Wednesday night was a test on how prepared and calm we are in the face of a huge quake. At 7:37pm, we were all jolted by a magnitude 5 earthquake in the city, magnitude 6.3 at its epicenter in Tulunan, North Cotabato. The earth’s movement was at once bouncing and swaying, which led many to just flee out of the building, or even their cars, looking for a clear space where they think they can be safe. Social media has allowed people to inform love ones they were safe but it was also the medium that led people to such heights of anxiety and panic.
In Mayor Sara Duterte’s State of the City Address last Monday, she said we had the 3rd city-wide earthquake and tsunami Shake Out Drill to check on the level of preparedness of the people, and in 2018, there were 103 earthquake, fire and tsunami drills conducted. Did we develop muscle memory from these drills? Maybe, since there were no casualties reported in any of the highly congested areas and evacuation was conducted orderly and calmly. Maybe not, because unverified information flying around cyberspace caused so much confusion and hardship to those who do not have the means to check its veracity. Added to that is our wry sense of humor that kicked in shortly after the quake.
Chona Mae hit the charts. Once the tsunami hoax was deciphered, text messages proliferated that those who fled to higher places for fear of a tsunami just misheard a parent who was looking for a daughter named Chona Mae in the chaos of the quake. Our sense of humor amidst disaster is classic. It helps to release pent up tension and assuages fear.
We are still expecting aftershocks and it is advisable to stay calm while we continue to do our daily routine. We however suggest that apart from the physical drills, the disaster management exercise should also include how to properly communicate or spread information so as not to aggravate an already tense situation.
The public should be made aware that only official statements from the city government and concerned agencies such as Pag-Asa and Phivolcs are reliable.