Wednesday, 20 August 2014
Living in Korea 101: Today's Civil Defense Drill In Seoul And My Emergency Kit!
Today, August 19, 2015, at 2PM, the sirens will wail again for three minutes throughout Seoul and Korea. That signifies the start of a 15-minute stoppage of vehicular traffic everywhere. That signifies the start of the civil defense drill in Korea.
I was caught once in a cab when the drill started. The cab driver and I just sat there helpless and unable to do anything, except amuse ourselves with the idea that everyone else around us was also trapped in the traffic. If my hangeul were good enough then, we would have told each other our life's story and ended up as best friends after the 15-minute drill was over. Instead, he ended up grinningly happy at the end of the drill; my cab fare doubled without him having to move.
According to the Safe.Seoul website, "a civil defense drill refers to a series of activities conducted in order to protect the lives and properties of the public from emergency situations, including wars and natural disasters".
It added that "when an emergency situation occurs, air sirens will go off to encourage evacuation".
Hmm. Encourage? I suggest they change the word to a more urgently sounding verb like 'enforce'. 'Encourage' sounds like it's just another event or festival where attendance is, well, encouraged.
But putting aside the choice of words, I am sure when an actual disaster occurs, everyone will just be rushing to save themselves and their families, and follow that the drill.
Here are the things to remember during an evacuation from the same website:
1. "When an air-raid warning is issued, you shall close the gas valves, turn off electronic appliances and go to the nearest shelter".
This means whatever brownies or cakes you're planning to bake in your oven, they will have to wait. Gas valves should be shut down. You also need to turn off the TV and watch your Korean dramas next time during replays.
2. "If you hear an air-raid warning when you are outside, move to the nearest shelter and follow the guidance of the safety staff.
If you cannot find a shelter, look for any cover you can find."
This means, if you're far from any subway station, which usually doubles as a shelter, you may have to go down into the basement. Going to the rooftop to take a selfie would not be a good idea. If there's an actual disaster that's happening in the atmosphere, that would be the last selfie of yourself.
3. "After arriving at the shelter, stay informed with TV or radio on, and follow instructions of the National Emergency Management Agency".
This means that your smartphone would be the first thing you should grab before rushing to the shelter. This way, you can be informed by watching the Smart DMB on your phone. Or better yet, you can just read the updates of the disaster through your Facebook friends' status updates or tweets. You can also find out if they're nearby, or if they're still alive, in which case, you can post your good-byes on their Facebook walls.
Aside from your smartphone, I suggest you also bring your family along with you to the shelter. And probably your pets, too.
4. "If you are driving, park your car in an empty lot or on the right side of the road."
Well, that is if, by an amazing stroke of luck, you happen to be driving in Seoul (where cars, motorbikes and pedestrians compete for space even on the sidewalks), and you and your car are right next to an empty lot or next to a parking space. And with valet parking at that!
Make sure you don't forget your valet parking ticket before rushing to the shelter.
5. "Be prepared. Check where the nearest, designated shelters are. Prepare a medicine kit, emergency items and gas marks at home in advance."
Well, for me, the Hangangjin Station is quite far to run to. But I think there's a building nearby, whose basement is actually a spa! Everyone can have facials while the disaster is going on.
And I don't exactly have a medicine kit. But for an emergency kit, I can put my Mary Grace fruit cake, frozen ube jam and dulce gatas, and Coke in a bag. Throw in a Macbook Air, toothbrush and my Bacolod Masskara t-shirt, and I have a survival-slash-emergency kit!
So, don't be alarmed today when the sirens start wailing at 2PM. And do stay out of the road if you don't want to get caught in a stand-still traffic for 15 minutes. According to the Seoul Dasan 120, the subway trains will run as scheduled though.
Seriously, now. Do you know the shelter nearest you? And what is in your emergency kit?
And don't forget your smartphone charger!