(What to do before, during and after earthquake)

Earthquake is a sudden and rapid shake of the ground which in most cases occurs at any time of day or night without warning. Earthquakes occur when tensile force stored within the earth and its hard rocky crust is released. The released energy is then transmitted to the surface by earthquake waves. An earthquake in a densely populated area will kill and injure a large number of people. It also causes great damages. Identification of high-risk areas and preparation can save lives and reduce injuries and losses caused by earthquake.

Actions before earthquake

Since earthquake often occurs unexpected, quickly and without prior warning, specifying vulnerable areas, planning and training are essential to minimize vulnerability of human societies. Retrofitting of structures in compliance with building regulations, retrofitting of buildings, renewal of the insurance policy, tightening objects on the walls and the lights on the ceiling all reduce the possible damages an earthquake may cause.

Identifying the factors of risk and necessary measures to eliminate or reduce them

  • Attach and firm the shelves to the walls.
  • Put the big and heavy objects in lower shelves.
  • Put the breakable objects in lower shelves and close their doors firmly.
  • Fix the lights firmly in place.
  • If there is any damage or crack in the ceiling or walls of the house, consult an expert.
  • Keep heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from your sleeping place and tighten them in their place.
  • Check building electrical wiring and gas piping system regularly to find potential building defects because there is a fire hazard.
  • Fix the flammable objects like heaters, water heaters to the wall or floor. For example fix standing heating appliances (like cylindrical water heaters) in the corner of the wall.
  • Put the heater or water heater at a distance of 25-30 cm from the walls at the corner. Use 4 flexible metal belts with enough strength (like packaging belts) to fix the devices to the wall. Two belts at a distance of about 20 cm above the upper edge of water heater should be fastened around it. They should be in the opposite directions (one in a clockwise direction and another one on the opposite). Then use screws and dowels to connect a suitable plate with enough thickness and length (length of at least 7.5 and thickness of about 0.5 cm) to the two walls on both sides of the heater (not from behind it). Two other belts should also be fastened around it (about 10 cm above the bottom edge of heater). The belts should be screwed to the wall.
  • Tighten the outdoor objects and supplies (such as coolers, chimney pipes, vases, etc.) firmly in the place and put them in places where there is no danger of collapse.
  • Tighten objects and supplies which may fall firmly in the place.

Preparation and keeping of essential equipment in a safe place that is familiar to all family members

These include:

  • Flashlight with spare batteries.
  • Radio with spare batteries.
  • First aid box should include at least: band aids, bandages and gauze, fabric band, scissor, disinfection, burn ointment and nonprescription medications such as some painkillers, gastric juice, eye drops as well as prescription drugs used regularly.
  • Book containing emergency numbers and the number of relief centers.
  • At least four liters of water for each person in an unbreakable container (check the water regularly for its freshness and health).
  • Non-perishable food to the number of family members for 3 days (such as canned food, compote, biscuit and dried food).
  • Personal hygiene supplies (towel, soap, toothpaste and toothbrush).
  • Ordinary opener.
  • Gloves and appropriate footwear.
  • One tent.
  • Fire extinguisher having the necessary charging and make sure that all family members know how to use it.
  • Credit cards, documents and cash.

Design an emergency communication plan

  • Think carefully about what to do during an earthquake.
  • Since it is likely that the family members are separated during an earthquake (when adults are at work and children at school), a safe place should already be considered for family members to gather after incident. Ask a friend or relative out of town to be a connector between family members. So they can make contact with him/her if needed. Make sure that all family members know his/her name, address and phone number.

 

Helping other people especially neighbors to prepare

  • If possible, publish a special section in your local newspaper about the information one needs in an earthquake (along with information about phone numbers of emergency centers, Red Crescent and hospitals) to alert public.
  • Once a weak, illustrate the scene of earthquake at home and identify risk factors with the help of family members. Consult representatives of utility companies on how to cut the lines and on their security.
  • Do the exercises in group in order to apply your learning about building, changes in building plans in an emergency, risks and ultimately emergency programs of family or neighbors.
  • Teach the family how to take shelter.

Actions during earthquake

Immediately take a shelter in a safe place. Be aware that some earthquakes actually are foreshocks and a greater earthquake is coming. Walk with short steps and stay in the shelter until the earthquake stops and you make sure it is safe leaving the house.

If you are at home:

  • Sit under a sturdy table, or take shelter in an appropriate place until the shaking stops. If the table moves by the shaking of an earthquake, hold its legs firmly by hand and move with it. If there is no safe place near you, cover your face with your hands and sit in the corner.
  • Keep yourself away from glasses, windows, the door and the outer walls, library, the lights and everything that is likely to fall or spill.
  • If you are in bed, stay there until the earthquake stops. Put a pillow on your head to protect yourself. Of course if you are under the chandelier or a place where there is the possibility of falling objects, go to nearest safe place.
  • Stay at home and don’t leave the house until you make sure that the earthquake has stopped. The research has shown that most injuries occur when people try to change their position or leave the building.
  • Keep in mind the possibility of power outages, failure of alarm fire and sprinkler system after the earthquake. Never use elevator or stairs during earthquake.

If you are in a place away from home:

  • Get away from the buildings, electricity poles, water lines, etc.
  • Exit quickly from the streets and narrow alleys.
  • If you are outdoors, stay there until the vibrations stop. The greatest danger is out of buildings, the exit doors alongside exterior walls. Most injuries caused by the earthquake are due to wall collapse, breaking windows, crushing the glass and falling objects.
  • If you are in a shop, cinema or overcrowded centers, go to a safe place rather than rush to exit doors and make an appropriate state of body like sitting down and getting head in the hands.

If you are in a moving vehicle:

  • Stop the vehicle in a safe place and stay inside. Avoid approaching buildings, trees, pedestrian bridges, water and electricity lines, etc.
  • When the vibration stops, keep moving cautiously. Avoid moving on the roads, bridges, and in downhill and bumps damaged by earthquake.

If you are left under debris:

  • Don’t light a match.
  • Cover front of your mouth with a tissue or cloth. If there is a wall or a pipe nearby, tap it slowly and continuously in order for the rescuers to find you. Use your whistle if there is. Shouting is the last option; however, it causes you to inhale a large amount of dust.

Actions after earthquake

  • Be careful of aftershocks. They are not often as strongly as the main earthquake, but still can reduce the building resistance and cause falling parts of building, objects and devices. Most aftershocks happen in the first hours after the main earthquake.
  • Don’t use a telephone except in an emergency.
  • Listen to the radio or television for the latest news.
  • Open cabinets cautiously and be careful with objects which may fall.
  • Get away from affected areas. Don’t return your home until security officials ensure you.
  • If you live in coastal areas, get away from there.
  • Help people injured or trapped. Don’t forget to help your neighbors who may be trapped, especially the elderly, disabled people and children because they may need your special help.
  • Do the first aid if it is necessary. Don’t move people with serious wounds unless they are in immediate danger of further injury, and finally ask for other’s help if necessary.
  • If medicine, diesel fuel, chemical leaching or flammable liquids spilled on the ground, clean it.
  • Check the air chimney duct for signs of damage. Small damages can cause fire.

 

Check utilities

  • Check gas leak. If you smell gas or there is a gas leak, open a window and leave the building quickly. Close the main gas valve from the outside. If for any reason you disconnected gas, restore the gas flow just by the help of an expert.
  • Check the damage to electrical system. If there is any spark, wire amputation or melting wires and the smell of wire, disconnect the fuse quickly.
  • Check the damage to water and sewer lines. If the sewer system is damaged, don’t use the toilets and call a plumber. If the pipe is damaged, close the water tap and contact local water authorities.

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