Since all the recent wobbling has got many people here on the edge of their nerves, we thought it might be helpful to publish some advice.
You can’t control or predict when or where an earthquake will hit, nor can you control / predict how strong or destructive an earthquake will be. Experiencing an earthquake is alarming for pretty much everyone, and for many people the lack of control and unpredictability of them is a cause of great stress. (We’ve heard from a lot of people who haven’t slept well for quite a while…!)
Having a plan and taking action may help to relieve some of that stress.
So, there are things that you can do to help yourself and your family, starting immediately, as well as during and after a possible earthquake.
You should also remember that the earthquakes we have been experiencing in West Crete recently, although unusual for here, are neither very strong nor destructive, and there is no indication that you should panic.
What can you do NOW?
A. Identify Hazards
Check your home for hazards – modern buildings (reinforced concrete) are designed to withstand a lot of earth moving without sustaining serious structural issues. The bigger hazard during an earthquake is injury from falling items, something which is easily prevented by ensuring loose items are not able to fall from above head height, heavy furniture is restrained, cupboards are unable to fly open etc. This website has some good advice about identifying and reducing hazards around your home.
B. Inform yourself
Start by being aware of what the main hazards to you would be in the event of a strong earthquake. This site has some good information.
Flooding and fire are two of the biggest hazards after a strong earthquake. Find out how to turn off the utilities to your house to prevent damage.
- Do you know how to turn the mains electricity off at your home?
- If you have a gas cooker / boiler – do you know how to turn the gas off?
- Do you shut the gas bottle when it’s not in use?
- Do you know where the water main stop valve is for your house?
C. Make an emergency plan
Make a plan for what your and your family would do in the event of a strong earthquake (this is also useful in the case of any other natural disaster).
You can use the following headings:
SHELTER – If your primary shelter (probably your house!) became unsafe,
- Do you have a back up shelter e.g. a caravan / tent / car / other?
- What would you use for warmth?
- Do you know where your equipment (tent / sleeping bags etc) is, and is it easily accessible?
- Where would you go?
WATER & FOOD
- If the water supply to your house was cut off or contaminated, how much drinkable water do you have?
- Do you have a way of purifying non-drinkable water?
- Do you have tinned / long shelf life food, and for how long?
- Do you have a way to cook that doesn’t rely on mains electricity?
- Do you have a basic first aid kit in your car? If no, consider keeping one there.
- If you need regular medication – how much backup supply do you have? Is it accessible?
- Agree a meeting point with your family, and make sure each person knows where it is, in case you are separated before or during an emergency.
- Appoint an out-of area contact person that, in the case of an emergency, you can contact once you are safe, to reassure the rest of your family / friends.
- Keep a hard copy of important contact information – you can use this page as a template.
What should you do DURING an Earthquake?
Many people have the instinct to flee outside during an earthquake. This may actually be counter-productive, as during a very strong earthquake you will not find it easy to walk/run and you can actually increase your risk of injury by attempting to do so.
The recognised strategy for earthquake-prone areas is “Drop – Cover – Hold on“:
- DROP! to the floor
- COVER! your head (using hard furniture if available or if not, use your hands/arms to protect your head)
- HOLD ON! to to something, preferably a heavy item or the furniture you are using to shelter under.
What can you do AFTER an Earthquake?
- Check yourself and others for injuries. Provide first aid for anyone who needs it.
- Check water, gas, and electric lines for damage. If any are damaged, shut off the valves.
- Stay out of damaged buildings.
- Be careful around broken glass and debris. Wear boots or sturdy shoes to keep from cutting your feet.
- Be careful of chimneys and balconies
- If you’re at school or work, follow the emergency plan or the instructions of the person in charge.
- Expect aftershocks.