Written by Edel Cayetano as originally posted on How to survive during an earthquake
This is a question that we ought to ask ourselves now more than ever, as news about a powerful earthquake that devastated Nepal broke last Saturday. Considered to be the Nepal’s deadliest disaster in more than 80 years, the 7.8-magnitude quake has already claimed more than 5,000 lives, with the grim figures likely to worsen as hopes of rescuing remaining survivors go thinner by the hour, according to CNN. To date, eight million people have been affected across the Himalayan nation, with one million children urgently in need of help.
The country has expressed its support for quake-hit Nepal. Meanwhile, we cannot deny that such a horrifying disaster can impact any country with or without warning – even the Philippines.
With that being said, here are basic survival tips that you can do before, during and after an earthquake from sources all over the web.
What to do before an earthquake
The best time to prepare for a disaster is now. Equip yourself with the necessary information that you would need in case an earthquake strikes. At home, make sure you have a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight and extra batteries placed in an accessible spot that everyone is aware of. You may also stash food and water for emergencies, as you may need to fend for yourself for at least three days up to a week after an earthquake.
Study first aid, learn how to turn off the gas, water and electricity, and avoid leaving heavy objects on shelves. Anchor heavy furniture, cabinets and appliances to the walls or floor. Devise a plan and know where to meet your family after an earthquake. It would also be a good idea to conduct in-home practice drills.
What to do during an earthquake: drop, cover and hold
The first thing to remember is to STAY CALM, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re indoors, stay inside. If you’re outdoors, stay outside. Do not run to another place or room during shaking, as it increases your chances of injury.
Rescuers and experts recommend drop, cover and hold on, as it gives you the best overall chance of quickly protecting yourself during an earthquake… even as the shaking causes furniture to move about rooms and the buildings might ultimately collapse.
- Immediately DROP down onto your hands and knees before the quake knocks you down. This position protects you from falling but still allows you to move if necessary.
- Take COVER under the shelter of a sturdy table or desk and protect your head and neck (and your entire body if possible). If no shelter is nearby, get down and stay close to an interior wall or next to low-lying furniture that won’t crush you, and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
- HOLD on to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be ready to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts around.
Remember to protect yourself wherever you are, especially from falling and flying objects. According to studies on injuries and deaths caused by earthquakes, you are much more likely to be injured from falling or flying objects than to die in a collapsed building. “Drop, cover and hold on” will protect you from most of these injuries.
There are also other things you can do to reduce your chances of being hurt, even while an earthquake is happening.
- If possible within the first few seconds before shaking intensifies, quickly move away from breakable objects and large furniture that could fall. Watch out for falling objects and cabinets with doors that could swing open.
- Look out and grab something to shield your head and face from falling debris and broken glass.
- If you are in the kitchen, quickly turn off the stove and take cover at the first sign of shaking.
- If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow. You are less likely to get injured staying where you are, since the floor could be full of broken glass and other sharp objects.
You also need to be wary of having a false sense of safety from your past experiences in earthquakes, says the Earthquake Country Alliance. If in a past experience you didn’t do anything, or you ran outside yet you survived with no injuries, or you got under your desk and others thought you overreacted, don’t be complacent.
The Earthquake Country Alliance explains, “you likely have never experienced the kind of strong earthquake shaking that is possible in much larger earthquakes, where sudden and intense back and forth motions of several feet per second will cause the floor or the ground to jerk sideways out from under you, and every unsecured object around you could topple, fall, or become airborne, potentially causing serious injury.” This is the reason why you must instinctively and immediately protect yourself after the first jolt, and not wait to see if the shaking will get stronger.
But what if you’re outdoors? Stay in the open away from power lines or building that might fall on you. If you’re driving, move the car out of traffic and stop. Avoid parking under or on bridges and overpasses.
If you’re in a mountainous area, beware of potential landslides. Likewise, if you’re in the beach, take to a higher ground as tsunamis may hit the ground after an earthquake.
What to do after an earthquake
- Check yourself and other for injuries and apply first aid if needed.
- Check water, gas and electric lines for damage. If any are damaged, shut off the valves. Check for the smell of gas. If you smell it, open all the windows and doors, leave immediately and report it to the authorities.
- Listen to the radio for valuable information or instructions and refrain from using the phone except for emergencies.
- Stay out of damaged buildings and be careful around broken glass and debris. Wear boots or sturdy shoes to protect your feet from injury.
- Be ready for aftershocks.
*”Pray for Nepal” by Pictoscribe, “Students practice earthquake drill” by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, ”Earthquake damage – bridge street” by Martin Luff courtesy of Flickr. All used under CC license.