Earthquake Preparedness 101
This article is a compilation of the most crucial earthquake preparedness tips recommended by several government and scientific organizations across the world.
According to statistics available in the public domain, the average death toll worldwide per year resulting from earthquakes in the 20th century was as high as 15,000. That’s indeed a horrific fact to begin the article with. However, due to exponentially increasing population and an ever growing number of crowded cities with flimsy buildings, we seem to be heading towards an even grimmer future.
A relatively new study on the subject revealed that the death toll due to earthquakes in the 21st century could be as high as 3.1 million. The number of quakes resulting in a death toll of 50,000 or more may go all the way up to 25 compared to only seven in the 20th century.
However, there’s another dark side of earthquakes that should make you more alert about your personal earthquake preparedness level. Because, there’s yet to be any ground breaking scientific accomplishment when it comes to accurately predicting a forthcoming earthquake, you will never actually know when and where you will end up facing one. We guess that the mere perception of such uncertainty would suffice to settle any doubt you might have had in the past about whether or not you should be prepared for this ghastly force of Nature.
(Side note: Earthquakes are actually a quite common occurrence, numbering over a thousand on any average day. We cannot even sense the vast majority of those. It’s the major earthquakes that are far less common and demand a higher level of preparedness).
For the sake of simplicity, we are going to split this article into three parts: before, during and after the quake.
Earthquake preparedness: Before
- Study each individual room in your home and spot the safest parts – e.g. under desks, study tables or against inside walls, and so on.
- Similarly identify the weak/danger spots – e.g. underneath a heavy/risky hanging object, mirrors, windows, and so on.
- Make others in the family, especially the kids, aware of these spots so they can rush to the safe locations and avoid risky ones whenever an earthquake occurs. It’s always advisable to practice family drills every now and then.
- Learn the basics of first aid and CPR and teach it to the rest of the family.
- Prepare a survival kit with supplies that would help the family fend for itself without any outside support. The kit may include first aid kit, medicines, some food, enough drinking water, flash lights, a portable radio, and other essentials.
- Keep a list of emergency numbers ready.
- Keep all heavy and breakable items on bottom shelves.
- Properly secure any tall and heavy furniture that could easily topple.
- Store inflammable and hazardous materials in the garage or somewhere outside the home (such as an outside shed).
- Periodically check and make sure that the structural integrity of walls, roofs, chimneys, etc. are intact.
- Secure the water heater and other risky appliances
Earthquake preparedness: During
- If you are indoors when the quake occurs, stay put. Don’t rush outside. Take cover and wait (remember the safe spots in each room?)
- If outdoors, try and make it to an open area where there are no trees, walls, buildings, or power lines.
- Never ever use an elevator during and immediately after an earthquake.
- If you find yourself in a high-rise building when the quake occurs, stay away from windows and outside walls.
- If driving, pull the car to the side of the road away from traffic and stop. Stay inside until it’s over.
- If in a crowded public place, try and avoid the doorways because everybody else is likely to run towards them, resulting in a stampede.
- In any case, drop, cover, and wait. If you find yourself trapped amidst falling debris and objects, protect your head as much as possible.
Earthquake preparedness: After
- You have survived the worst – now it’s important that you keep calm and check for injuries.
- If someone is seriously injured, DO NOT make the mistake of trying to move them to another location (unless of course you think there’s no time to wait for help).
- Monitor for any leakage in the nearby gas or water lines. Also check if there’s any damaged sewer line or electrical wiring.
- Do a perimeter check to make sure that there are no fires.
- If you think the structural integrity of the building has been compromised, turn of your gas connection, electricity, water supply, and leave the building.
- Do not use electrical switches, matches, lighters, or candles etc. if you smell gas.
- Keep your emergency kit handy, use the portable radio for news and government instructions, and cooperate with officials and rest of the communities.
And last but not the least; always remember that the ability to remain calm, knowledge about nearby safe and risky places, and situational awareness – they all collectively play a pivotal role when it comes to earthquake preparedness.