Friday, May 3, 2013

Movers and Shakers - Earthquake Safety Tips

Delhi shakes for the 3rd time in 2 weeks. Earthquakes are not new to the city. Lying on seismic zone 4, every once in a while, we experience tremors of a quake, usually from the Himalayan belt. But when the earth literally shifts beneath our feet, rationality goes out of the window and we panic. Well, half knowledge is dangerous knowledge, as I realised the hard way. Here are some tips on what to do when an earthquake strikes.

PS – I am not an authority on this. My suggestions below are solely based on secondary research and information collected having attended Earthquake disaster management seminars. Please do read up on this subject from any other source you can find as well.

An earthquake is measured on a Richter scale. Anything upwards of 5 can be potentially dangerous depending on how close to the epicentre you are and the duration of the quake. An earthquake typically will peak for a few seconds and the highest reading will determine its Richter score. If you live in a high rise, chances are that you will feel the quake more than your counterparts on the ground floor. The duration also may differ as the building swings a little.

If Shaking Begins

  • Do NOT race for the stairs, especially if they are internal stairs. The staircase is one of the weakest parts of the apartment building, have a different momentum of frequency and most likely to collapse first.
  • If you are on the ground floor and have a clear open space near your house, run out and stand clear.
  • If you live quite some floors above in your building, try to seek shelter near a bulky object such as a sofa. Curl up and sit on the floor and make sure you are not near a window, mirror, fireplace, gas stove or have heavy paintings or wall hangings above you. Avoid using the lift or escalators.
  • Drop down; take cover under a desk or table and hold on. There are two things that can harm you in an earthquake: one is falling and flying objects and the second is structural collapse. For the first, it is recommended you take cover so that any flying object like glass or bookcases can’t hurt you. But in case structural damage is occurring (collapsing buildings), it is suggested that you duck and sit next to a bulky object like a sofa or a bed. This is a place where a ‘void’ is likely to be created and you will avoid being crushed.
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you're sure it's safe to exit.
  • Stay away from bookcases or furniture that can fall on you.
  • Stay away from windows. In a high-rise building, expect the fire alarms and sprinklers to go off during a quake (of if you’re in India, you don’t need to worry about this. They probably won’t even go off if there IS a fire :P).
  • If you are outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, and power lines. Drop to the ground.
  • If you are in a car, slow down and drive to a clear place. Stay in the car until the shaking stops. Do not wait near bridges, tall trees etc.
  • Don't use candles or any open flames. Earthquakes sometimes break natural gas lines which easily catch fire.
  • Expect aftershocks

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