Earthquakes can happen at any time and anywhere in the world. Recognizing possible dangers ahead of time and advance planning can save your life, at the most extreme, or reduce the chances of a serious injury or property damages. On January 24th, 2020 a light earthquake at a magnitude of 4.8 struck Port Alberni. No damage was caused and most people living in Port Alberni, BC didn’t feel it. But it got me thinking am I really prepared for an earthquake and the aftermath?
According to USGS, it is estimated that around several million earthquakes occur annually around the world. Annually, an average of one earthquake of a magnitude of 8 or higher occurs, while around 15 earthquakes ranging from 7 to 7.9, occur. As many as 13 million earthquakes measuring 2 to 2.9 magnitude occur annually.
Imagine: if you were going about your daily business at work, driving the children to school or just walking the Kitsuksis Dyke with your dog., when all of a sudden, the ground starts to move from beneath you. It may take a moment to realize that its an earthquake. What should you do?
What to do if you are inside a building during an earthquake?
First of all, if you feel an earthquake, do not run outside as some old buildings may not be designed to withstand a large earthquake, and windows may be smashing onto the ground, while exterior brickwork, may fall too. There is a greater chance that you would be hurt if you are near a building than being inside it. According to FUMA:
• Drop to the ground and take cover by getting under a secure 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 in 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.
What do you do if you are outside during an earthquake?
• 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.
What do you do if in a moving vehicle during an earthquake?
• 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.
Remember that the local fire and police departments may not be available following an earthquake. It is important that you have emergency supplies prepared. Your emergency kit should have enough water, food, clothing, medical supplies, batteries, flashlights, first aid kit and any other necessary equipment that you need for at least 72 hours. With a little preparation, you can avoid bigger issues. For example, it is advised that you leave a flashlight and a pair of shoes beside your bed. This way if an earthquake hits in the middle of the night, you are prepared. One of the most common injuries seen after an earthquake is people’s feet being cut from them walking or running barefoot over broken glass and other sharp objects. Are you prepared?