Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pointers: How to weather typhoons


• Keep note of emergency hotlines in your area. Hotline numbers are: 734-2118, 734-2120, 911-5061, 912-5668 (National Disaster Coordinating Council); 527-6136 (Coast Guard); 16220 (Manila Electric Co.); 136 (Metro Manila Development Authority); 143, 527-0000 (Philippine National Red Cross); 931-8101 (Department of Social Welfare and Development); 117 (Philippine National Police); 1626 (Maynilad).

• Store an adequate supply of food and clean water. Prepare food that need not be cooked.

• Keep flashlights, candles and battery-powered radios within easy reach. Should you need to evacuate, bring clothes, first-aid kit, candles/flashlight, battery-powered radio, food, etc.
• Examine your house and repair its unstable parts.

• Harvest crops that can be yielded already.

• Secure domesticated animals in a safe place.

• For fisher folk, place boats in a safe area.

• Monitor the news or your local weather station for updates on the storm situation, when it will hit and how strong it will be.

• If floods or landslides had previously occurred in your area, secure your appliances and other belongings and head to evacuation centers. Also, consider if you are on or near heavily saturated ground, which is very susceptible to mudflows and debris.

• If you think your area is relatively safe, locate the main power switch of your house and be ready to shut off electricity in case of flood.

• Move to higher ground. Move away from creeks, streams, rivers and storm drains to avoid possible flash floods and landslides. Flash floods can sweep over an area without warning, and you may only have minutes to get to safety. Note that flash floods can occur up to 12 hours after heavy rains.

• Check your gutters to make sure they are clear of leaves and debris. You can opt to leave some possessions with someone who is not in a flood-prone area.

• Move vehicles to higher ground. Make sure these have enough fuel and will start quickly in case of emergency evacuation.

• Make sure there are no items outside your house that can be thrown by strong winds and hurt or kill. Board up or cover windows. Secure trees close to your home with ropes so they don’t fall and crush your roof. Trim branches that may snap off and injure others.

• Immediately charge all essential electronics like cellular phones, which you will have to use in case of emergencies.

• You should have a 72-hour survival kit stocked with essential supplies, including flashlights, battery-operated radio, weather radio, spare batteries, at least three gallons of water per person, ready-to-eat food, canned goods, can opener, first-aid supplies and medicines. Also stock up on clothes, including raincoats and rubber boots.

• Prepare special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members and your pets as well.

• If applicable, keep copies of your home or insurance papers inside sealed plastic bags.

• Prepare your escape routes. Practice what you will do in case of floods, flash floods or landslides. Map out safe routes where you can get from your office to your home. Coordinate with your neighbors.

• Decide on a meeting place away from your home where you and your family will gather if you need to leave your home and family members become separated. Prepare escape gear like floating devices, snorkels, swimming gear or inflatable rafts for worst flooding scenarios.


• Stay alert and awake. Many deaths, particularly from landslides, occur while people are sleeping.

• Keep your radios tuned to a local radio station and follow all instructions. If you are told to evacuate, move out of the house or building to safe, high ground.

• Turn off all electricity using your breaker box (main power switch) and turn off the main gas valve. Disconnect any equipment that uses water (like washing machines and dishwashers). Never leave fires unattended.

• Never walk or swim through swiftly moving water. Avoid flooded areas. Floodwaters that are above your knees are dangerous. Turn around and go back to higher ground.

• Never try to cross floodwaters standing or in a vehicle. Water that is 2 feet deep can carry away most cars, including Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs). If you find floodwaters on the road, turn around and find an alternate route. Abandon your vehicle immediately if it becomes surrounded with water or the engine stalls. Seek higher ground immediately.

• Try to stop water from entering your home by putting plugs in sinks and baths and weigh them down with a sandbag, pillowcase or a plastic bag filled with garden soil or a heavy object. Plug water inlet pipes with towels or cloth.

• Attempt to keep contact with your neighbors to make sure everyone is safe and so that you can pool (and later ration) supplies when the situation calls for it.

• Be especially alert when driving. If your car is swept into the water and submerged, do not panic. Stay calm, hold your breath, force your way outside, and swim to the surface.

• If you are swept into fast-moving floodwaters outside of your car, point your feet downstream. Always go over obstacles, never try to go under. Do not enter floodwaters.

• Watch out for collapsed pavement, mud, fallen rocks and other indications of possible debris flow.

• If you are stranded on something above floodwaters, such as a tree or building, stay put and wait for rescue. Call for help if you are in danger.


• Even if the storm is clear, keep listening to weather reports and only return to evacuated buildings if you are told it is safe to do so. Beware of sharp objects and pollution in flood water.

• If your house was damaged, make sure it is already safe and stable before you enter.

• Beware of dangerous animals, such as snakes, that may have entered your house.

• Watch out for live wires or outlet immersed in water.

• Report damaged electrical cables and fallen electric posts to the authorities. Report power meters that have been submerged in floodwaters to Meralco.

• Do not turn on the main power switch or attempt to use electrical appliances that have been wet, because there are hazards of electric shock and fire. Allow several days for extension cords, connectors and other wiring devices to dry completely. Use rubber gloves and wear rubber sole shoes when removing mud and dirt from the main circuit breaker or fuse.

• Avoid water-borne diseases. Assume that any water in flooded or surrounding areas is not safe unless local authorities expressly declared it to be so. If there is no safe water supply for washing, use bottled water or disinfected water (by adding five drops of liquid household bleach and let sit for 30 minutes).

• Before entering an area that has been flooded, put on protective clothing to avoid contact with floodwaters. Decrease the risk of mosquito or other insect bites by using repellants. Throw away all food (even canned ones) that had come in contact with floodwaters.

• Stay away from landslide areas until local officials say it is safe to enter. Watch for flooding, which sometimes follow landslides and debris flows.

• Once permitted to enter landslide areas, check your house’s foundation and surrounding land for damage. Replant damaged ground as soon as possible because erosion can further lead to flash flooding.

• Do not let water accumulate in tires, cans or pots to avoid creating a favorable condition for mosquito breeding.—Compiled by Almi Ilagan, Inquirer Research

Sources: Pagasa, ABS-CBN News, American Red Cross, DZMM, Philippine Red Cross

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