I wrote two posts about our (lack of) preparedness for disasters and another one giving a brief overview of Disaster Management, as a concept. I continue with the series of posts, doing my bit, in creating awareness amongst the readers around, so as to spread the word of precaution and care that a person can take as an INDIVIDUAL. Let's take our baby steps towards knowing the dangers, the threats and safeguarding ourselves and our families. Please share the post with your loved ones and show your concern for their well being. In this post, I cover the natural disaster called Earthquake.
What is an Earthquake?
An earthquake is a phenomenon that occurs without warning and involves violent shaking of the ground and everything over it. It results from the release of accumulated stress of the moving lithospheric or crustal plates. The earth's crust is divided into seven major plates, some 50 miles thick, which move slowly and continuously over the earth's interior and several minor plates.
Earthquakes are tectonic in origin; that is the moving plates are responsible of the occurrence of the violent shaking. The occurrence of an earthquake in a populated area may cause numerous casualties and injuries and extensive property damage.
Situation in India (In brief)
As per the current seismic zone map of the country (IS 1893: 2002), over 59 per cent of India’s land area is under threat of moderate to severe seismic hazard, i.e., prone to shaking of MSK Intensity VII and above (BMTPC, 2006). In fact, the entire Himalayan belt is considered prone to great earthquakes of magnitude exceeding 8.0, and in a relatively short span of about 50 years.
The North-Eastern part of the country continues to experience moderate to large earthquakes at frequent intervals.
The increase in earthquake risk is also caused due to a spurt in developmental activities driven by urbanization, economic development and the globalization of India’s economy.
Earthquake Survival And Damange Reduction
The damge of an earthqake can be reduced by knowing some simple and vital information about the place where you live. You should know the following:
- Whether tremours or earthquakes have occurred in your area and with what damage?
- Get a map showing India's earthquake hazard zones. (see above)
- Even if you are in a low risk zone, get some information on how to make your house more safe.
- Check that your insurance covers earthquake damage.
Watch for Indicative Signs:
Erratic animal behaviour - Watch for frightened or confused pets running around, or a birdcall ot usually heard at night.
Groundwater levels - Watch for sudden changes in water level in wells or artesian bores.
What to Do Before an Earthquake
- Repair deep plaster cracks in ceilings and foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
- Anchor overhead lighting fixtures to the ceiling.
- Follow BIS codes relevant to your area for building standards
- Fasten shelves securely to walls, as they fall on people during earthquake.
- Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
- Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.
- Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, settees, and anywhere people sit.
- Brace overhead light and fan fixtures.
- Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks.
- Secure a water heater, LPG cylinder etc., by strapping it to the wall studs and bolting it to the floor.
- Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.
- Identify safe places indoors and outdoors.
- Under strong dining table, bed
- 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, flyovers, bridges
- Educate yourself and family members
- Know emergency telephone numbers (doctor, hospital, police, etc)
Have a disaster emergency kit ready
- Battery operated torch
- Extra batteries
- Battery operated radio
- First aid kit and manual
- Emergency food (dry items) and water (packed and sealed)
- Candles and matches in a waterproof container
- Chlorine tablets or powdered water purifiers
- Can opener.
- Essential medicines
- Cash and credit cards
- Thick ropes and cords
- 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 an out-of-state relative or friend 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 person.
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.
- DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD 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.
- Protect yourself by staying under the lintel of an inner door, in the corner of a room, under a table or even under a bed.
- 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 the 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 elevators.
- Stay there.
- Move away from buildings, trees, 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. 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, overpasses, 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.
After an earthquake
- Keep calm, switch on the radio/TV and obey any instructions you hear on it.
- Keep away from beaches and low banks of rivers. Huge waves may sweep in.
- Expect aftershocks. Be prepared.
- Turn off the water, gas and electricity.
- Do not smoke and do not light matches or use a cigarette lighter. Do not turn on switches. There may be gas leaks or short-circuits.
- Use a torch.
- If there is a fire, try to put it out. If you cannot, call the fire brigade.
- If people are seriously injured, do not move them unless they are in danger.
- Immediately clean up any inflammable products that may have spilled (alcohol, paint, etc).
- If you know that people have been buried, tell the rescue teams. Do not rush and do not worsen the situation of injured persons or your own situation.
- Avoid places where there are loose electric wires and do not touch any metal object in contact with them.
- Do not drink water from open containers without having examined it and filtered it through a sieve, a filter or an ordinary clean cloth.
- If your home is badly damaged, you will have to leave it. Collect water containers, food, and ordinary and special medicines (for persons with heart complaints, diabetes, etc.)
- Do not re-enter badly damaged buildings and do not go near damaged structures.
Finally, please remember that you can survive an earthquake and minimise its damage by being aware of it, and being prepared for potential hazards. An earthquake will be over before you can do much about it. Most people are killed or injured as they attempt to move during the earthquake and are sttuck by falling or flying objects. Your chances of avoiding serious injury are highif you remain calm and take shelter as recommended.
Stay Aware - Stay Safe
Content Courtesy: NDMA
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