Emergency broadcast system urgent after rash of earthquakes in PH

Highlights

  • PHIVOLCS website crashed from too much traffic
  • Series of quakes unrelated to each other
  • ‘Big One’ can kill 31,000 to 48,000 if Filipinos are unprepared
  • Earthquakes are a normal occurrence, but be prepared for them
  • Solidum presents contents of his personal survival kit

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — A nationwide emergency broadcast system to alert millions within minutes of a quake is a priority of the country's seismological agency.

Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) Director Renato Solidum is hoping that the government can firm up arrangements for this system with the radio and television broadcasters across the country.

"We need to have an emergency broadcast system so that our radio and our TV will broadcast it," Solidum told CNN Philippines' The Source on Wednesday.

The emergency broadcast system can be forged through a partnership among PHIVOLCS, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, Philippine Information Agency, and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, he said.

"The participating station and the warning organization will have a direct link," he said.

Solidum said that such a system should also include radio and television stations in the regions.

"Pagdating sa local areas, kailangan mai-link doon sa local radio station," he said. "Kapag ipasa mo kunyari sa isang network, then dapat mabilis."

[Translation: When it comes to local areas, there needs to be a link to the local radio station. If it's passed to a network, it should be fast.]

He cited Japan as a possible model for a coordinated emergency broadcast.

The Japanese Meteorological Agency website has an emergency warning system that is disseminated through "media such as TV and radio," and to municipalities "via various channels including prefectural governments, police agencies and fire departments."

Solidum added they are looking into sending out official text messages from PHIVOLCS, to provide another source of information.

The need for such a system arose after the PHIVOLCS official website crashed on Saturday from too many visits in light of an earthquake in Batangas.

"If everyone will go to the site, for sure everyone will make the site unoperable," he said.

There is growing concern over earthquakes came after a series of tremors rocked the Philippines in recent weeks.

The first was by a magnitude-6.7 quake Surigao del Norte last February 10. This was followed by a magnitude-5.5 tremor in Batangas on April 8, a 5.4-magnitude quake off the coast of Northern Samar on April 10, and a magnitude-6.0 quake in Lanao on Wednesday.

Related: Magnitude-6.0 quake rocks parts of Mindanao

Solidum clarified that the series of earthquakes are unrelated, nor were they a prelude to the so-called "Big One," an anticipated magnitude-7.2 quake caused by the movement of the West Valley Fault.

The West Valley Fault is a 100-km fault line running from Bulacan to Laguna that last moved in 1658. Since it is expected to cause an earthquake every 400 years, experts say it is ripe for movement.

Up to 34,000 deaths in Metro Manila alone are forecast when the "Big One" hits, said Solidum, quoting studies by PHIVOLCS, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, and Metro Manila Development Authority.

The death toll could rise to 48,000 with the cities surrounding Metro Manila taken into account.

"If we don't do anything, and if we don't strengthen these houses and buildings, then we will see this number of casualties," Solidum said.

Quakes are ‘normal,’ but be prepared

However Solidum said that people should not be afraid of earthquakes, but rather be prepared for them.

"Ang hindi normal ay walang earthquake [What's not normal is if there aren't any earthquakes]," said Solidum. "In a day we can record 20 earthquakes, you just don't feel it... It so happened that these (recent earthquakes) are felt events."

He noted that the location of the Philippines along the Pacific Ring of Fire makes it prone to earthquakes.

 

Solidum also said there are around "two dozen" major faults across the Philippines, and 18 earthquake sources in Metro Manila.

"The Philippines is criss-crossed by active faults. We have major earthquake generators [at sea, called] trenches," he said.

The Philippines has deep trenches off its eastern and western coasts, another possible cause for earthquakes.

"You should not feel afraid of it," said Solidum. "You have to be conscious that there can be an earthquake of a higher magnitude that can affect our vicinity, and that should be prepared for."

Survival kit

Solidum also shared with CNN Philippines the content of his personal survival kit.

It contained water, food, extra clothes, first aid, a hat, a knife, a whistle, a flashlight, a crank radio that also doubles as a flashlight and siren, and a life straw, which filters water automatically.

Related: Essential items in a survival kit

 

He also keeps a flashlight and whistle on his keychain.

Solidum said he changes the contents of the bag, particularly the food, regularly.