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Earthquake survival basics

It always pays to remember that a little preparation can take you a long way.
Image courtesy: Lonely Planet/Philip Lee Harvey

In light of the recent earthquake that struck Nepal, and affected other areas, we’ve compiled a list of things to do in order to best survive this natural disaster. It always pays to remember that a little preparation can take you a long way.

Preparing for the worst:

  1. First and foremost, have an emergency kit ready and stored in an open area so that it’s the first thing you grab in case of an earthquake. Start with a small backpack that is light to carry, and easy to grab when making a quick exit.
  2. Make sure your emergency kit includes a first-aid kit stocked with bandages; cotton; medical tape; a solution prescribed by your doctor that treats open wounds; a needle and thread to suture open wounds in case getting to a hospital is difficult and doing this is your only option; a solution prescribed by your doctor that can sterilize an open wound or any other affected area; painkillers etc.
  3. Next, make sure you also pack your emergency kit with batteries; a bottle of fresh, filtered water; a glucose-based snack or energy bars for instant energy (consult your doctor to find out which is best); two weeks’ worth of food; a small, multi-purpose pocket knife that does almost anything from opening cans, to cutting ropes (that is if it comes to that); a flashlight; a small radio; a set of walkie-talkies; running shoes (since you may not really have the time to slip in to them while making a quick exit; this can always be done later when you find the space and time); survival literature packed in a compact guide always comes handy; and a blanket.
  4. You should also make sure there’s plenty of open space around your property so if ever you run outside the chances that crumbling blocks injure you, are minimal. In case there’s no open space around your property, consult you building’s management or any other concerned group on effecting such a change. There’s no reason why logic like this will not be heard.
  5. Also make sure there are no live-wires, open sockets or flammable liquids in your house. Make sure all flammable items are properly stored.
  6. Learn as much as you can on how to earthquake-proof your house; and educate you family and friends on doing the same.

When the earthquake strikes:

  1. Stay calm, and don’t panic.
  2. If the tremors aren’t much at first, and you don’t know for sure whether the earthquake is continuing, fill a glass of water and keep it on the table. The water’s movement is best to track low tremors.
  3. If you feel the tremors are picking up, alert immediate housemates/family or whoever else you’re sharing your living space with. Exit restrooms, especially those with wet floors. Grab your emergency kit and take cover.
  4. If you’re outside and on open ground, do not head for cover. Chances of survival are better on an open ground than under a roof or covering which may or may not come crashing down.
  5. If you are indoors, make sure you take cover under the metal frame that holds up the door to any room. You can also take cover under a strong oak table.
  6. When at home, try and find the nearest and safest spot – steer clear of areas with glass windows, mirrors etc.
  7. If you’re driving, switch on the parking lights to alert fellow motorists/car-drivers, slow down, and eventually come to a stop in an open area. Avoid stopping under bridges or overpasses. Get off the flyover, and head to the side of the road. Stay alert and stay in your car. Keep a track of any cracks that might develop in the road. Steer clear of these cracks.
  8. If you’re at work/outside and are part of the emergency evacuation, stay calm, follow all steps being mentioned by experts, and most importantly, avoid lifts and escalators.

What next?

  1. You feel the tremors have died down? It could just be the calm before the storm. Wait a few minutes before moving around. What could follow are the aftershocks. Stay calm and follow aforementioned steps.
  2. Once you’re absolutely sure the earthquake has died down, attend first to the injured. Make sure you check carefully for any injuries a family member or friend might have sustained.
  3. Check for any gas leaks, or live-wires. Take steps accordingly.
  4. Check carefully inside and outside the house for any precariously lodged broken pieces of wall etc. Try and clear affected areas with extreme caution.
  5. Most importantly, return to a calm state of mind and attend to any emotionally distressed family members and friends.

These opinions/recommendations are the author’s own and do not reflect those of Lonely Planet India. Before trying any of the aforementioned steps, it is strongly recommended that you consult experts in the designated areas. And remember, a cool and calm mind can be your biggest asset in times of extreme stress.

AUTHOR'S BIO: Tanya is the online editor at Lonely Planet India. She loves to read, and survival literature is one of her favourite genres. Her current favourite reads include graphic novels.