In Seattle, there is always talk of prep for the ‘big one’. After the disasters and damage from past earthquakes, city officials updated some buildings, but work is still in the progress. In reality, are we prepared to handle a huge earthquake?
A few years back, I was working on the old side of the local trauma hospital. The old swing out windows crashed into the wall and the glass broke. The beds of the patients slammed into the wall. The floor shook sideways and I flopped along like a fish out of water as I made my way down the hall. The sidewalks outside the building rose up and down. The telephone wires danced in the air as though they were marionettes on strings. In all the drills, we are told to get under desks and shield our heads. Well, sometimes an earthquake happens so fast, you don’t have time to do anything before it’s over. And when you’re on one of the top floors of a building, your first thought is, OMG is the building going to fall with me in it?
Most causalities from earthquakes result from falling debris and objects. The shock waves can shake, damage, and demolish buildings and structures. Earthquakes also trigger landslides and can generate huge ocean waves. What can we do during an earthquake?
- Remain calm. Drastic things can result from panic. Try to reassure others. Think through the consequences of any action you take.
- Protect yourself from falling debris. Cover yourself with pillows and blankets if available.
- Stay away from windows, mirrors, shelves, and bookcases. If you’re near a house, also stay away from chimneys. Usually, it’s best not to run outside. If you are outside though, avoid power poles, walls, and high buildings that may fall.
- Pull to the side of the road if you’re driving. Move to an open area away from hazards. Power lines may have fallen. Stay in the vehicle.
- Be aware that the power may go off and avoid elevators. Careful if you exit in a stairway as the stairs may be damaged.
- If you’re indoors, stay there and take cover under sturdy furniture or against an inside wall. Stay away from the kitchen.
- If you smell gas or hear a hissing sound, open a window and evacuate. Shut off the main gas valve outside.
After the shaking stops, check for injuries. If there is electrical damage, switch off the power at main control panel. If the power is out, use flashlights or battery powered lanterns. Do not use candles or matches because of possibility of gas leaks. If you live near coastal waters, evacuate to higher ground. Be prepared for after shocks.
How can you prepare for an earthquake in your home?
- Securely fasten water heaters and gas appliances
- Repair defective electrical wiring and inflexible utility connections.
- Anchor overhead lighting fixtures
- Store breakables on lower shelves. Fasten shelves to walls. Brace top heavy objects.
- Check foundation of your home. Is it firmly anchored?
- Look for items in your home that may become hazardous during an earthquake.
- Conduct earthquake drills. Know where to meet your family.
- Know where shut off valves are for all utilities.
- Keep emergency equipment together such as lanterns, radios, batteries, and flashlights.
- Keep a supply of bottled water and nonperishable food items stored for emergencies. Your family copes best with a disaster pack planned ahead.
Disasters happen anytime and anywhere. You may not have much time to respond. Are you prepared?