Thursday, July 26, 2007

Earthquake Drills in Schools Please!

The July 13 earthquake literally shook me out of my blissful state that early Friday morning when Mother Nature decided to remind us how puny we all are against her awesome power.

It was pretty scary how our home seemed to creak and groan as it swayed from side to side. My first thought was Abby. If the earthquake had been scary for me, how much more terrifying it must have been for her, and for all other young impressionable children who never knew the ground they stand on could shake the way it did.

She told me later on how scared they all were. But much to the credit of her teacher, only one or two from her class cried unlike children from other classes, who according to her, cried in unison during the tremors.

I give credit to her teacher who remained calm and composed when the two earthquakes struck. In events such as these, children take their cues from adults. Presenting a brave front to the children will help them cope with their own fears. Showing fright or even the slightest hint of panic, on the other hand, will crumple whatever resolve they may have at being courageous in such situations.

So what causes earthquakes? Quick research taught me that the earth is divided into three layers - a hard outer crust, a soft middle layer and a center core. The outer crust is broken into massive, irregular pieces called “plates”. These plates have been moving very slowly for billions of years, driven by energy forces deep within the earth. Its movements continue to shape the physical features of the earth’s mountains, valleys, plains and plateaus. Earthquakes occur when these moving plates grind and scrape against each other. The Pacific Plate grinds northwestward past the North American plate at a rate of about 2 inches per year.

According to a news report, the earthquake could have resulted from a break or stress in the local fault line in Negros or some movement in the Philippine trench. Now, this part about our very own fault line in Negros should give us cause of concern. It can only mean that we should be expecting more of these earthquakes in the years to come.

As a parent then, I am calling on all schools to start instructing and drilling students on emergency procedures right away. It is important that the children are oriented on earthquake preparedness so they would know what to do before, during and after such event.

I know that Silliman Elem, for instance, conducted earthquake drills last school year and that Cittadini will be having one soon. But I don’t know if other schools have similar plans.

Emphasis should be given on the proper training of the teachers. According to PHILVOLCS, “during an earthquake, school children are one of the most vulnerable. As such, it is important for school administrators and teachers to be informed on how to properly conduct an earthquake drill. Teachers are the ones who will guide the students. They are the ones who will teach students how to protect themselves. The conduct of an earthquake drill requires planning and designing of evacuation procedure, as well as orienting teachers and ultimately students on how to do the earthquake drill.”

I found two very helpful websites on earthquake drills. Anyone who’s interested should check-out the following: and

I was introduced to the “duck, cover and hold” method. It teaches children to (1) turn away from windows; (2) crouch under a desk or table; (3) put both hands on the back of their neck; and (4) to tuck their head down. If the desk or table moves, it advises: hold the legs and move with it.

At least 30 minutes in each school month should be used to instruct students on fire, earthquake, and where appropriate, tsunami dangers and drills. At least two drills on earthquakes and fires must be conducted each year, and in schools in a coastal zone, at least three drills on earthquakes and tsunamis.

Earthquake drills are simple and easy to do. It only requires planning ahead (with a little guidance from PHILVOLCS) and constant practice. Just visit this web page for those guidelines:

So come on beloved schools. Show us that you are taking care of our children every way you could! Let us know that you will be having those drills SOON! The parents are waiting.

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