After the recent earthquakes that shook the Philippines, a question begs to be answered: are today’s high-rise condominiums safe from earthquakes?
Based on the National Building Code of the Philippines, the National Structure Code of the Philippines sets strict standards for developers and construction companies designed to keep buildings from sustaining major structural damage and protect homeowners when natural calamities such as strong earthquakes strike.
While the country has strict building codes designed to be resilient to intensity 8 earthquakes, it is a not reason to be complacent. Increase your chances with these 12 safety tips for surviving in your condo during earthquakes.
Before the Earthquake
Develop an earthquake readiness plan
Discuss possible disaster scenarios and evacuation plans with your family. Sketch a floor plan of your home to mark where the safety spots and exits are in each room. Have a clear agreement on rendezvous spot should you get separated during an evacuation.
Also, familiarize yourself and your family with emergency hotlines to call in times of distress.
Secure the heavy furniture
Bookshelves, wardrobes, and other objects may fall over during a strong earthquake. To minimize the risk of head injuries caused by falling objects, bolt the bookcases to wall studs, install strong latches on cupboards, and anchor the heavy furniture on the floor.
Pack an emergency kit
Prepare an emergency kit for each member of the family to use when the need to evacuate arises. The individual emergency kit must include at least your basic needs such as:
- Drinking water enough for three days
- Non-perishable and easy-to-prepare food enough for three days
- Flashlight and batteries
- First aid kit and personal medications
- Multipurpose tool
- Phone, power bank and charger
- Warm clothes
- Toiletries and personal hygiene items
- Cash, preferably in small bills
- Important documents such as IDs, passports, deed or lease to the condo and other properties, insurance policies, medical information
During the Earthquake
Duck, Cover, and Hold
Keep calm and duck, cover, and hold under a desk or table until the shaking subsides. Drop on your arms and knees and hide under the sturdiest table in your condo unit. Try to relax but watch out for anything that can fall on you.
Find Your Safe Place
When the ducking under sturdy furniture is not applicable, the next best thing is to find another safe spot. Seek shelter near an interior wall of your condo unit or under the support beams and cover your head and neck with your arms.
Know the Hazards
With glassware and knives that can fall, appliances that can short circuit, and a stove that can start a fire, the kitchen is an accident waiting to happen. Avoid hiding in the kitchen during an earthquake. Also, stay away from glass windows and other fragile items that can break.
Stay in bed
When earthquakes happen at night while you are asleep, do not get out of in bed. Use your pillow to cover your head and neck. Leave only when there is a ceiling fixture or other debris that might fall.
Wait it out
A building swaying can make you dizzy and cause you to fall down. Wait until the shaking stops before walking out of your condo. Wait also for possible aftershocks. Aftershocks can occur within seconds, minutes, hours or even days after the first main quake, best to stay alert. Leave your home only when you are sure it is safe.
After the Earthquake
Don’t ride the elevator
Don’t use the elevator when leaving the building. Electrical power may go out and will trap you inside the elevator. Best to use the stairs when exiting the building.
Find a clear spot
Once outdoors, find an open area away from damaged buildings, power lines, glass windows, and panicking people. Injuries can occur from unexpected objects, such as water spilling from swimming pool penthouse, thrown from above or the side.
Provide first aid
Immediately check to see if you, your family or anyone near you is injured. If you have been trained in first aid, lend your skills where you can and call the emergency hotline where you cannot.
Aftershocks are smaller earthquakes that follow the main shock of an earthquake sequence. They can occur over a period of weeks, months or years, steadily decreasing in magnitude and frequency. Generally, the larger the main shock, the larger and more numerous the aftershocks.
Lessons from past disasters prompted the government, condo developers, and construction companies to improve building codes and build stronger structures. These led to modern high-rise condos safer and better than low-rise buildings. There are also condominiums that are engineered with sophisticated damper technology to withstand vibrations from seismic waves and strong typhoons.
Lessons from past disasters should also teach us the preparation is key to survival. Make sure to inspect your condo and identify its safety features and hazard spots during disasters. Prepare a family emergency plan, stock on supplies and stay calm so you can better protect yourself and your loved ones during earthquakes.