Are you ready for a disaster?

Are you ready for a disaster?

Nov 13, 2013

Everyone is moved by the recent tragedy caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda, the strongest storm ever to make landfall. We have not yet recovered from the intensity of the earthquake (and its numerous aftershocks) that rocked Bohol and nearby provinces, and here we are facing a bigger one – towns literally flattened to the ground, dead bodies all over, lawlessness happening.

However, it is also in great tragedies that we see the best in the human spirit. Filipinos and other nationalities all over the world are doing something to help the victims.

The shock value

The astonishing aftermath of the typhoon brings people all over the world to stop and do something about the situation. Hopefully, the bigger issue on climate change will also be addressed.

Another issue that we should address is our disaster preparedness. I can’t help but compare it with how we prepare for our retirement/old age. We all know that we will all get there but somehow there is this Bahala na attitude that only a miniscule part of our population prepares for it.

We know that our country is right smack on the typhoon belt that we always run out of letters in the Filipino alphabet to give names to these unwanted visitors. And yet, year in and year out, we still seem to grapple on how to deal with them in an orderly manner. We hail our resilience, our bayanihan spirit, our ability to smile amidst all these; but for us to really move forward to a better life as a nation, let’s do something more. Let’s be something more.

Sometimes when I watch relief operations and see those smiles on the victims’ faces as they receive their relief packs from their favorite stars (or politicians feeling like movie stars), I can’t help but think, “Do the less fortunate Filipinos sometimes welcome these tragedies because these are the only times they get attention?” And then I feel a bit guilty for thinking this way. But as I look closely, I see some parallelisms here with parenting. A child who lacks attention will subconsciously do something to seek his parents’ attention like flunk his subjects, get into nasty habits, disobey his parents. Of course, they did not seek out the typhoon and other calamities, but is it possible that they subconsciously welcome them because these are the times they feel the care from others?

Parenting analogy

Because this is what I know, I will take the analogy of parenting further. There are four basic kinds of parenting styles: 1.) Authoritarian – strict with high expectations, little communication and extreme punishment; 2.) Permissive – lax with no expectations, parent is treated as friend instead of authority, allows child to decide on his own; 3.) Uninvolved – neglects the child by putting own life before the child’s, provides for the child’s basic needs but shows little interaction with the child; and 4.) Authoritative – democratic, attentive, instills proper behavior, uses a set of rules that are implemented using reward/reinforcement.

When we finally got out of the shackles of our authoritarian father, we found ourselves with a mother who probably tried her best to nurture us and take away the trauma of super strict and sometimes torturous parenting, that she became too permissive and probably sometimes seemingly uninvolved. We were given freedom that we could not handle that after fighting for what we hated most (i.e. corruption) for decades under our authoritarian father, we ended up doing it in a much bigger way.

What we need is an authoritative parent. We need someone who is sincere and trustworthy but also strict. Let him get angry. Let him walk out when he’s frustrated because of his helpers’ incompetence. But I hope that he makes good with his promised punishments on erring children and helpers – whether it’s a fine for not following traffic rules and paying the right taxes, or getting jailed for massive theft, no matter how old the erring characters are. This is the only way we can really straighten up and progress as a nation.

The Children’s part

The children or citizens of our country also have their roles to play. We cannot expect everything to be done by the government. Children need to mature and be responsible for themselves at some point.

For our role, maybe we can do something as a family, the basic unit of our society, to help in times of disaster. There are various organizations that can mobilize our help – the Red Cross, our schools, tv stations’ organized disaster movements and many more.

The best help is probably being prepared as a family when disasters strike. One less family to worry about is one less burden off our nation. Let’s ask ourselves the question, “Are we ready for a disaster?”

It’s good to have a plan as a family on what to do in case of fire, flood and earthquake. Talk to your children and their caretakers about the possibility of calamities in a calm manner.

Check out The Philippine Red cross website’s discussion of lifeline. It outlines the things that we need to prepare in our survival kit. Here’s the summary:

  1. Water – one gallon (3.78 liters) per person per day is what we need. Purification tablets may also come in handy. One tablet can purify one liter of water.  
  2. Food – nourishment with long shelf life like protein/granola bars, crackers, cereals, easy to open canned goods that don’t require cooking.
  3. Emergency tools/gears – IDs, Important telephone nos., whistle, flashlight, multi-purpose knife, AM radio transistor, glow sticks, sleeping bag, garbage bag, blankets.
  4. Personal Effects & Hygiene – extra clothing, undergarments, antibacterial soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand towels, hand sanitizer, sanitary napkin, comb.
  5. Important Documents and Money – these should be kept in plastic envelope – list of important info such as SSS No., TIN, License no., Passport no., bank details, insurance policies, cash, etc. The Red Cross list includes other documents such as academic credentials, vaccination records, birth certificates, marriage contract, insurance policies, medical records. However, putting all these important documents in your emergency kit may not be practical. I’m planning to scan or take a photo of all these documents and save them in a flash disk instead. Keep the important documents in a safe place like a vault. When I told my husband about this plan, he asked if I could make room for our family photos in the disks. (Our photos are now in external hard drives, and some are still the bulky type). Yes, family photos are very precious and people who lost their homes to fire consider family photos as among their valuable items lost. Cloud storage is another option.
  6. Special Needs – emergency medication, prescription medication and special food for children and elderly, special toys for children to use as entertainment during stressful times.
  7. First Aid kit – adhesive strips, bandage, swabs antiseptic, alcohol, wound dressing, gloves, resealable plastic bags, first aid kit quick reference.

Make sure your insurance policies are current. Check the expiry dates of the items in your kits. Put an alarm in your phone calendar that will notify you one month before expiry. This gives you time to consume and replace the items that need to be replaced.

We may not have control over natural disasters and other unfortunate events that may come our way, but we have control over how to prepare for them.