Awareness is Disaster Preparedness: The Disaster Landscape in the Philippines
When disasters come, your awareness will equip you, your family and the valuable aspects of your life.
Recently, the Visayan region has been hit and devastated by Super Typhoon Odette. This is just eight years after Super Typhoon Yolanda came and destroyed a large part of the country. Apart from these utterly destructive super typhoons, the country is also bothered by typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and many other disasters from time to time.
Why is our country, the Philippines, so vulnerable to these devastating occurrences?
Well, the main reasons to address that question are the following:
1. The Philippines is in the Northern Hemisphere, just near the equator. The Philippines, which is situated just above the equator, face the western Pacific with little else to absorb the energy of storms before they hit land.
2. Prominent big bodies of water surround the country. The Philippines has the world’s hottest ocean temperatures. The warm equatorial bodies of water that borders the Philippine archipelago, such as the Pacific Ocean (the most active typhoon-spawning ocean basin on the planet) on the north and east, the South China Sea on the west, and the Sulu and Celebes Seas on the south, fuel storms, producing roughly 20 typhoons each year.
3. The Philippines rests on the Western Segment of the Pacific Ring of Fire. This is where 80% of the world’s active volcanoes and earthquake generators are located.
These are the primary reasons that put the Philippines in the high ranks on the World Risk Index Report, which assesses the disaster risk based on a country’s susceptibility and its coping and adaptive capacities. The WRIR reports indicate the vulnerability of the Philippines and the Filipinos to disaster risks. However, this also highlights the pressing necessity of disaster awareness and preparedness, especially since these disasters are getting more intense and frequent due to climate change.
Accompanied by this vulnerability are the disaster hazards, classified into two categories: Natural Hazards and Anthropogenic Hazards.
1. Natural Hazards
Refer to all naturally occurring atmospheric, hydrologic, geologic, and wildfire occurrences with the potential to disrupt living beings, infrastructure, or people’s daily activities. Even though natural processes impose this hazard, human beings, and their actions significantly impact its frequency and intensity. Overpopulation, pollution, burning fossil fuels, and deforestation are only a few of the human-induced factors. Under this classification are the disaster hazards we Filipinos are very familiar with:
a. Hydrometeorological — imposed by atmospheric, hydrological, or oceanic processes. Included in this classification are Typhoon/Cyclone (a large storm like Super Typhoon Yolanda); Storm Surges (offshore rise of water making the coastal communities vulnerable); Tornadoes (characterized with the column of air touching the ground, usually attached to the base of a thunderstorm); Landslide (downward movement of a mass of rock, debris, or soil caused by an earthquake or heavy rainfall); and Flood.
b. Geophysical — originates from internal earth processes. Classified as Geophysical hazards are Earthquakes (rapid shaking of the ground more on areas surrounded by active fault lines); Landslides; Tsunami (giant sea waves resulting from the disturbance of the ocean floor by an earthquake); and Volcanic Activities.
c. Climatological — relates to the climate conditions. The hazards included under this are Extreme temperatures (temperature deviations that are either extreme heat or severe cold); Drought (temporary reduction in the water’s expected amount); and Wildfires (uncontrolled burning fire outdoors that natural and human activities can cause).
d. Biological — Organic in origin that poses a risk to all living things. Under this hazard, there are two things to remember, the Disease Epidemics (excessive occurrence of a certain illness in a region/community); and Insect/Animal Infestation.
2. Anthropogenic Hazards
Induced primarily by humans and occur in or close to human settlements. Under this classification of hazard are the following:
a. Urban Fires (fire in cities or towns).
b. Transport Accidents
c. Complex Emergencies/Conflicts (humanitarian crises).
d. Famine (extreme scarcity of food).
e. Industrial Accidents (workplace accidents).
The Philippines is held vulnerable for its physical location, adding up to the human-induced factors to the abovementioned hazards. While it is impossible to rearrange the circumstances of the Philippines, we can still alter the way we live our lives in a sense that we would not be contributing to the destructive intensity of any hazard that surrounds us.
Call to Action!
This article aims to raise awareness and preparedness on the disaster landscapes and hazards in the Philippines. As the official “adults” in your family, take the lead and educate other people because awareness is also disaster preparedness when disasters come.