Earthquake Disaster Preparedness for your Household
In light of the recent 6.1-magnitude earthquake that rocked Luzon last Monday, April 22, it’s important we talk about safety. During the incident, some buildings simply swayed and were left intact, but other infrastructure suffered great damages. The unfortunate incident also caused a number of injuries and casualties.
There’s no accurate way of predicting when an earthquake will happen. In times like these, it’s important to remember not to panic and prepare for the worst. Here are a few guidelines to follow to make sure you and your family are safe the next time an earthquake happens.
Before an Earthquake
With plenty of preparation, a lot of accidents can be minimized or avoided altogether, here’s a list of things to do before an earthquake:
1. Move your furniture around as a safety precaution
- Place large and heavy objects on lower shelves
- Fasten tall furniture to the walls
- Keep heavy, unstable objects away from doors and exit routes
- Store breakable items, such as glass objects or precious china, in low closed cabinets with latches
- Hang heavy items, such as pictures or paintings or mirrors, away from beds, couches, or anywhere people sit
- Anchor overhead lighting securely to the ceiling
- Store flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches
2. Coordinate with those around you for earthquake preparedness
- List important addresses, telephone numbers, and evacuation sites for all places frequented by family members (e.g, home, workplace, schools, etc). Make sure family members have a copy of this list
- Coordinate with your community and learn about the disaster preparedness plans. Once you’ve understood that, create your own family plan with escape routes, an emergency meeting place, and contact point to communicate with relatives
- Make sure all adult and teenage family members know where your gas, electric, and water main shut off controls are and how to turn them off if there is a leak or electrical short.
- Locate a place in each room of your house that you can go to in case of an earthquake. It should be a spot where nothing is likely to fall on you, like under a sturdy table.
- Keep a supply of canned food, an up-to-date first aid kit, 3 gallons (11.4 liters) of water per person, dust masks and goggles, a working battery-operated radio, and flashlights in an accessible place.
3. Be conscious of your home’s structure, location, and environment and battle potential damages with home reinforcement
- For power lines and potential electric wires that might fall and cause damage, reinforce foundations and ceilings with concrete and plywood sheathing respectively to brace your house for falling objects
- Consider removing or cutting down trees that could fall onto the home
- Use additional plywood sheathing underneath chimneys to reinforce ceilings and prevent bricks and/or mortar from falling through the ceiling
- Fix roof tiles that are loose and anchor heavy roofing material properly on a roof frame to ensure the roof is strongly braced
- Add steel frames or plywood panels to offset structural problems from quake damage. Secure the frame to the foundation by installing anchor bolts through the frame and into the foundation
During an Earthquake
At this point, hopefully, you’ve taken the steps to prepare already. Here’s a list of things to remember just as the quake is occurring:
1. If you are indoors
- Drop down; take cover under a desk or table and hold on
- Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you're sure it's safe to exit
- Stay away from bookcases or furniture that can fall on you
- Stay away from windows and light fixtures. In a high-rise building, expect the fire alarms and sprinklers to go off during a quake.
- If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow.
- If you are inside a high-rise – drop, cover and hold on. Avoid windows and other potential hazards. Do not use elevators, and be prepared for sprinkler systems and fire alarms to activate.
2. If you are outdoors
- Find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, and power lines. Drop to the ground.
- If you are driving, slow down and drive to a clear place. Stay inside until the shaking stops.
- If you are in a large venue like a stadium or theater, stay on your seat and protect your head and neck with your arms. Don’t try to leave until the shaking has stopped. Then, walk out slowly, watching for anything that could fall during aftershocks.
AVOID these mistakes during an earthquake:
- Do NOT run outside or to other rooms during the shaking. You might fall down due to the quaking, this might result in you falling and injuring yourself.
- Do NOT stand in a doorway. It can actually be unsafe to stand under a doorway during an earthquake. You’re better off to Duck, Cover, and Hold until the shaking stops.
- Do NOT get in the “triangle of life” (getting next to a table rather than under it). The “triangle of life” offers misguided guidance and experts argue that it is based on wrong assumptions. It is much safer to get cover under a table or desk.
After an Earthquake
After an earthquake occurs, we must still remain vigilant. Remember that aftershocks will strike any time after an earthquake. Here are guidelines on what to do:
- Once the shaking stops, check for injuries among your family or the people around you. If needed, provide first aid care and call for emergency medical assistance.
- Check for hazards around your area created by the earthquake. Scoping the area will help make you more prepared should the aftershock/s occur. Stay away from damaged areas.
- Make sure to extinguish small fires, shut off broken pipes, shut off the electricity if wires are damaged and threaten to spark, shut off the natural gas if you suspect that gas is leaking, and clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids.
- If it’s necessary to leave your home, get your emergency bag and go off to the nearest evacuation center
Again, earthquakes are largely unpredictable so it’s best to stay prepared for the worst. Stay safe, everyone!