Last Tuesday’s earthquake had shown that the emergency evacuation measures we have are inadequate. Heck, our reaction (or should I say, inaction) was even nonchalant, as if nothing happened. This is a terrible character flaw on our part; when we act, it is almost too late.
It is a damned-if-you-do situation: you do preemptive action, and when nothing happens, you get blamed. When you do nothing and disaster happens, you get blamed. The entry of typhoons Lando and Mina are instructive. Lando managed to ravage the country, though it steered clear of Bicol. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) predicted that Mina may pass by Bicol, so emergency evacs were made. When Mina steered away from Bicol, PAGASA was blamed for faulty prediction.
No wonder government officials would rather react than act. But this should not be the case. As the tired quote says, it is better to err on the side of caution.
The typhoons and the earthquake highlighted some facets of the Filipino culture. Basically, our nonchalance, our passiveness about disaster prevention are manifestation of the so-called bahala na syndrome. We are very prone to it.
It will take another major disaster before we wake up from this stupor. By then, it will be too late. Again.
(The worst Philippine disaster in recent memory were brought about by typhoons – in Leyte and in Bicol.)
I have heard a lot of anecdotes from friends about last Tuesday, all of them troubling. They did not bother evacuating. “Mahina lang naman eh,” most of them said. That is not the point. The possibility of aftershocks are there. The possibility of stronger aftershocks are there. That is why emergency evacuations are always made. But we always want to learn the hard way, right?
If you work in a tall building, do you know what to do in case of earthquake or fire? Do you know where the emergency exits are? Does your company have emergency, evac, and restoration measures in place?
For the record, we did an evac, though much remains to be desired.