Author Topic: Concern over alarmist TV reporting about Mayon’s eruption  (Read 8601 times)

Joe Carillo

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Concern over alarmist TV reporting about Mayon’s eruption
« on: December 22, 2009, 08:27:23 PM »

Left photo: Bulusan Volcano eruption, June 5, 2022            Mayon Volcano eruption, December 2009
IMAGE CREDITS: STILL PHOTO FROM YOUTUBE FOOTAGE BY GIAN MULLASGO       PRESSREADER.COM/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

DECEMBER 22, 2009: I got a big scare at 2:00 p.m. today when ANC, ABS-CBN's cable news channel, ran a newsflash on the screen that the Department of Health has declared the whole Bicol Region on “blue alert” due to the increasing eruptive activity of Mayon Volcano. Being familiar with the region (I hail from a town in Camarines Sur some 55 km away from Mayon), I told my two sons that it simply couldn’t be, and that perhaps that particular “blue alert”—for whatever it meant—could only apply to Albay province alone. At the very least, I told my sons, that TV report should have immediately clarified what they meant by that code so as not to cause misunderstanding and alarm—whether among those directly in harm’s way or those simply concerned for the safety of relatives or friends who are.

My understanding of “blue alert” is only from a hospital standpoint—as a code for “adult emergency” that asks all available staff to respond to the code. That it should apply to the whole Bicol Region therefore alarmed me, for it created the idea that Mayon’s increasing volcanic activity was of a magnitude that might put the whole Bicol Region in peril, maybe on the scale of the terrible eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991. I am making this point because I know for a fact that even during the worst eruptions of Mayon in the past five decades, its direct impact on respiratory health—largely from inhalation of ashfall by residents—had at most affected only an area within, say, a 60-80 km radius from the volcano. When Mayon had a major eruption when I was a child, in fact, I experienced a whiff and taste of its ashfall in our place some 55 km away, and most everything in our place—ground, coconut tree, banana grove, and rooftop—got blanketed with a thin layer of ash, but beyond that range there wasn’t any ashfall at all. This is why I was very sure that ANC’s “blue alert” reporting, without any qualifications whatsoever, wasn’t in proper context and tended to cause undue alarm.

True enough—and thank God for that!—ANC made a clarification two hours later; its TV newscaster announced that the DOH “blue alert” was only for the province of Albay, where Mayon is located. That was very reassuring, for at least it allayed my growing suspicion that the report that the “blue alert” applied to the Bicol Region was perhaps simply due to the DOH’s or TV news desk’s less than good grounding on Philippine geography. Frankly, I often get a mild shock every time I come across news reporting about developments in a particular town in the Bicol Region being erroneously being presented as happening in another province—as if the reporter or deskman thought that Bicol was just one contiguous province. So let’s get this straight once and for all: The Bicol Region, which has a total land area of 17,632 square kilometers, consists of six provinces in all—Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Catanduanes (a major island), and Masbate (another major island)—with Mayon Volcano lying a few kilometers from the northwestern coastline of Albay. Thus, unless—God forbid!—Mayon does a highly eruptive Pinatubo act, a “blue alert” over the whole Bicol Region due to its current volcanic activity would be highly improbable.

With these thoughts, I was about to lay the matter to rest earlier tonight, but one of my sons just called from downstairs to tell me that a newscaster in another TV station was saying that, in fact, the DOH issued its “blue alert” to cover the whole Bicol Region. The TV newscaster, however, clarified that the “blue alert” was simply an order to all DOH personnel in the Bicol Region to immediately rush to the evacuation centers near the Mayon danger zone to provide health-care assistance to those affected by the eruption. Indeed, it became clear that this “blue alert” wasn’t a direct measure at all of the magnitude of Mayon’s volcanic activity but simply a measure of the DOH’s administrative response to it. At this moment, though, I still don’t know which TV report is accurate. Does the DOH “blue alert” cover all of its personnel for the entire Bicol Region or just for Albay? As they say in the vernacular, “Bitin pa hanggang ngayon at kailangan pang abangan ang karugtong!
 
Anyway, I could only wish that TV journalists would be much more circumspect, contextual, and judicious in their reporting of the pronouncements of government agencies in response to dangerous natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Their business is to inform people—not to scare them out of their wits!
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ADDENDUM (JUNE 5, 2022)
THESE ARE THE WIDELY RECOGNIZED CONVENTIONS FOR DECLARING THE "BLUE ALERT“ OR "CODE BLUE“ STATUS:

In the United States, a “Blue Alert” is activated when a violent attack on a law enforcement officer has occurred, and a search for the suspect is active. Blue Alerts provide immediate information to the public to prevent further harm and aid in the swift apprehension of the suspect.

In medical and hospital parlance, ”Code Blue” is called if a patient goes into cardiac arrest, has respiratory issues, or experiences any other medical emergency. Hospitals typically have rapid response teams ready to go when they get notified about a Code Blue.

In the Philippines, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) raises the ”Blue Alert” status ahead of a tropical storm's expected landfall. The Blue Alert level means that half of the members of the NDRRMC are on standby for any emergencies.

« Last Edit: June 09, 2022, 04:55:12 PM by Joe Carillo »

madgirl09

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Re: Concern over alarmist TV reporting about Mayon’s eruption
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2009, 12:46:26 AM »
OMG! I was supposed to ring my other side of the clan...They're in Camarines Sur too! Small world, Sir Joe! My father is from Cam. Sur, Pili actually. I learned that my great grandparents used to live in Albay but moved to Camarines Sur to escape from the wrath of Mt. Mayon. And if this Bicol region blue alert would now cause panic on us all...it must be Mayon turning "upside down" ::). Haha, the newscaster must be another "me" when I first came to Camarines Sur and was so happy to see a big mountain I thought was Mayon. What's that mountain again Sir Joe? Anyways, I was not so sad when I didn't see any glimpse of Mayon from where we were, gathering and cracking pili nuts. The whole weekend, we were just rehearshing for the nightly "baile" at the town hall  :'(, that I forgot everything about my plan to draw the most perfect cone  ;). Please tell me more about Cam. Sur. That was my first and last visit there.

madgirl09

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Re: Concern over alarmist TV reporting about Mayon’s eruption
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2009, 12:57:37 AM »
Oh Bicolanos....I remember, when my grandfather learned that I was already 19 years old when we were visiting him, he wept a lot  :'(. He asked how and why on Earth did I turn 19 and still single....waaaah! :'( :'( So that's it. He said that I had to practice for the dance to attract more men....waaaah  :o.

Joe Carillo

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Re: Concern over alarmist TV reporting about Mayon’s eruption
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2009, 07:46:17 AM »
OMG! I was supposed to ring my other side of the clan...They're in Camarines Sur too! Small world, Sir Joe! My father is from Cam. Sur, Pili actually. I learned that my great grandparents used to live in Albay but moved to Camarines Sur to escape from the wrath of Mt. Mayon. And if this Bicol region blue alert would now cause panic on us all...it must be Mayon turning "upside down" ::). Haha, the newscaster must be another "me" when I first came to Camarines Sur and was so happy to see a big mountain I thought was Mayon. What's that mountain again Sir Joe? Anyways, I was not so sad when I didn't see any glimpse of Mayon from where we were, gathering and cracking pili nuts. The whole weekend, we were just rehearshing for the nightly "baile" at the town hall  :'(, that I forgot everything about my plan to draw the most perfect cone  ;). Please tell me more about Cam. Sur. That was my first and last visit there.

Since you went to your great-grandparents place in Pili, Camarines Sur, the mountain you saw was obviously Mount Isarog, which has been an extinct volcano since living memory. It dominates the Camarines Sur skyline for many kilometers around, but it looks languorous and doesn't have the stately charm and the more or less decadal ferocity of Mayon. Several kilometers to the east of it is Mount Iriga, another volcano--bigger, higher, and much more formidable-looking than Mount Isarog but also extinct in living memory (although you can still see along the National Highway some of the huge volcanic boulders it spewed out many, many centuries ago). There's another small, extinct volcano in the chain after that--its name is Mount Macagang if memory serves me well--but after it is Mayon Volcano in Albay and, much farther to the east nearer the southeastern tip of the Luzon panhandle, is Mount Bulusan in Sorsogon, an active volcano like Mayon. I would imagine that all of these volcanoes, whether active or inactive, form part of what the volcanologists call the "Ring of Fire" in the western Pacific Ocean. You can call them Bicol's "Fantastic Five," but thank God that at least in historic times, they had not displayed their volcanic temper in unison.

Mayon turning "upside down"? Please, please banish the thought, madgirl09! That would be a cataclysm of such huge proportions--one that could make the horrendous collapse of a huge chunk of Indonesia's Krakatoa Volcano in the late 1800s pale in comparison! The DOH and media would then be more than justified to raise their alert to more than just blue to red and to some other fiery color, and I can tell you that they wouldn't be alarmist at all in doing so! So let's hope and pray that doesn't happen in our lifetime and several more lifetimes after that. Amen.
   

madgirl09

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Re: Concern over alarmist TV reporting about Mayon’s eruption
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2009, 12:57:01 PM »
Thank you for this very informative talk on Pacific's ring of fire.  ;) If Mayon is the leader of them all, and it's time to release heat from below (to protest on our slow solutions to global warming), we are in great danger. Japan is worried that another great earthquake is coming soon. And since tectonic plates (?) causing massive earthquakes in Philippines are directly connected to Japan, our volcanologists here are always on alert each time Mayon "creates a show".

One question about one word you used, Sir Joe. You said " extinct volcano". Shouldn't it be "dormant volcano"? Would extinct mean non-existent? inactive? Could you give us some more examples of extinction?  ::)

Joe Carillo

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Re: Concern over alarmist TV reporting about Mayon’s eruption
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2009, 07:36:22 AM »
My understanding is that if a volcano is "extinct," it has not exhibited any discernible volcanic activity--eruptions, emission of sulfur or plumes, etc.--in historic times; "dormant" if it still exhibits minor volcanic activity like minor emission of plumes but has not erupted in living memory; and "active" if it has periodically erupted in historic times. From this reckoning, I would think that Mayon Volcano, Taal Volcano, and Mount Pinatubo would be classified as "active"; Mount Apo in Mindanao and Camiguin Volcano in Camiguin Island as "dormant"; and Mount Isarog, Mount Iriga, Southern Tagalog's Mount Makiling and Mount Banahaw, and Central Luzon's Mount Arayat as "extinct." The volcanologists, of course, can give a more accurate technical description of these differences, but I think the distinctions above will suffice for us laypeople.

Anyway, from a semantics standpoint, my digital Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary offers the following definitions of the three terms in the volcanic context:

active
currently erupting or likely to erupt

extinct
1 a : no longer burning  b : no longer active  <an extinct volcano>

dormant
2 : marked by a suspension of activity: as  a : temporarily devoid of external activity  <a dormant volcano>

As to your question whether "extinct" means "non-existent," I don't so. I think that "extinct" in that sense refers only to animal or plant species--in other words, organic or living things--that for one reason or another have died out or completely vanished from the face of the earth.