Earthquake Preparedness Guide

I wrote this back in 2006 and its been hanging around on various forums for a few years but given the terrible events in Van today I thought I’d put it on here so people can have a quick scan and at least think about what to do in the event of a major earthquake.

Our thoughts go out to the people of Van and eastern Turkey at this time. The fear of earthquakes is built into the people after generations of disasters like this and everyone knows someone who has suffered as a result. We all feel for Van tonight.

Here is a guide to what to do Before, During and After an Earthquake.

The advice is a compilation of USA resources, mainly FEMA and San Diego institute with the bits not relevant to Turkey cut out. It’s not intended to frighten people but learning how to prepare for a quake and how to take reasonable precautions is essential.

It’s long, sorry, but if you spend any amount of time in Turkey it makes sense to at have a plan, have a family plan and regularly run through the plan with your families.

What to Do Before an Earthquake

Earthquakes strike suddenly, violently and without warning. Identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life from an earthquake.

Plan Ahead

Check for Hazards in the Home:-

Fasten shelves securely to walls.
Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches – this was found to be a big issue in the aftermath of the recent New Zealand quake, whilst people’s houses survived their food supply was badly contaminated by broken glass and from falling from high shelves.
Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sit.
Brace overhead light fixtures, attaching security chains to heavy lights.
Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.

Identify Safe Places Indoors and Outdoors

Under sturdy furniture such as a heavy desk or table.
Against an inside wall.
Away from where glass could shatter around windows, mirrors, pictures, or where heavy bookcases or other heavy furniture could fall over.
In the open, away from buildings, trees, telephone and electrical lines.

Have Disaster Supplies on Hand

Torch and extra batteries.
Portable battery-operated radio and extra batteries.
First aid kit and manual.
Emergency food and water.
Nonelectric can opener.
Essential medicines.
Cash and credit cards.
Sturdy shoes.

Develop an Emergency Communication Plan

In case family members are separated from one another during an earthquake (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), develop a plan for reuniting after the disaster.
Ask a relative or friend in another part of the country to serve as the “family contact.” After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact. Expect the mobile phone networks to overload as people try to contact each other, if you can use a public telephone it may work better.

What to Do During an Earthquake

Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and stay indoors until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe. The less distance you have to move to your safe place the higher your chances of survival.

If indoors:-

DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON on until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.

Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.

Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.

Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, loadbearing doorway.

Stay inside until shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.

Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.

DO NOT use the lift.

If outdoors:-

Stay there.

Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.

Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits, and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.

If in a moving vehicle:-

Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, and utility wires.

Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.

If trapped under debris

Do not light a match.

Do not move about or kick up dust.

Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.

Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

What to Do After an Earthquake

Expect aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures and can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake.

Listen to a battery-operated radio or television. Listen for the latest emergency information.

Use the telephone only for emergency calls.

Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.

Stay away from damaged areas. Stay away unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or relief organizations. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.

Be aware of possible tsunamis if you live in coastal areas. When local authorities issue a tsunami warning, assume that a series of dangerous waves is on the way. Stay away from the beach.

Help injured or trapped persons. Remember to help your neighbours who may require special assistance such as infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Give first aid where appropriate. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help.

Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave the area if you smell gas or fumes from other chemicals.

Inspect the entire length of chimneys for damage. Unnoticed damage could lead to a fire.

Inspect utilities.

Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building.

Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker.

Check for sewage and water lines damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets.

Emergency Kits

Some authorities recommend preparing three identical emergency kits, this may be a bit onerous but definitely one in the home and one in the car can be no bad thing.

If you can add a couple of days worth of dry food supplies to your emergency pack.

An inexpensive backpack is a good place to store smaller, loose items — backpacks are easy to carry and can be used for other purposes once you have opened the kit.

Into each kit, put:

Water purification tablets (as many as you can cram in!)

Heavy-duty gloves

A first-aid kit

A minimum of 200ytl in cash (atm’s and banks may be shut down following a quake)

Family photos and descriptions (to aid emergency personnel in finding missing people)

A torch

Extra batteries

Copies of essential documentation, passports, house insurance, legal documents in a ziplock bag.

Extra supplies of prescription medicine.

Thinking about stuff in advance really does save lives so talk to your families about this and have a plan.