(The author is a Grade 10 and 15-year old student of the Tacurong National High School. The essay garnered First Prize during the Essay Writing Contest in commemoration of the National Disaster Resilience Month held at the Tacurong Pilot Elementary School on July 3, 2018. Her coach is Ms. Marites Goce.)
ON PREPAREDNESS WHEN TRAGEDY OR CALAMITY OCCURS
By Joanna Marie Goloyugo
Humans are given the gift of life and have very strong survival instinct. The need to preserve life courses down through their mind and body, especially, when faced with life and death situations. The survival instinct pushes to strive their way out of chaos, forcing them to thin, “I need to stay alive”. Unfortunately, this instinctive urge is not enough to save humans from direly threatening situations that result from unforeseen occurrences caused by Mother Nature, as well as, other human beings. In this regard, there is a need for preparedness as it can mitigate or lessen the physical, mental and emotional trauma when a unforeseen events occur.
The abrupt occurrences of typhoon, floods, earthquakes and other calamities, leave the Philippines shaken and in complete tatters…shambles…disarray. They create chaos in the affected communities and to be blamed partly is the negligence of man. The victims leave the world, their cold remains viewed for a lasting memory of their loved ones. Here’s why….despite all the conducted drills, trainings and seminars, the nation still faces devastating results from calamities and disasters. Lives are lost, properties are destroyed, despite which, the people never learn, making the government re-evaluations useless. Lessons are never learned.
The National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) encourages citizens to be prepared for emergency situations. The Republic Act 1-121, NDRRM Act that was implemented on May 2010 has four core functions: Mitigation and Prevention, Preparedness, Response, Rehabilitation and Recovery. They serve as guides in the drills conducted in schools and workplaces, and should also be observed in homes to prepare families for the occurrences that result to huge losses, both in life and property. At the helm of this effort is the Secretary of Department of National Defense (DND), Ricardo Jalad. Its aim is to transform the country’s emergency management system from “Disaster Relief and Response” to “Disaster Risk Reduction”. The aforementioned RA 1-121 repealed the Presidential Decree No. 1566 that was enacted in 1978, the emergency management of which centered only on the hazards and impacts of a disaster or calamity. On the other hand, the current law provides that the citizens should be prepared for them to know what to do before, during and after an occurrence.
Unfortunately, despite the directives from the government, some agencies both private and public do not conduct drills regularly. If they do, the concerned people treat the drill as some kind of a “play”…without seriousness. This attitude practically, makes the objective of the emergency preparedness fly over their head. In some schools, teachers observed that the students do not give much thought of the drill being conducted. Their nonchalance shows that they do not care much about the importance of the drill and its use for any untoward occurrence in the future. Some are observed without seriousness in practicing the ducking which is about the covering of the head with both hands, a simple act which is neglected by many participants.
When seminars and orientations are conducted by the agency involved in rescue, disaster prevention and risk management, many students are observed as not paying attention to the resource speakers. They chat with away the time with seatmates, play with their cellphones, or worst, skip such activity that their school has painstakingly arranged for them.
Knowledge plays a very important part in a person’s chance for survival. Even a simple rule such as avoiding large or tall objects, trees or buildings due to the possibility of their collapsing, is vital to survival. For this effort, there is a concerted effort among concerned agencies and the schools to make the students aware of the value of disaster preparedness. Along this line, rescue agencies of local governments conduct seminars and trainings in school with the aim of preventing or minimizing the damaging effects on humans and properties.
Meanwhile, the acquired knowledge may not be enough as there is always the possibility for panic to strike, especially, during the actual occurrence of an earthquake for instance and horrific car crash or accident as they make the mind blank which hinders the chances of survival. To quote Laurence Gonzales, the author of the bestselling book, “Deep Survival”, he said, “It’s been proven that if you put someone under pressure, he can’t solve simple mathematical equations or recall a sequence of words.” He added that, “In effect, losing your cool makes you stupid. That’s an oversimplification but emotions and reason work together like a seesaw. The higher emotion a person feels, the lower becomes his ability to reason. But reason is what’s going to get you out of trouble.”
There have been many instances where people know what to do but their emotion becomes unstable and because of extreme pressure and fear, they fail to adapt to the situation at hand. In the case of the well-known tragedy, the sinking of the Titanic, a survivor stated that when the water began to fill the ship, the passengers went into frenzy, jumped out of the window right into the cold ocean…others grabbed a hold to overloaded lifeboats which almost capsize while others just stood still, shocked. As mentioned earlier, though man has the innate survival instinct like animals, but when caught in perilous moment, some chose to stand still like a deer staring at the headlights of an oncoming car, practically waiting to be bumped.
Laurence Gonzalez spent three and a half decades studying survivors’ stories, taking note who have lived or died and reasons why. Finally, he concluded that, “Personality, emotions, attitude and how well a person can cope to adversity have much more to do in survival than any type of equipment.”
To be mentally and emotionally prepared is a very crucial factor in survival. This reminder has been repeatedly mentioned in seminars, trainings, and drills – a statement that holds the key to the gate of survival, summarized in two words, “Don’t Panic”. As aforementioned, it is essentially important to stay collected and calm during chaotic times so that the brains can function properly which includes avoiding careless mistakes or reckless actions which are usually spurred on by the heat of the moment.
LDS psychologist, Dr. Ella Gourgouris, one of the leading experts in Traumatic Stress Response stated, “One of the best ways to get the mind to perform under pressure is to physically practice beforehand. Dr. Terry Lyles, a fellow psychologist under the same department as Dr. Gourgouris also added, “The more prepared you are, the panicked you are going to be when things go wrong. But you have to practice it…it is not enough just to know it.”
The DRRM applies the preparations through seminars ad trainings conducted by agencies, among which are the Red Cross and the Junior Emergency Response Team (JERT) member using scenarios where in which a disaster has hit a community and capable residents apply first aid to the injured. Such activity could create a prepared mindset which is very necessary. In schools, frequent drills and trainings could also create a prepared mindset such that when the alarm is sounded throughout the campus, students are supposed to immediately go to the designated evacuation area with the teachers doing headcounts to make sure that none is missing.
It is suggested that for a better observation of behavior in a threatening situation, unannounced or surprised drills should be conducted with the alarm sounded without prior notice to anyone except the top management of an establishment or institution, for instance. That way, those affected can be observed if they instinctively do the ducking properly, aside from protective acts. After the event, analysis of what have been observed can be made and corrections can be made as necessary. The affected should be made to feel the fear and the accompanying adrenalin rush, aside from the pressure and panic which can be made as basis in the evaluation based on which guidelines on how they could remain calm and cool during adversities could be made, thereby, avoiding eventual death.
Being alive is the most wonderful gift humans have ever received. But staying alive is hard as unexpected events could claim lives as fast as the speed of light. Humans can prevent this by being prepared for any eventuality that does not necessitate being a part of an organization or big group and to be able to help, one need not be a member of a response or rescue team. Know what to do during unfortunate events, hence, having been prepared for these is more than enough to mitigate the nation’s economic losses and human casualties. And, when the unfortunate events occur, institutions and agencies all over the country can proudly exclaim that, “WE ARE PREPARED!”.