How to prepare for the Big One | Inquirer Opinion
On The Move

How to prepare for the Big One

Earthquakes have rocked various parts of the country from Batanes to Mindanao over the past year. Knowing how devastating earthquakes are, and remembering only the Ruby Tower (1968, 270 fatalities) and the Hyatt Terraces Baguio (1990, at least 80 fatalities) building collapses, we should feel lucky as we stare at media images of the collapsed Ecoland 4000 condominium building in Davao City, where fortunately no fatalities were recorded.

We know more devastating earthquakes are coming. The way our buildings have crumbled and collapsed, compared to the way buildings have stood firm during more powerful earthquakes in Japan, tells us that we are extremely vulnerable, perhaps due to our own folly in building our homes, and need to take anticipatory remedial action. Concrete hollow blocks (CHBs) are gingerly arranged in construction sites because they are actually Crumbly Hollow Blocks. Steel bars are mostly substandard, designed to be Steal Bars.


A test titled “Self-check for Earthquake Safety of Concrete Hollow Block (CHB) Houses in the Philippines” was put together by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvolcs), the Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, to enable us to do self-help and mutual help so we do not have to depend only on institutional help and government help for the safety of our families.

Earthquake preparedness is not a task for the government alone. This is also not a task for the head of the household alone. Take this test with all members of your family. They deserve to participate, know the results and help take action.


How Safe is Your House? Sum up all the YES answers to the choice “A” in the 12 questions. A) 11-12 points: Your house seems safe for now, but consult experts for confirmation; B) 8-10 points: Your house requires strengthening, consult experts soon; C) 0-7 points: This is disturbing! Please consult experts now!

Q1. Who built or designed your house? A) Built or designed by a licensed civil engineer/architect; B) Not built by a licensed civil engineer/architect; C) It is not clear
or unknown.

Q2. How old is your house? A) Built in or after 1992; B) Built before 1992; C) it is not clear or unknown.

Q3. Has your house been damaged by past earthquakes or other disasters? A) NO or YES but repaired; B) YES but not yet repaired; C) It is not clear or unknown.

Q4. What is the shape of your house?
A) Regular (symmetrical, rectangular, box-type, simple); B) Irregular/Complicated; C) It is not clear or unknown.

Q5. Has your house been extended or expanded? A) NO or YES but supervised by a civil engineer/architect; B) YES, but not supervised by a civil engineer/architect; C) It is not clear or unknown.

Q6. Are the external walls of your house 6-inch (150mm) thick CHB? A) YES, it is 6-inch; B) NO, it is thinner than 6-inch;
C) It is not clear or unknown.


Q7. Are steel bars of standard size and spacing used in walls? A) YES (10mm diameter, tied and spaced correctly); B) NO, fewer and smaller than 10mm; C) None or unknown.

Q8. Are there unsupported walls more than 3 meters wide? A) NONE, all unsupported walls are less than 3m wide; B) YES, at least one unsupported wall is more than 3m wide; C) It is not clear or unknown.

Q9. What is the gable wall of your house made of? A) Light materials, properly anchored CHBs, no gable wall; B) Not properly anchored CHBs, Bricks, Stone; C) It is not clear or unknown.

Q10. What is the foundation of your house? A) Reinforced concrete; B) Stones or unreinforced concrete; C) It is not clear or unknown.

Q11. What is the soil condition under your house? A) Hard (rock or stiff soil); B: Soft (muddy or reclaimed); C) It is not clear or unknown.

Q12. What is the overall condition of your house? A) Good condition; B) Poor condition; C) It is not clear or unknown.

Final word: “The integrity and safety of your house depends on how it was made.”

See the full unedited test and brief here:

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TAGS: building strength, earthquake preparedness, earthquakes, On The Move, Segundo Eclar Romero, structural integrity, the big one
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