That Earthquake Awareness Week is observed in the month of January in Jamaica is perhaps more an acknowledgment that the most notable earthquake of January 14, 1907 that has hit us. This in no way suggests that the month of January is a season for earthquakes. That simply isn’t the case. In fact, there are no seasons for earthquakes as we have for hurricanes. That means that an earthquake can strike at any time. And when it does, what do we do?
As with any other natural phenomenon there is no fool proof strategy that we can employ to protect ourselves from the ravages of an extreme and ferocious earthquake. But thankfully most of the tremors we experience are relatively mild and do afford us the opportunity to take successful evasive actions when an earthquake strikes. It is noteworthy that Jamaica is in an earthquake belt. This means that there is always a strong likelihood that we could be hit by an earthquake. It is nothing short of providential that more of 1907, or what has happened to Haiti, or Chile, or Japan, or China in recent history has not also happened to us. Praise the LORD!
That said however, here are ten (10) safety tips to bear in mind before, during and after an earthquake:
Before the Earthquake:
1. Be prepared to act. Know how to act so your response is automatic. Identify safe places in your work area to ‘Drop, Cover and Hold On.’ Know at least two ways to exit the building safely after an earthquake.
2. Stock up on emergency supplies. Keep the basics: flashlight, first-aid kit, whistle, gloves, goggles, blankets and sturdy shoes. Coordinate supplies with your work group or department. Plan as if food and water may not be available for about 24 hours and other supplies for up to 3 days.
3. Arrange your work area for safety. Make sure that bookcases, large file cabinets and artwork are anchored. Store heavy objects on low shelves. Store breakable objects in cabinets with latches. Use normal work order process to get furniture anchored.
During an Earthquake:
4. Remain calm as the quake occurs – others will respond to your actions. A cool head can prevent panic. If you are indoors when the shaking occurs, stay there. Move away from windows and unsecured tall furniture. Drop, cover and hold on under a desk, a table or along an interior wall. Protect your head, neck and face. Stay under cover until the shaking stops and debris settles.
5. If you are outdoors, move to an open area away from falling hazards such as trees, power lines, and buildings. Drop to the ground and cover your head and neck.
After an Earthquake:
6. Remain calm and reassuring. Check yourself and other for injuries. Do not move injured people unless they are in danger. Use your training to provide first aid, use fire extinguishers, and clean up spills. In laboratories, safely shut down processes when possible.
7. Expect aftershocks. After large earthquakes, tremors and aftershocks can continue for days.
8. Be ready to act without electricity or lights. Know how to move around your work area and how to exit in the dark. Know how to access and use your emergency supplies. Be aware of objects that have shifted during the quake.
9. If you must leave a building, use extreme caution. Continually assess your surroundings and be on the lookout for falling debris and other hazards. Take your keys, personal items and emergency supplies with you if safe to do so. Do not re-enter damaged buildings until an all-clear is given.
10. Use telephones only to report a life-threatening emergency. Cell and hard-line phone systems will be jammed. Text messages take less band width and may go through when voice calls can’t be made.
A little knowledge and some simple precautions can help you survive when the Big One strikes. Use these tips to prepare yourself for an earthquake on campus. For details about home planning, visit http://www.daretoprepare.org/. Additional information is available in the UCI Emergency Procedures blue flip chart: http://www.police.uci.edu/em/eprepman/flipchart.html.
Developed: March 2011