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When we told our relatives that we will move to Philippines from Cambodia for two months, one of their many pieces of advices was: “Stay safe and avoid the area that is likely to be hit by typhoons or earthquakes.” This is the common said to Cambodians who travel to island countries, particularly to the Philippines.
Cambodia is safe from earthquakes or typhoons, but it doesn’t mean we are luckier. We have floods almost every year, either in some part of our capital city, Phnom Penh, or in some provinces along the Tonle Sap River. Basically, we take actions as much as we can when these typhoons and floods happen and help victims to recover. The Department of Disaster Management in Cambodia, civil society organizations, and other volunteers organize relief operations.
When we first heard about the Metro Manila Earthquake Drill, dubbed the #MMShakeDrill on social media, which took place on July 30, we were surprised to know that the entire Metro Manila, composed of seventeen cities, conducted the drill together. “That would be a huge drill!”, we said to ourselves. We were enthusiastic to participate because we were curious to know how the drill works. Moreover, we may learn something out of it. (READ: What dangers await when the West Valley Fault moves?)
Both the daytime drill and nighttime drill, which took place at Pasig City, were eye-openers. We didn’t expect all those scenarios practiced perfectly and smoothly. There were realistic scenes of devastation complete with “injured” and bloodied victims. Everyone looked ready to perform their role when the emergency alarm rang. (READ: Pasig City holds major night quake drill in CBD)
During the night drill, various rescue scenarios took place on Exchange Road. We saw a group of residents waving their hands while carrying white shirts at the front balcony on the second floor of The Philippine Stock Exchange building. They were stuck and needed help. Immediately, the rescue team operated a truck which could move a ladder up and connect it to the balcony to get people out of the building.
We also saw group of medics set up three huge tents to be used as temporary field hospitals in only 12 minutes. Each tent consisted of two or three rows of beds with medical facilities set up nearby. The rescue teams kept carrying more and more victims inside those tents as reporters, photographers and audiences ran back and forth trying to capture those activities carefully.
The rescue teams, the fire fighters, police forces, the medical teams, and other teams were energetic, brisk and brave.
If we were not assigned to cover the #MMShakedrill event, we would have thought we were in a film shoot. Everything seemed so real.
Cooperation from public and media
The participation of the public really surprised us. Filipinos, especially those who are living in Metro Manila, enthusiastically cooperated in the event. They know how important it is to be ready. Even though #MMShakedrill took place on an ordinary day, there were still huge crowds. They still practiced the duck, cover, and hold technique in schools, offices, malls, coffee shops or at home. Moreover, they never missed sharing photos and experiences on social networks, specifically on Facebook and Twitter.
Aside from the cooperation from the public, we noticed that the media also did a great job. Both the drill and messages were heard widely. We saw a lot of media practitioners on ground. They captured the activities of the event, reported news to audiences and posted, and tweeted on their respective media outlet’s official social network sites.
Most importantly, the residents who lived around the drill area were very engaged. Aside from patiently watching each drill scenario, they were motivated to update their social media accounts. Ours were flooded with tweets related to #MMShakedrill as well. (READ: Over 2 billion views for #MMShakeDrill on Twitter)
For this important activity, social media is a very powerful tool to keep everyone informed. If we are well-informed, we can minimize the fear and keep our families safe.
If not ‘now’, then when?
The question, “If the big one hits Metro Manila, are you ready for it?” was shared widely – by the government and by the public – and amplified by the media. We are impressed with how the Philippine government took this issue very seriously and prepared their plans and strategies. They increased public awareness and motivated people to take action.
Through the #MMShakeDrill, we think the government did the right thing. They kept everyone on track, cooperated with media to make the issue known and conducted the first mock #MMShakedrill for increased preparedness.
After participating in and covering the drill for Rappler, we know how to survive after an earthquake hits. Though Cambodia is usually safe from earthquakes, we think this is still very useful.
Indeed, better preparedness increases the rate of survival. We hope that #MMShakedrill will not be a one-time event, but it will be conducted annually in every part of Metro Manila. The more drills Filipinos practice, the better prepared they will be when the ‘big one’ hits.
#MMShakedrill is one of the best disaster preparedness lessons that we should bring back to our country. We hope other countries not only Philippines and Cambodia prepare and minimize risks for any kind of disasters. – Rappler.com
Monyneath Reth and Sokummono Khan are Rappler Interns from the Royal University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia.