heavily suffer damage, while 69.6% will be in partial destruction. Next in line is the city of Manila, with a 24.6% and 50.1% damage ratio out of 168,528 buildings.
The next indicator to check in the list: suppose that you live in a condominium, what are your stakes?
For every volume of water that you allow to spiral down the drain, a possible future investment goes along with it. Save them instead.
“You fall to the ground, unable to keep standing. You hear a booming sound. You hear screams from people inside their homes. You hear breaking glasses. Telephone and power poles sway violently. Then the power goes off. In front of you, the village road is heaving, as if you are riding waves. The strong ground shaking goes on for 50 seconds. It is the longest 50 seconds of your life.” (MMEIRS Simplified)
Check the Certifications of Your Condominium Developer
It is advisable that you check the certification of your condominium’s structural soundness (ideally, even before you purchase the unit). Discuss the conditions of the building you live in with your property consultant or a developer representative. Although it is a given that the all structures must be compliant with the updated building codes, the current status of the establishment must also be studied and talked over.
Mahar Lagmay, director of the University of the Philippines Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards, discussed the safety of low-rise, mid-rise, and high-rise buildings with CNN. Director Lagmay demonstrated that tall establishments (such as those with 15 floors and higher) will have the tendency to sway more relative to a farther quake epicenter. Should the epicenter be nearby, low-rise and medium-rise structures will instead sway.
PHIVOLCS Director Solidum, on the other hand, discussed with ANC about the danger smaller buildings face. “When the fault is very near us, the vibration of the ground is very fast. If that is the case, then the shorter building will be swayed more than the tall building,” Solidum said.
“The ground shaking has stopped but you remain on the ground, still feeling dizzy. You try to get up, your knees shake under you. People start pouring out of their homes. Panic and confusion are everywhere. Occasional cries and wails add to the confusion. Around you are toppled poles and fences, collapsed houses, cracked roads, broken water pipes.” (MMEIRS Simplified)
Know the Earthquake Intensity Scales to Set Expectations
The very difference between magnitude and intensity lies on how they are read. Magnitude refers to the measurements gathered by the seismographs, directly from the released energy of the epicenter. Intensity, on the other hand, refers to the strength of the shaking caused of the quake.
With scales of 1 to 10, the levels of intensity and the degrees of magnitude may be considered high and already disastrous. But for the inexperienced, the actual tremor might feel exponentially worse. This is why you should familiarize yourself with the PHIVOLCS Earthquake Intensity Scale (PEIS) and the Mercalli Intensity Scale (MIS) in order to properly gauge your assumptions and expectations.
Released by the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program, a magnitude 1.0 to 3.0 quake may have an equivalence of an Intensity I. Magnitudes 3.0 to 3.9, however, are equivalent to an intensity range of II to III. Tremors of magnitudes 4.0 to 4.9 may be paralleled to Intensity IV to V, whilst 6.0 to 6.9 are equal to Intensity VII to VIII. Earthquakes with magnitudes 7.0 or higher, such as the Big One, are equivalent to Intensity IX or higher.
“You got home as quickly as you can. You recognize your family amongst the crowd on the village street. They are all home, shaken but unhurt. You let out a sigh of relief and say a prayer of thanks. But your family refuses to enter your home. A barangay leader gives instructions to you and your neighbors to move to the basketball court to keep away from objects that may fall or topple.
You move your family as instructed. You try to make a call to other relatives but your mobile phone has no signal. Still you dialed a number. It didn’t work. You finally walked back to check your home. But home is something you barely recognize. Everything seems to be piled up on the floor – appliances, shelves, books, lighting fixtures, family portraits, clothes, your prized Jollibee collectibles, even the tinola dinner.” (MMEIRS Simplified)
According to the PEIS, Strong shaking may already be felt from an earthquake of Intensity V. As described on the PHIVOLCS website, the strength of Intensity V is “generally felt by most people indoors and outdoors. Hanging objects swing violently; dining utensils clatter and clink; some are broken. Small, light and unstable objects may fall or overturn.” Intensity VI tremors are considered to be Very Strong, where “very old or poorly built houses and man-made structures are slightly damaged though well-built structures are not affected” and “trees are noticeably shaken”.
Categorized as Destructive, Intensity VII is described to cause landslides and dike cracks. “Big church bells may ring. Old or poorly-built structures suffer considerably damage. Some well-built structures are slightly damaged.” Liquefaction and lateral spreading are already observed from earthquakes of Intensity VIII, where “utility posts, towers, and monuments may tilt or topple”. Fault raptures already start to occur, with shaking categorized as “Very Destructive”.
The assurance of safety in times of disasters like earthquakes is heavily dependent on the amount of preparation that you make. If there’s a high chance that you or your loved ones will be at home during the time of the Big Quake, make sure that both your family and your property are ready.
“Among the pile of mess on the floor, you pick up the old battery-operated transistor radio that your mother-in-law refuses to part with. You turn it on. At first you only get static. You play with the dials and catch this piece of news: PHIVOLCS issued a bulletin that says a devastating earthquake, with magnitude 7.2 generated by the nearby West Valley Fault, hit Metropolitan Manila. The ground shaking was felt at PEIS VIII in Metropolitan Manila. Weak to strong aftershocks are expected.” (MMEIRS Simplified)
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