An earthquake is literally an earth shattering experience! Here you are enjoying an afternoon snooze, or having a cup of coffee in the morning or even sleeping under a quilt on a cold winter night when WHAM! The entire crockery shelf collapses shattering plates and cups; the painting on the wall nearly knocks you down as it falls; or the antique fan looks like it will brain you as it hangs down, held by a single wire!
What does one do in such situations? There is no advance warning on prime time news nor is there a particular time of year, like monsoons, when an earthquake always occurs. Unlike a tornado or hurricane there are no known methods of predicting an earthquake. Scientists have, however, managed to chart out areas of the world that is earthquake prone, like the San Andreas Fault in North America, the Great African rift, etc. But knowing the area is prone to quakes and being in the centre of one are two different things.
Though it is estimated that about 5,00,000 earthquakes occur each year, only 100 of them cause damage! However, an earthquake could occur any time of the day or night so it pays to be prepared if you are unfortunately caught in the middle of one. There are certain dos and don’ts that can help you during an earthquake.
If you are indoors, stay indoors unless you are in the ground floor (first floor to Americans) where you can easily run outside. The best thing to do if you are indoors is to hide under a sturdy piece of furniture like a bed or desk. Do not try to head for the stairway if you are living in an upper storey, as chances are the stairways may collapse.
Stay away from windows, inside walls and movable furniture or appliances. The kitchen is a dangerous place as things stored in cupboards can fall on you. Don’t try to rush downstairs or outdoors while the building is shaking. There is greater danger of falling debris, glass, or staircases collapsing under your feet.
If you are outdoors, try to reach an open ground. Stay away from high-rise buildings, trees, power and telephone cables or anything else that might fall on you.
If you are driving on the road get out of the traffic and stop on a clear stretch of the road. Do not stop on a bridge or for that matter under one. Stay inside your car until the shaking stops. Before you resume driving, look out for fissures, breaks in the road, bumps and cracks. try to reach an open ground if you can.
Inside your home, be careful not to turn on the gas until you are sure the cylinder is safe and there is no gas leak.
Try not to use your telephone unless there is an emergency. You could be tying up lines needed for someone else’s emergency.
Ensure you establish a meeting place with all family members in case you get separated. Transportation and aid may be disrupted for some days. In case you have to camp out till such time normalcy is restored, have some emergency supplies handy like medical supplies, flashlights, a portable radio for the news, adequate water in bottles, canned food, blankets, etc.
Lastly, if you are not trapped or seriously hurt, do not expect fire fighters, army, police or paramedics to help you. They may be busy rescuing others who are in greater need than you are!