Are we prepared enough..?

The recent earthquake in Japan and its repercussion have left the world shocked. The technologically superior country like Japan faced the history’s most disastrous earthquake with thousands dead and thousands out of touch with their family. Those who survived  are living their days without food, water, electricity and even minimum facilities they require. Rescues are coming from all part of the world and everyone is praying for Japan and the people living there.

After seeing all the footage and the images in news channel and paper, I can’t help but sit and think about what might happen in Nepal should an earthquake of such magnitude should hits us. We have no planning and preparations whatsoever required for the aftermaths and the government and the citizens alike are least bothered about the precaution that needs to be taken before or while the earthquake takes place to minimize the impact. Sure, we cannot predict whats it going to be like when it happens but we need to take measures to help ourselves and others when need be.

It is known to all that earthquakes are one of the most frightening and destructive phenomena of nature with terrible aftereffects. Earthquakes strike suddenly, violently, and without warning at any time of the day or night. If an earthquake occurs in a populated area, it may cause many deaths and injuries and extensive property damage.

Kathmandu, Nepal, ranked first in the 2001 study of World’s most earthquake-vulnerable cities, which could expect fatalities in the tens of thousands if disaster struck. Japan was also in the list with expectation of estimated hundreds, not thousands deaths but the result we see today is something else. Imagine the amount of destruction Nepal will be facing that tops the list of most vulnerable cities in the world. Just the thought makes me sweat. The news of many donor countries have extended their hands to help Nepal minimize the impacts but I strongly feel it is a little late with buildings built ignoring the minimum requirement to withstand the natural disasters. The problem in Nepal occurs more with no open space for the rescue purpose. Thus, the best way as of now that I see is to prepare yourself.

Here are some basic tips I have managed to gather. Only we can ensure the safety of ourselves and our loved ones in such times of desperation. Don’t take the safety measure lightly. It can save your life and possibly many others with a little sensibility and help from you side.

What to Do Before an Earthquake
Although there are no guarantees of safety during an earthquake, identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can save lives and significantly reduce injuries and property damage. Repairing deep plaster cracks in ceilings and foundations, anchoring overhead lighting fixtures to the ceiling will help reduce the impact of earthquakes.

Six Ways to Plan Ahead

1. 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.
  • Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sit.
  • Brace overhead light fixtures.
  • Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks.
  • Secure a water heater by strapping it to the wall studs and bolting it to the door.
  • 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.

2. 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, overpasses.
  • Interior columns and beams, which can serve as safe zones, or elevated expressways.

3. Educate Yourself and Family Members

  • Search for information on the website. Educate yourself as much as you can on how to protect you and your property from earthquakes.
  • Teach all family members how and when to (In case of Nepal many of them might laugh at you but you know how serious this is thus make them realize as well)
  • Identify escape routes within the building.
  • Turn off gas, electricity, and water.

4. Have Disaster Supplies on Hand

  • Flashlight 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.
  • Blankets.

5. 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,
  • Find a well-known meeting place in the case that during the earthquake family members become separated.
  • 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.

6. Help Your Community Get Ready

  • Publish a special section in your local newspaper with emergency information on earthquakes. Localize the information by printing the phone numbers of local emergency services.
  • Provide tips on conducting earthquake drills in the home.
  • Work together in your community to apply your knowledge to building codes, retrofitting programs, hazard hunts, and neighborhood and family emergency plans.

What to Do During an Earthquake
Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually fore-shocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and if you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.

If indoors

  • 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.
  • 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.

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. 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, 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.

Its just a matter of time since we have long exceeded the earthquakes that comes every 50 to 75 years. With little care and little knowledge about what to do and how and above all NOT PANICKING during such times will help us and many around us.

Remember, DISASTER IS WAITING TO HAPPEN ANYTIME AND ONLY YOU CAN HELP YOURSELF.

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