Earthquake drills are ‘games’ to be taken seriously

National government agency officials and employees participate in regular earthquake drills to gauge the effectiveness of their established procedures amid a devastating ground shaking. (PIA photo)

The Philippines ranks first among 193 countries when it comes to disaster risk based on the World Risk Index in 2023. This annual assessment covers all United Nations member countries and more than 99 percent of the world’s population.

In a country where natural disasters strike without warning, the importance of preparedness cannot be overstated. 

Earthquakes, in particular, are unpredictable and can unleash devastating consequences within seconds, leaving communities reeling in their wake.

Due to its geographical context, the Philippines is vulnerable to strong and destructive earthquakes. As of December 2023, earthquakes in the Philippines had 9.7 out of 10 risk index points.

Amid this hazard, however, lies a powerful tool – the earthquake drill – that can empower individuals, families, and organizations to confront major ground shaking with resilience and readiness.

At its core, an earthquake drill is a proactive measure designed to instill essential knowledge and skills, enabling swift and effective response when the ground begins to tremble. 

The Nationwide Simultaneous Earthquake Drill or NSED is a quarterly exercise spearheaded by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) to promote disaster awareness and preparedness among the general public. It also aims to strengthen the preparedness of local governments in the event of a strong ground shaking and its secondary hazards like fire, tsunami, and liquefaction.

This nationwide activity was initially conceptualized during the Arroyo Administration in the aftermath of the destructive earthquake in Yogyakarta, Indonesia on May 27, 2006.

By simulating the conditions of an actual seismic event, these drills provide invaluable hands-on experience, allowing participants to practice life-saving actions that could make all the difference in the face of a real-life crisis.

During the 4th quarter 2023 NSED, Dr. Teresito Bacolcol Jr., director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), emphasized the importance of collaborative efforts across all sectors to enhance preparedness and resilience against earthquake and tsunami hazards.


One of the primary objectives of an earthquake drill is to reinforce the critical concept of “DUCK, COVER, and HOLD.” 

This simple, yet potentially life-saving mantra, teaches individuals to drop to the ground, take cover under a sturdy table or desk, and hold on until the shaking subsides. 

The NSED is held quarterly to help raise awareness and preparedness among the public.

In a Facebook post, the NDRRMC, through the OCD, enjoins the public to the upcoming 1st Quarter Nationwide Simultaneous Earthquake Drill (NSED) this March 25, 2024, at 9:00 a.m.

Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr., who also chairs the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC)  is urging everyone to take the Nationwide Simultaneous Earthquake Drill seriously. 

He emphasized the importance of preparedness in order to save more lives and respond quickly to the needs of our communities.

Sana po seryosohin natin itong Nationwide Simultaneous Earthquake Drill. Mabuti na nakahanda po tayo upang sa gayon ay makaligtas tayo ng mas maraming buhay at mas makatugon nang mabilis sa pangangailangan ng ating mga komunidad.”

(I hope we take this Nationwide Simultaneous Earthquake Drill seriously. It is good that we are prepared so that we can save more lives and respond more quickly to the needs of our communities.)

By ingraining this instinctive response through repeated practice, earthquake drills help mitigate the risk of injuries caused by falling objects or collapsing structures, increasing the chances of survival during the initial tremors.

Beyond personal safety, earthquake drills also shed light on the importance of preparedness within the broader context of a community or organization. Through these simulations, participants learn to identify evacuation routes, assembly points, and emergency procedures tailored to their specific environment. This knowledge, then empowers individuals to act swiftly and decisively, minimizing chaos and confusion in the aftermath of a seismic event.

Magpapatuloy po ang implementasyon ng iba’t ibang mga programa, aktibidad at pamamaraan sa pagpapatibay ng kahandaan. Makakaasa rin po kayo na magpapatuloy ang aming pagtuklas ng mga bagay na makatutulong sa pagpapayabong pa ng iba’t ibang aspeto sa larangan ng DRRM,” said Undersecretary Ariel Nepomuceno, Civil Defense administrator and NDRRMC executive director.

(The implementation of various programs, activities and methods to strengthen preparedness will continue. You can also hope that we will continue to discover things that will help further enrich various aspects in the field of DRRM. 

Hindi kailanman mapapatid ang aming pagsusumikap na palakasin ang kapasidad ng bawat komunidad tungo sa handa at ligtas na bansang Pilipinas,” Nepomuceno added.

(Our efforts to strengthen the capacity of each community towards a ready and safe Philippines will never stop.)

Moreover, earthquake drills serve as a catalyst for fostering a culture of preparedness, encouraging individuals and organizations to develop comprehensive emergency plans and stockpile essential supplies. By recognizing the potential impact of earthquakes and taking proactive measures, communities can enhance their resilience and ability to bounce back from such calamities.

In addition to the practical benefits, earthquake drills play a crucial role in fostering a sense of collective responsibility and solidarity. By participating in these simulations, individuals not only gain valuable skills but also develop a heightened awareness of the importance of community support during times of crisis.

It can be recalled that based on the World Risk Index 2023, the countries with the highest disaster risk worldwide are the Philippines (WRI 46.86), Indonesia (WRI 43.50), and India (WRI 41.52).

The composition of the ten countries with the highest risk remains virtually unchanged compared to the previous year. (JCO/PIA-NCR)

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