Thursday, October 1, 2009

THINGS TO DO BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER AN EARTHQUAKE

A major earthquake can inflict heavy devastation to lives and properties. But we can try to minimize damage by being prepared and following basic safety guidelines before, during and after an earthquake:

BEFORE:
1. Evaluate the structural soundness of your home, office edifice and the buildings you frequently visit. For your home, make necessary repairs upon the recommendation of a structural engineer. Avoid buildings whose structural stability is questionable.
2. Familiarize yourself with your residence and place of work. Identify strong part of the building like doorjambs, sturdy desk or table, where you can take refuge during an earthquake. Be particular with the accessibility of alarms and emergency exits.
3. Learn to use safety equipments like fire extinguisher and first aid kits. They will surely come in handy during emergencies.
4. Strap heavy furniture to the wall and make sure appliance units are secured in their place to prevent sliding or toppling. Breakable items, harmful chemicals and flammable materials should be stored in the lowermost shelves and secured firmly.
5. Make it a habit to turn off gas tanks when not in use.
6. If you have a water tank, make sure its supports and foundation are adequate to resist floor slab or ground shaking.
7. Prepare and maintain an earthquake survival kit consisting of battery-powered radio, spare batteries, LED flashlight, first aid kit, potable water, ready to eat food like biscuits and canned goods, multivitamins, spare clothes, blanket, whistle, Swiss Army knife, all-purpose tools, high-tensile ropes and dust mask.

DURING:
1. If you are indoors, get between sturdy desks or furnitures, or in a hardwood doorjambs, or beside a well-secured solid steel structure, protect yourself from falling debris by putting both hands on top of your head in a sitting fetal position. Do not go under a bed or table; most earthquake vistims were found trapped or crushed under beds, tables and inside cars.
2. If you are inside a multi-storey building, don't rush to the elevators or stairs; they are one of the most dangerous place in a building during earthquakes. Seek shelter between two sturdy objects just like in your house. Beside or in between filing cabinets, vaults or stacks of papers would generally be safer. If you are on the roof deck, don't try to get down. Past earthquakes have proven than it is safer on the roof than any other floor. If you are in a basement, you are safer nearer the perimeter wall of the subterranean structure. Most basements of buildings are made of retaining walls. The center of the basement is very unsafe. If you are in a basement car park, it is much safer to sit in a fetal position between big vehicles than inside them.
3. If you are outdoors, move to an open field where no falling debris or collapsing structure can reach you. Get away from cliffs, river embankments, bridges, power lines, posts, walls, ripraps, sewer conduits, manholes and the likes.
4. If driving, pull over to the safe side of the road and stop. Do not attempt to cross bridges or overpasses.
5. If you are caught in traffic atop a bridge or under it, leave your car immediately and move swiftly away from the bridge.
6. If you are on or near a mountain slope, move away from steep escarpments, which may be affected by landslides.
7. If you are along the shores and you feel a very strong earthquake, run as fast as you can as far away from the water towards higher ground. Earthquakes near or off the shore usually trigger tsunamis.

AFTER:
1. Remember that there will be aftershocks. Most of the times, the aftershocks do the most damage. If you are inside a weakened structure, take the fastest and safest way out. Do it calmly. Check elevators and stairs for structure integrity before using them. Follow the same procedure if you are in a crowded place like mall, cinema, supermarket, LRT station, etc.
2. Check yourself and your companions for injuries. In cases there are injuries, seek immediate medical attention.
3. Check for damages, cracks and dislocations in your house. Check your water and electrical lines for damages. If you notice any damage, especially in the structural frame of your building (i.e. beams, column), get an expert’s help, preferable a structural engineer. Do not try to repair them yourself.
4. Do not enter partially damaged buildings. Strong aftershocks may cause them to collapse. Do not go near down power lines or gas stations.
5. Stay tuned to news on television. If there is no electricity, try to gather information and disaster updates from your battery-powered radio. Obey public safety precautions.
6. Do not use the telephone or cellphone for unnecessary calls. Use it only for emergencies or to call your relatives and give advises and updates. This will prevent clogging of the lines, which the authorities may need for faster emergency reaction time.
7. Do not stroll or drive around devastated areas. No sightseeing.
8. If you must evacuate your residence, leave a message stating where you are going. Lock and secure your home well to prevent robbery and looting. Wear casual (rubber) shoes and bring your earthquake survival kit.
There is no such thing as an earthquake-proof structure. What can be designed is an earthquake-resistant structure. The strength, stability and resistance against earthquakes of a structure depend on several factors: the design and specification of the structure, the type of foundation (ground formation) in which the structure was built upon, the magnitude of the earthquake, and the shallowness and nearness of the epicenter.

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