Sunday, March 13, 2011

Shake, rattle, and...

Many are saying--have been saying--that Japan is the best prepared country in the world when it comes to earthquake.  Certainly, despite the magnitude of the 'quake that struck Friday, no buildings were lost in Tokyo--150-odd  miles from the epicenter--and most if not all the damage closer to the impact was due to tsunami, not the quake per se.

Yet, videos shot during and immediately after the quake show people being, quite frankly, stupid.
  • "Oooh, an earthquake, where's my cellphone so I can stand out here in the middle of this room videoing it?"
  • "Oh, no, the merchandise is falling off the shelves, I'd better throw my body against the shelving unit to make sure we don't lose any precious jars of marinated plums!"
  • "This bridge is swaying, I'd better look off both sides to make sure the river's still there!"
Not that I'm entirely unsympathetic:  I went through the Nisqually 'quake of 2001, as well as several smaller quakes during the 4 years or so total I spent in the Monterey area during my Army career.  There is a natural (and, hopefully brief!) pause while you wonder "Did I really feel that?", followed by "Let me out of here!"

Not good.

Here is what FEMA says to do in--that is, DURING--an earthquake:
If indoors
  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy 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 inside 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.
Drang's additional notes:

  • Re: Staying in bed.  We had a friend who was visiting friends in LA during the Northridge quake.  She told us that her friends' daughter insisted that she sleep in her bed the night of the quake--and when they got up after the quake, she discovered that a large mirror on the wall over the bed in the guest bedroom had shattered and there was no way she could have gotten out of bed without cutting herself on the broken glass...
  • On a related note, it's a good idea to keep a sturdy pair of shoes with sturdy soles by the bed.  I have a hard hat, dust  masks, and hand-crank radio in a drawer under my side...
  • Note the caveats listed to the old rule for taking shelter in a doorway!  In addition, if there is a door in the doorway--that is, it isn't just an archway or opening--you have to consider that the door is going to be shaking back and forth, and you already have enough problems to have to be worried about being bashed about by a door!
  • Locally, at least, natural gas will not be turned off unless there is a confirmed report of a gas leak.  Keep a wrench for the purpose where you can get it easily, but don't shut off the gas unless you are absolutely certain there is a leak.  THE GAS COMPANY MUST TURN IT BACK ON!

More from FEMA:
If outdoors

  • 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. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing 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.

If in a moving vehicle

  • 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.

If trapped under debris

  • Do not light a match.
  • Do not move about or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
This is FEMA's Earthquake Index Page, with advice for what to do before and after an earthquake.

    1 comment:

    DirtCrashr said...

    I got the shoes but need to get some dust-masks, and add a dental kit to the med supplies.