How students should prepare for the 'Big One'

By Andrew Jonathan Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 03 2015 09:48 PM | Updated as of Jul 04 2015 05:48 AM

MANILA -- This piece of homework may spell the difference between risk and readiness when the next "big one" hits.

It's a questionnaire designed to get families talking about their level of preparedness for an earthquake scenario, and which the Department of Education (DepEd) is requiring schools all over the country to assign to students this July.

The DepEd urges not only students to take the homework seriously, but for their parents and household members to do it with them.

The illustrated questionnaire, with versions in Filipino and English, covers the family’s readiness and likely actions before, during and after an earthquake.

Questions answerable by “yes,” “no” or “not sure” rate the family’s knowledge of important details like emergency contact details, the “duck-cover-hold” maneuver and evacuation plans.

Other questions get the family to agree on responses to scenarios during the shaking, such as when it occurs at home, during travel, or in a communication blackout.

After each set of questions, the families are asked to rate how prepared they are for each scenario. If the family mostly answered “no” or “not sure”, they are advised to ask help from local authorities.

If done honestly, this assignment can stimulate the families’ discussions and raise their familiarity with disaster preparedness, said DepEd Assistant Secretary Reynaldo Laguda at a media briefing with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Thursday.

“Do the homework. Imagine what scenarios could happen to your homes,” Laguda said. “Ask your parents, for instance, ‘Nay, ‘Tay, do we know where would we run to after the quake?’ We want to inject this mindset because we may be assuming that help would arrive instantaneously."

Exposing vulnerabilities

Phivolcs has stressed the impending risk of a movement in the West Valley Fault line cutting across the Greater Manila Area, which could create a magnitude 7.2 quake if the entire stretch of the 100-kilometer fault moves.

For Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum, the homework is crucial in the preparations.

“The penetration in terms of family preparedness is not very high. That's why this initiative is very important. And we hope that parents will really pay particular attention to this,” Solidum said.

Laguda said the DepEd designed the questions to be generic and answerable across all income groups, since the families’ levels of preparedness are also dictated by their socio-economic standing.

It would be improper, for example, to ask a family that struggles to eat three times a day if they have a stock of supplies to last for a set number of days, he said. The question in the homework: “Do we store food and drinking water for possible earthquakes?”

There are no wrong or right answers to the questions, just learnings, Laguda said.

Discussing the answers not only ends at the family level, but will also continue in the classrooms. School principals are then expected to share summaries of the classes’ findings with their parent-teacher associations and barangay officials to complement the community’s preparedness planning.

“Exposing our vulnerabilities is not a bad thing. It's actually a good thing because it allows us to prepare better,” Laguda said.

The homework is part of the DepEd’s campaign to highlight disaster risk reduction and management in the education system.

Laguda emphasized the readiness assessments and activities should not just be done in schools and communities situated above the fault line but throughout Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna, since they would all experience the shaking of the fault line.

On July 30, schools in the National Capital Region are expected to participate in the metro-wide earthquake drill led by the Metro Manila Development Authority.

Read and download a copy of the DepEd’s earthquake-readiness homework below.