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In Times of Tremors: Tips For Earthquake-Preparedness

Posted on November 10, 2011 in Specials

By Shruthi Venukumar:

We live in times of turbulence, human-made or otherwise. When nature decides to pull the carpet under our feet, the damage is often unforeseen. One of the strongest earthquake in a decade ate into Turkey at local lunch time a few weeks ago. The origin was at a shallow-depth but the after-effects ran deep. Like a ruthless plunderer, another great shock of magnitude 6 hit shortly after. More than a hundred aftershocks have been felt with the death toll crossing 580. Almost 2000 buildings have been destroyed in the worst-hit city of Van alone. Damage to overbridges, airports have been reported. The effects have been cross-border into Iran. Overwhelming aid has been pouring in even from long time foes, Greece and Israel, alongside NATO, EU etc. The Turkish Government’s disaster management personnel, the Turkish Red Crescent Society, the Iranian Red Cross Crescent have pooled together more than 3000 relief and rescue personnel, sniffer dogs, ambulances, medicines, make shift tents and other amenities for the victims. Hot meals three times a day has been made available.

The earthquake in Turkey brought back the ghosts of a similar horror at the cusp of the present millennium, in 1999. This is the second most devastating earthquake in 2011 alone. The most horrendous one hit Japan and headlines worldwide off the coast of Japan in March, triggering off the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. The death toll crossed 15,000 and Japan had its second morbid date with radioactive disaster with largescale nuclear contamination of soil and waters detected. Almost like a prologue, to the impending hydel gloom, had come the February earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, toppling the structures weakened by the earlier Canterbury earthquake in September 2010. Aftershocks have been felt through the calender into October. Major earthquakes tipping the scales over a magnitude of 6 shook Myanmar, the Indo-Nepal border, the border dividing China and Myanmar. A quake in Fergana valley brought tripartite destruction to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in July. Last year too had witnessed debilitating tremors in Haiti and Italy.

It takes just a quiver for buildings and the manmade world as we see today to take a tumble into rubble. India finds itself splayed across four seismic zones. Mitigating the full effects of an earthquake is practically impossible. But if each person holds himself/herself to safety in so far as possible, the hope of survival is raised felicitously. Keeping an earthquake safety kit loaded with emergency supplies in the event of a shock is holding wisdom dear. This kit should contain a fire extinguisher, medication, first aid kit, flashlights and a portable radio (to keep tuned into minute-by-minute account of the situation) with extra batteries, water with purification tablets, packaged/canned food and plastic bags for waste disposal. Keep this kit at a place most accessible in times of panic. Keep knowledge of the nearest medical/emergency facility and the shortest routes. Enable yourself with CPR and other first aid methods. If you are indoors when disaster strikes, stay indoors and find cover under a solid structure than is not attached to the building. Eg: tables, detachable slabs etc. It is unsafe to run out of buildings shaking uncontrollably. Turn off electricity and gas supplies if within the regarded possible and and not dangerous. Try to get into sturdy footwear to avoid injury to the feet while walking on run down debris-strewn land. Keep clear off areas with highrises than may come toppling down in case of after-tremors. Sleep in tents and other light material-made temporary housing till safety is declared. Do not eat anything from open containers near shattered glass. Ingesting minute pieces of glass may result in internal bleeding. Do not enter building that look or feel fragile. Do not take lanterns or any other flammable contraption inside enclosed spaces with fodder for fire. Keep away from any foul-smelling layer of debris. Dead rotten flesh can breed infections even from a distance by means of carriers. Try to protect yourself from mosquitoes and flies.

If able-bodied and wishing to help out in the rescue operations, stick to the instructions of the trained personnel. Improper and uninformed actions may lead to further casualties.

When returning home after safety has been declared, dry out wet appliances completely before reconnecting. Physical injuries aside, it is important to plug any chunks in a person’s psyche after such a disaster has occurred. Take professional help in dealing with the human an material loss and to overcome the feeling of impending doom and further strikes.

An earthquake often washes over as the single most tragic event in life. But if life is spared, it has to go on. And survival begins the moment one realizes that one can push oneself and others to safety. Execution of safety is the key to prevent execution by earthquake.