Survivors highlight disaster readiness

TACLOBAN CITY—When Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (international name Haiyan) struck the Philippines in 2013, Ristel Jane A. Artiaga and Mave Rick Eraya ran for their lives as storm surge caused cargo vessels to crash into their homes.

Both are residents of Anibong village in Tacloban City, ground zero of the super typhoon that took nearly 7,000 lives and left thousands more homeless.

Almost four years have passed since that day, but college student Artiaga, 19, and faculty member Eraya, 30, will never forget the lessons they learned after surviving the typhoon. These lessons, for them, have been reinforced during the TNT Tropang Ready Disaster Preparedness Caravan held recently at their school, the Eastern Visayas State University.  

PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications Inc. recently brought the caravan to the EVSU campus in Tacloban City as part of the company’s nationwide learning series on disaster preparedness geared toward the youth.

“I may be a member of the school’s disaster risk management program, but Tropang Ready still reinforced my commitment to be always ready in times of calamity,” said Eraya, adding that in times of emergencies, “keep it light, bring only what you can carry.” 

Nearly 1,000 students and school personnel were taught lessons on emergency preparedness by representatives from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Tacloban City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, Emergency Management Center, and Get Ready Pinas. 

Louie Domingo of Emergency Management Center (right) teaches Eastern Visayas State University students how to make a paracord bracelet, which doubles as a rope in times of emergencies.

The speakers not only talked about the usual risks and hazards but also demonstrated the proper way to do the “duck, cover, hold” technique, and shared the contents of a “Go Bag,” a kit meant to help an individual or a family survive the next 72 hours of a calamity, such as a typhoon, an earthquake, a tsunami, or landslide: a flashlight, bottle of water, mobile phone, garbage bag, T-shirt, flashlight battery, and other essentials.

The attendees were also treated to interactive booths, games, and other activities that put emphasis on preparedness, such as making a paracord bracelet, which doubles as an emergency rope and contains a whistle that can come in handy during emergencies. Mobile phone products and services that help in emergencies were also discussed.

Just last July 6, Leyte was rocked by a magnitude 6.5 earthquake, causing loss of lives and damage to property. Seventh-grader Ronald D. Corpin, 11, was one of the students inside the EVSU campus when the quake jolted the region.

Corpin, who was also in Tacloban when Yolanda hit the city, said both calamities had made him realize, even at a young age, that disasters affected everyone. Rich or poor, children or adults, everyone should be prepared, he said. 

“It’s best to be prepared, like what TNT Tropang Ready is teaching us here,” said Corpin, one of the Tropang Ready student-participants. “I had fun during the lectures, and everyone was encouraged to participate. In fact, I joined in one of the games using the whistle as a life-saving tool,” he added.

“Our brand TNT and the youth could work hand in hand in promoting the culture of preparedness as a way of life. The youth have the capability to share information right away to their families and friends,” said Atty. Maria Jane Paredes, Smart public affairs head for Visayas and Mindanao.

Paredes also said Smart had been working with different schools nationwide to help families and individuals in high-risk areas prepare for emergencies and disasters. TNT’s Tropang Ready is the latest enhancement of Smart’s disaster preparedness caravan for communities launched in 2013.

EVSU vice president for administration Lilian D. Estorninos thanked Smart for bringing the TNT Tropang Ready caravan to their university. “We share the same vision with Smart of having resilient schools and communities,” Estorninos said. “In EVSU-Tacloban and our other campuses, we also give practical tips to students on emergency risk management,” she added.

The participants were also able to upgrade their old TNT SIM cards to LTE SIMs for free while retaining their numbers, allowing them to experience faster internet connection speed.

The TNT Tropang Ready caravan is part of Smart’s #SafePH advocacy, which promotes preparedness through mobile solutions and on-ground activities to help communities mitigate disaster risks. It has been shortlisted as Best Engagement Campaign of the Year at the Responsible Business Awards by Ethical Corp., a UK-based group which provides intelligence to businesses around the world.

Topics: Super Typhoon “Yolanda” , Survivors , Disaster readiness , Ristel Jane A. Artiaga , Mave Rick Eraya , TNT Tropang Ready Disaster Preparedness Caravan , Eastern Visayas State University , Smart Communications Inc.
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