What should you do during an earthquake?

By Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 14 2011 09:17 PM | Updated as of Mar 15 2011 05:17 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Kneeling on his right knee, Dr. Ted Esguerra moves his left foot a bit forward while his right hand thrusts his body weight, occasionally looking side-to-side as if searching for something.

"This should be your posture once the ground shakes," he told before officers of the Philippine Coast Guard attending a Command Staff Course at their training command in Parola Compound in Tondo, Manila.

Esguerra is preparing the officers to become responders to emergencies like mass casualty incidents. Aside from his training here and abroad, Esguerra is also a specialist in wilderness, mountain and aquatic rescue.

He was the medical officer of the Philippine Expedition Team to Mt. Everest and Balangay Voyage, and served in different search and rescue missions.

According to Esguerra, what happened in Japan can happen anywhere, and one must be prepared when that time comes.

First rule

The first rule, according to Esguerra, get out of the building, run to an open space, out of harm's way from falling debris.

But if one cannot make it out quickly, it's best to go for the wall of the room where you're at. "Everything will fall in the middle, that's why you have to go for the wall. I've seen structures where walls still stood after the quake" Esguerra said.

He disputed the old teaching that a person evacuating a building needs to brace his arms over his head while running.

"Our body was designed with our hands to sway back and forth while running and when you put your hands over your head, you lose your balance" he explained, while providing gestures and movements with his explanation.

Aside from that, one can never be sure if his or her hands are strong enough to protect him from any debris that might fall, he said.

"What you should do is kneel beside a wall, observe and cover your nose with your shirt," Esguerra said, adding that particulates from the ceiling can fall and can be inhaled. Once inhaled, antibiotics will bear no effect on particulates because they are not microorganisms that react to medicines.

Esguerra also advised the public to stock up on provisions that can last for 3 to 7 days. "Rescue and help may come a little while longer during earthquakes because access to roads and services are affected" he said.

Emergency provisions

Provisions will include food and water, medicines, blanket, flashlight, cash, travel documents, and a knife or a gun that can be used for self-defense.

"You have to be prepared that when other people find out that you have provisions, their primal instinct will prevail to try to kill you to get food and water," said Esguerra.

He presented documented cases of looting and killing in Port Au-Prince, Haiti, and even in the USA when it was struck by Hurricane Katrina.

Another fact that should be considered is the rendezvous point after the quake hits. During day time, most families in Metro Manila are not in the household, with parents usually at work and children at school.

Esguerra recommends that families should talk about their meeting place if an earthquake occurs, because communication and access to transportation will be most likely impossible.

The Philippine Coast Guard received this afternoon its order for deployment to Japan. A 20-man team is now prepared to go to Japan once plans are finalized.