Volcanic fake news and hacks

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - January 15, 2020 - 12:00am

After the flurry of volcanic ash from Taal Volcano, what followed next was a flurry of advise from well meaning people whose good intentions ended up as “volcanic fake news” and stranger than strange hacks. Some found it amusing, but those in the know or whose business it was, found some of the comments about ashfall utterly ridiculous.

For instance, a number of people shut down all their doors and windows Sunday evening to prevent the entry of ashfall into their homes particularly bedrooms. Many of those people also went without air conditioning for a night or two because people started circulating posts that people should not use their air conditioners because the ashfall will ruin the compressors and condensers specially of the split type models. These FB posts by well-intentioned people who did not make the extra effort to ask air condition technicians or Google the issue, apparently caused so much confusion, discomfort and debate.

By chance my air condition technician “Rusty” was at my house installing a Hitachi 2.5 horse power inverter split type to replace my 20-year-old unit that had finally decided to rest in peace. So I casually asked Rusty to comment on the “don’t use your air-con during an ashfall” posts. He expressed disdain and disbelief that people in this day and age don’t know any better. Rusty said, “the air-con does not suck in ashfall into your house or bedroom. The air conditioner literally “conditions” the air within the enclosed area or bedroom by filtering the air and cooling it to your desired temperature,” Unless you are constantly in a desert storm or month-long ashfall and use the air-con non-stop, your unit will be just fine. All you have to do is once the “dust settles” or there is no more ash falling from the sky is to have your air conditioner brought down and serviced.” I have my air conditioners serviced every three months and that’s why they still run after two decades.

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As a former motoring journalist, I noticed that a lot of people who were caught off guard by the eruption of Taal volcano, tried (at great risk to themselves and their vehicles) to drive back to Metro Manila. Say a prayer of thanksgiving if you made it without a scratch but next time think of better options. Most motorists were concerned about the ashfall scratching their windshields but overlooked the fact that it was almost zero visibility and focused on the front windshield but failed to realize that their side and rear windows would be caked in ash resulting in several fender benders. When one of my friends reported this on Facebook I immediately decided to stay put in Lipa rather than drive back in the dark and while it was raining ash.

Incidentally, while many of you are busy having your vehicles vacuumed, washed and polished, I strongly suggest to have your radiators and air-con condensers power washed to get rid of the grit and grime that built up because this is the sort of thing that results in overheating and breakdown of cooling systems and air conditioners because it’s something that is out of sight. Another thing you NEED to have checked, cleaned or replaced is your air filter. People worry about ashfall getting into their rooms and cars but completely forget the need to check and service their air filters both for their cars and their room air conditioners! Dirty or defective air filters can destroy your engine especially if ashfall gets into it!

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I’m sure it was meant to be a joke but during the shortage of the surgical face masks, someone posted a picture of a feminine napkin converted into a face mask. Another post or meme showed someone using a bra that had been rigged as a face mask. My wife pointed out that the feminine napkin is packed with chemicals intended to solidify liquids and neutralize odors. So if any of our male readers think it’s a bright idea in an emergency or lazy moment, think again! But in all seriousness, it would have helped if media sources at the DOH did not mention “N95” for face mask because as one of our readers pointed out, the N95 should have been stocked strictly for sick and highly infectious patients as well as nursing and surgical staff! Most people who buy face masks never used to ask for N95 until the DOH advisory came out.

So here’s a challenge to our friends at the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to come up with “Life Hacks” or Do-It-Yourself face masks, how to survive driving through an ashfall, how to treat plants and animals after the ashfall.  Given that we were in our farm in Lipa, the first thing I did was to distribute face masks and require people to wear hats. Next was to wash down our Montero, only to realize one hour later that the trees had saved enough ash to dump on the car requiring a second wash. Next was to wash down the walkways and paths because everybody was just spreading the ash around, then we climbed up the roof of the house to power wash the roof because if the volcanic ash stays up there and gets wet, it will either stress our 22-year-old roof or the acidic ash will corrode the tin roof. Good thing we did because I realized we needed to repaint before summer.

If you love plants and have a garden and pond, best to wash down the plants and lawn because prolonged stay on the leaves and grass will kill them. Make sure you do some “water change” on your pond just to avoid increased acidity.

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Email: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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