With a major earthquake last week and the 23rd anniversary of the 1999 Jiji earthquake on Wednesday, Taiwanese might be especially attentive to the latest safety tips regarding earthquake readiness.
I have just completed my training as a member of the Disaster Relief Volunteer Corps, and I would like to suggest that the government use the opportunity to promote earthquake preparedness.
After three days of attending workshops and passing the exam, I obtained the certificate for the volunteer corps. During the workshops, I acquired a lot of new information about disaster prevention. For example, while experts previously promoted the “triangle of life” method to survive an earthquake, that approach has been replaced with the “drop, cover and hold” method. That is, people should no longer seek to shelter in a small triangular space when an earthquake strikes, but should duck to the floor, cover their head and neck, and hold the position until the shaking stops.
However, many people might still wrongly believe that the right thing to do is run outside or shelter in a triangular space.
Using the latest earthquake as an opportunity, the government should update the information given to the public about what they should do when an earthquake strikes.
As earthquakes often lead to fires breaking out, Taiwanese were in the past told to cover their mouth and nose with a wet towel to prevent breathing in the smoke.
Nonetheless, the lecturer said this is also incorrect, because wet towels do not just keep out smoke, but also air, and that searching for a towel and soaking it might waste precious time.
Some of the most widely accepted protection methods are outdated. If not for the training, I would not have known about the new approaches.
Taiwanese have the right to know them, and the government has the responsibility to promote the latest disaster prevention information so that people can protect themselves as best as possible during an earthquake.
The lecturer taught us the slogan: “Run for the rooftop during an earthquake, and the ground during a fire.”
Such catchy and easy-to-remember slogans are useful during emergencies, and the government should use them to raise disaster prevention awareness.
In the past few years, the Japanese government has been dedicated to training people in the country’s Disaster Relief Volunteer Corps, seeking to build disaster resilient communities.
Similar to Japan, Taiwan is in a seismically active zone. Taipei would be wise to adopt the same policy as Tokyo, providing grants to enterprises and individuals, and encouraging people to participate in disaster relief volunteer training.
From my experience, the training has been of tremendous help. Not only would I be able to use the skills I learned to help myself, but I could apply them to assist others after securing my own safety.
Data compiled after disasters worldwide show that self-help, mutual assistance and public assistance are needed at a ratio of 7:2:1. This means that self-help is the most critical element in surviving natural disasters.
Therefore, the government should promote earthquake safety and launch more training courses for Taiwanese to qualify for the nation’s Disaster Relief Volunteer Corps, enabling them to perform self-help and deliver assistance to others in times of need.
This is the only way people can reduce their fear of earthquakes and protect themselves when disaster strikes.
Tsai Jr-keng is a retired elementary-school principal.
Translated by Rita Wang
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