Experts maintain taking the proper actions of duck, cover, and hold during an earthquake can save lives.
For Ramon Apilado, a member of the Tahanang Walang Hagdanan it may not be as easy as it sounds.
It is one of the reasons SM Cares, a part of the SM Group, held its annual Emergency Preparedness Forum (EPF) at the SM Mall of Asia to ensure individuals like Apilado and other persons with disabilities (PWDs) together with senior citizens are informed of what to do in emergencies.
Engr. Bien Mateo, Senior Vice President for Mall Operations and Program Director of SM Cares Disability Affairs, emphasized inclusion in the annual forum to equip vulnerable sectors of the PWD and elderly community with the ability to save themselves and the people they love.
In preparing for emergencies and calamities, SM Cares believes that no one should be left behind,” he said. “That is why we continue organizing this yearly Emergency Preparedness Forum. Our goal is to empower PWDs and senior citizens with the essential survival skills.”
Inclusive survival tips for the community
During the forum, attendees were encouraged to participate in several practice emergency scenarios led by Gerard ‘Doki’ Natividad, an instructor on disaster management and rescue-survival expert.
Consultations with the community were held to enhance inclusivity practices in an earthquake, including the duck, cover, and hold protocol.
For wheelchair-bound individuals, it is better to lock, cover, and hold.
This means locking the wheelchair brakes, covering the head with a bag or hand, then holding it for stability until the shaking stops.
The visually-impaired community is advised to hold their guide canes and stick to the walls since all of them lead to windows and doors.
For Natividad, disaster risk reduction practices must be inclusive.
“It should not be just a third party thinking for them,” he said. “Let’s ask what works or consult what is the most effective way for them.”
Apilado, of Tahanang Walang Hagdanan, (TWH) a non-profit organization that uplifts the lives of PWDs, sees the importance of a consultative approach in emergency preparedness.
“Mas maganda talaga na may consultations,” he said. “Di naman iisa ang disability. Whether you’re blind, deaf, or you’re on a wheelchair, dapat lahat kasali para alam ang gagawin.”
(It’s much better that there are consultations. There are many kinds of disabilities. Everyone must be included in emergency preparedness whether you’re blind, deaf or you’re on a wheelchair.)
Committed to serving the community
There are at least 1.44 million PWDs in the country according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
SM continues to promote a disability-inclusive environment through its programs, especially across its malls.
With initiatives like annual sensitivity training, Angels Walk for autism awareness, and other special celebrations, SM has become one of the most PWD-friendly establishments in the Philippines.
To Ella Onnagan, President of the Valenzuela Persons with Disabilities Federation, inclusion encourages their members to be more active in events such as this.
“Bukod sa invitation na binibigay po nila sa amin, meron po silang proper at designated places for our community,” she said. “Ang SM, nagbibigay sila ng kasiyahan sa mga PWDs at seniors. Yung inclusion, nararamdaman namin na welcome kami sa SM.”
(Besides their invitation, SM gives proper and designated places for our community. SM provides happiness to us PWDs and seniors. We feel included—that we are always welcome in SM.)
SM Cares, a division of SM Foundation, Inc., launched the first of eight forums in July in celebration of National Disaster Resilience Month.
This marks the seventh iteration of the forum.
In terms of scope, it offers the biggest coverage launching in eight different locations to encourage more PWDs and seniors to take part in the initiative.
Subsequent locations include SM City Tuguegarao, SM City San Pablo, SM Center Lemery, SM City Consolacion, SM Center Ormoc, SM Lanang Premier, and SM City Bacolod.