10 ways to prepare for an earthquake
Earthquakes happen without warning and can cause loss of lives and catastrophic damage to homes and infrastructure.
There’s no sure way to escape an earthquake but you can take measures to prepare so if it happens, you can help take care of your family and even save lives.
The following tips are taken from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Trinidad and Tobago Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM).
1. Prepare your home
- Make your home safer. Remove loose items which may fall from shelves or tables and injure others. Secure other items to walls and the floor with fasteners.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in an easily accessible place.
- Keep note of your home’s master electrical panel and the necessary switches which you can switch off to prevent any electrical fires.
- Make a note of evacuation routes and safe spaces within the home, or if there are none, muster point in an open clearing away from any trees, light poles, or other tall objects which could fall in that area.
2. Stock up on emergency supplies
- Drinking water is always an immediate basic need in any emergency situation. Have a stock of drinking water handy, enough to last three-to-five days, in case you are trapped and must wait for help.
- Stock tins of food with easy-open lids, matches, batteries and flashlights, can opener, and other essential items.
- Your first aid kit should be fully stocked. Ensure to have whatever essential medications are needed for your family, for example asthma inhaler, diabetic medication, and other prescription medication. Keep bandages and antiseptic salves, feminine supplies basic pain medication.
- If possible, stock up on blankets, change of clothes and even a tarp which could double as a protection against rain if the building has totally collapsed.
3. Store your documents beforehand
- It is critical to have your documents stored in order to apply for public grants and other aid after an earthquake has hit.
- Either make copies of your main documents (deed and title for home, certificates, passports, birth certificates, loans, national ID, driver’s licence), or scan them and save them online (Google Drive is a good cloud-sharing device that allows you to access your documents online anywhere).
- Alternatively, you can simply add the original documents to a waterproof folder and have them in an easily accessible place.
4. Store emergency contacts
All homes should have a list of emergency contact which all family members can access. Either have everyone save it to their phones under ICE (In Case of Emergency), or have a written document and ensure everyone has a copy.
Numbers should include police, fire, ambulance contacts as well as that of close relatives and your constituency’s local Disaster Management Unit.
5. Do practice drills
It might sound silly, but making sure your family knows what to instinctively is a good way to prepare for an earthquake. Do test runs to ensure everyone knows where to hide or where to go, if there is a muster point. Ensure they can do this no matter what time of day or night it is.
During an earthquake, immediately 'drop, cover, and hold on'.
- If in a vehicle, pull over and stop.
- If in bed, stay there.
- If outdoors, stay outdoors.
- Do not get in a doorway.
- Do not run outside.
Drop to your hands and knees. Cover your head and neck with your arms. Crawl only as far as needed to reach cover from falling materials. Hold on to any sturdy furniture until the shaking stops.
If you are in a high-rise building, expect fire alarms and sprinklers to go off. Do not use elevators.
If near slopes, cliffs, or mountains, be alert for falling rocks and landslides.
6. Don’t panic
If an earthquake occurs, remain calm. Practice going to a safe place and keep still until the event has ended. If there are injuries, follow the procedures you agreed to and keep injured persons still until emergency responders can assist. Use your radio to listen out for information and updates.
7. Listen for tsunami warnings
For coastal communities, it is advised that citizens listen for any tsunami alerts, and if one has been issued, to move to higher ground.
Listen to the local radio and television stations for any tsunami alerts or warnings.
The Red Cross society advises that persons go as high as possible, ideally to a spot 100 feet above sea level or two miles away.
The Red Cross warns that if one can see a tsunami, it’s too close.
A tsunami warning means a tsunami may have been generated and could be close to your area, whereas a tsunami watch means a tsunami has not yet been verified but could occur.
8. Care for your pets
Don’t forget your pets in your disaster preparations. Have pet carriers handy if you need to move to a secure location or shelter. Make sure you have any necessary pet medications and food for them. Have contact numbers for veterinarians on hand should they be injured and need assistance.
9. Connect with your community
Have contact numbers for your community contacts, such as your local MP, constituency councillors and other community advisors. Keep in contact to ensure you have the latest information regarding local shelters and relief efforts.
10. Do your paperwork
See if your home is covered for various disaster policies (flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes) and speak to your insurance advisor about this. Ensure that your life insurance and/or medical coverage is current and paid for. Ensure that in the event of your death, your loved ones will be cared for.
Don’t wait until an earthquake actually occurs, start preparing now in order to keep your family and home as safe as possible.
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