March 11, 2011: Japan was struck by an 8.9 magnitude quake and aftershocks shook Japan for several days with magnitudes as high as 7.1. It was a reminder for all mortals that nature cannot be controlled by man despite his best efforts and proves that it is unpredictable. Disasters can happen, kill people by the thousands and damage properties by billions even to the richest and most prepared nations. It is a testimony that disaster and emergency preparedness must be beefed up and its machinery oiled all the time. Families and individuals can rely on government but it isn’t enough at this scale. People must exert effort to prepare mentally and to install personal emergency protocols to help themselves.
Earthquakes are among the natural forces that terrify humans because it can happen any time and the damages can be wide scale. There are about 70 to 75 damaging earthquakes a year worldwide. Most states of the U.S are susceptible to these platonic and tectonic forces with California being the most prone due to the movements of the San Andreas Fault. The New Madrid Fault in Missouri had the strongest 3-month streak of earthquakes way back in 1811 to 1812 with some having magnitudes higher than 8. After-shocks are the smaller shocks that follow the main tremor in the first hours, days, weeks or even months after the earthquake. These after-shocks can cause damages and also weaken buildings.
The causes of death or injury are seldom related to the ground movement. Most damages result from flying glass, collapsing walls and buildings and falling objects. While the earthquakes are unpredictable, the ensuing damages are both predictable and preventable. A well-laid disaster and emergency preparedness plan and framework, and an educated and cooperative citizenry can spell a huge difference in curtailing the damages.
What are some of the things the people must remember to protect their lives, that of their families and their properties?
1. Where earthquakes have previously occurred, they are bound to be repeated. Find out more by getting information from the local emergency management office, state geological survey, department of natural resources and/or Red Cross. Being informed is good so that personal preparations can be beefed up.
The Next Cascadia Earthquake: Worst Case Scenario
2. For you and your family’s sake, develop a family disaster plan. You may want to check out the ‘Family Disaster Plan’ section that is a part of the local plan to know what the major pointers that you need to know. Picking the safe areas of the house is important to be discussed among members of the family such as under a sturdy table. Conduct drills especially with kids. Practice, drop, cover and hold-on. Get trainings and relay these trainings to the other members of the household. Give each one a task especially if there are very young kids in the house.
3. Teach and train kids to do safety precautionary steps when in school or wherever they are like finding a safe place. Give them pointers on how to choose the safe place in the schools, malls, grounds and other places they frequent. Conduct drills to assess if they have internalized the trainings. Constant practice makes their response automatic. It is also important that they remain calm and conscious of their surroundings.
4. Every home must have disaster supplies kit that contain basic needs as well as evacuation supply kit. These contain basic survival items such as flashlight, personal medicines, water, dehydrated foods, match, first-aid items, etc. Keep a flashlight and most basic clothing and gears on the bedside for easy access if and when earthquakes happen in the middle of the night.
5. Conduct regular checkup of your home especially after an earthquake so you would be aware if there are certain weakened structural part. Have these reinforced to prevent it from collapsing in the event of a large tremor. Ensure that the chandeliers are firmly secured and that there are no stuff that will fall on you and your family during the quake and the aftershocks. Earthquake-–proof your home so that the fragile items will not break and flammable materials will not catch fire.
Surely, there are still a lot of things you must do to prepare for an earthquake in order to keep the damages to a minimum. Staying calm and conscious is important so that everything that has been learned and practiced about disaster and emergency preparedness will come to the fore. Learn about your area’s susceptibilities from the local emergency preparedness to know what you’re up against.
You’ll need a quick and easy way to shut off your water and gas immediately after the earthquake. Consider buying an emergency gas and water shut-off tool that you can use to cut off your utilities. You can fit one in your emergency survival kit.