I WISH to refer to P. Selvarani's special report on April 15, which pointed out that Malaysians should brace themselves for the possibility of a major earthquake closer to our shores as scientists predict the occurrence of a massive one in the region of Padang, Sumatra at "any time".
The report further stated that the coming major earthquake was expected to be very destructive and underscored the urgent need to ensure buildings in Malaysia are structurally safe and strong enough to withstand the tremors.
Although Malaysia is relatively free from quakes, we cannot ignore the fact that we have to brace ourselves to face any untoward incidents arising from earthquakes in neighbouring Indonesia, especially in Sumatra.
In Sabah, there are some active fault lines and in 1976, there was a 5.8 magnitude earthquake in Lahad Datu.
In Janda Baik and Bukit Tinggi in Peninsular Malaysia, residents there experienced the most number of tremors between 2007 and 2009.
Following the latest expert warning, the question that needs to be answered is -- are Malaysians fully prepared in the event of an emergency?
While on the one hand, we need to put in place guidelines for earthquake-proof buildings, especially for critical structures such as dams, bridges and elevated transport systems, we also need to prepare the people to face any eventualities.
As one who is passionate about safety and is working towards promoting safety, my observations are that the majority of Malaysians are not prepared for any disasters or any emergencies.
The fact is that Malaysia is regarded as a safe country unlike others, which are often hit by natural disasters like earthquakes, typhoons, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.
Malaysians are generally in a comfort zone unlike many countries like Japan, South Korea, etc, where their people are in a constant state of alert.
Many have even taken the issue of safety for granted, which to me is most inappropriate.
The Director-General of the Fire and Rescue Department's observation of the lack of a sense of urgency among occupants of commercial buildings, airports and train stations each time there is a fire or safety drill is a case in point. Occupants of the buildings are supposed to be out of the premises in about 30 minutes but in Malaysia, many are taking their own sweet time, with some still making telephone calls or finishing their drinks.
Participating in a safety drill is very important and all those affected must have a sense of urgency as it is a matter of life or death.
I believe there are buildings in Malaysia that have not conducted fire and safety drills annually.
It is time for the parties involved to look at this matter seriously and act to rectify the situation.
Drilling safety into Malaysians must be a way of life and a core value and culture in our country.
Malaysians who have a lackadaisical attitude towards safety must not only change their mentality but be also prepared to change the mentality of others towards appreciation of safety.
We must never be under the assumption that Malaysia is forever safe from natural disasters. We had our fair share of the 2008 tsunami. With global climate change, we may encounter natural disasters in the future.
As such, Malaysians must take an active interest in all forms of safety drills and learn some useful lessons which are beneficial to them and prepare them for the worst in the event of a disaster.