The Philippines is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, a geologically unstable area prone to natural disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. According to Time magazine, the “Philippines is the most storm-exposed country on earth,” averaging eight to nine typhoons a year with tropical cyclone Yolanda (Haiyan) being the strongest and the most devastating in recent history.
Yolanda has taught us, Filipinos, some of the hardest lessons in life: Never underestimate the wrath of nature. And never undervalue the role of disaster preparedness in minimizing the devastating impact of a natural calamity.
Aerial photo of the floods caused by typhoon. (Photo from Interaksyon)
It may be nearly impossible to typhoon-proof our homes the way the Japanese have made earthquake preparedness part of their way of life. They realized there is no escaping their collective fate so they embraced it and equipped themselves to meet the challenges head on. But we have our own way of coping.
We are known for our resilience. Guts and instincts usually tide us over during challenging times. Then again, that resilience must be tempered with preparedness if we were to aim for more than mere survival. Preparedness not only minimizes the damaging effects of a typhoon in economic terms; more importantly, it can save lives.
Preparing our homes for typhoons need not be too technical. Being prepared only means that we have adequate supply of our basic needs should the typhoon force us to stay at home for a period of time, or evacuate to safer grounds.
The best time to prepare our homes for typhoons is, not ironically, when there is no news of typhoons. Last minute preparations when weather forecasts compel us to do so come with greater risks. Being sorry is too costly. As financial guru Howard Ruff has said, “it wasn't raining when Noah built the ark,” so preparing our homes for typhoon makes sense this coming rainy season.
Here are some practical measures to prepare your own home and family for typhoons:
1. Conduct a general checkup of your roofs, windows, doors, and other possible places where leakage could occur. Ensure that they are sturdy or strong enough to withstand strong winds and heavy rains. Also, plan how to protect furniture in case of flood.
You may do this regularly on your own, or hire a tradesman to do it for you under your supervision.
2. Create evacuation and communication plans for your family.
An evacuation plan indicates how your family will systematically evacuate. It considers the worst case scenario when government interventions are delayed. A communication plan explains how you will establish communication channels among yourselves, particularly when you’re not together when the typhoon strikes. Keep a list of contact numbers of each member of the family and emergency responders.
3. Assemble a survival kit for each member of your family.
The PRC makes it easier for you to put together a survival kit for various emergency situations. (Photo from Red Cross Philippines website)
The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has created a 72-hour Lifeline Kit for a family of 5 [*]_, essentially consisting of the following:
• 1 gallon (3.78 liters) of water per person per day with 1 liter for drinking and the rest for washing. Include water purification tablets. A tablet can purify one liter of water so a person needs one tablet per day.
• Non-perishable food such as protein/granola bars, dried fruits, crackers, and cereals; canned goods like tuna, beans, and sausages, preferably in easy-to-open cans. Food should fulfill a three-day consumption need for every member of the family.
• Emergency and prescription medications, particularly for those with chronic medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart ailments.
• First aid and hygiene kits.
4. Waterproof important documents.
Transparent ziplocks are cost-effective waterproofing materials readily available in supermarkets. (Photo by Writer)
Passports, birth and marriage certificates, academic credentials such as transcripts of records and diplomas, bank records and investment certificates, training certificates, and other pertinent documents should be waterproofed. If possible, back them up with digitized copies stored in portable media storage tools such as external hard drives, USB, or compact discs, or in online storage platforms such as Google Drive.
5. Preserve family memories by digitizing photos.
Save photos in portable media storage devices, such as external hard drives, USB, and compact discs. You can also store them in the cloud; some of the popular cloud storage services are Google Drive, Dropbox, and SkyDrive.
Typhoons are a part of our lives. There is no other way to go but to face them prepared and strong. Get ready and start preparing now!