Tuesday, February 22nd, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit the island nation of New Zealand, causing damage to its’ second-largest city, Christchurch, which has a population of around 400,000 persons. This was an “aftershock” that followed a September 2010 earthquake measuring a magnitude of 7.0. At this time, there are at least 75 persons dead and hundreds still trapped.
Search and rescue teams from the United Kingdom, Australia, United States and Japan are responding to offer aid in finding those still trapped. These teams are experts at recovering trapped persons under structural collapse; emergency workers, doctors, engineers, and search dogs comprise these teams. Google has launched a person finder on its website. Their crisis response page lists emergency phone numbers, maps, and other resources. This service was also offered following the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti.
Some buildings survived the earthquake better than others, because of more rigorous building standards over the past five years. According to the Christian Science Monitor, Graeme Beattie, a local structural engineer, who had worked with a reconnaissance team in Seattle after the Nisqually earthquake, and again in Chile after 2010’s Maule earthquake, reported that stricter local building regulations that had taken place in the mid-2000’s appeared to have been beneficial to Christchurch. Of course, we are seeing older buildings that did not fare so well, and understandably so.
It seems to me that an earthquake would be one of the worst natural disasters to really be ready for. Those who live in areas prone to earthquakes would be wise to do all they can to be prepared, just as persons who live in tornado-prone areas should know where the nearest shelter or storm cellar is, and what to do in that type of emergency.
For earthquake preparedness, here are some suggestions from the United States Geological Society. These steps are taken based on “The Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety” handbook, Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country:
- Secure it now! Your risk of injury or death following the next earthquake or other disaster can be reduced by eliminating hazards throughout your home, neighborhood, workplace, or school. Conduct a “hazard hunt” to help identify and fix things such as unsecured televisions, computers, bookcases, furniture, unstrapped water heaters, etc. Securing these items now will help protect you tomorrow.
- Make a plan. Make sure that your emergency plan includes evacuation and reunion plans; your out-of-state contact person’s name and number, location of emergency supplies, and other pertinent information. Planning for an earthquake, terrorist attack, or other emergency is not that much different from planning for a party or vacation.
- Make disaster kits. These kits should be stored in accessible locations at home, work, and in your car. Having these supplies readily available can reduce the impact of an earthquake, a terrorist incident or other emergency on you and your family. These kits should include food, water, flashlights, portable radios, batteries, first aid kit, cash, medications, whistle, fire extinguisher.
- Is your place safe? Most houses are not as safe as they could be. There are things that you can do to improve the structural integrity of your home. Check out inadequate foundations, unbraced cripple walls, unreinforced masonry and vulnerable pipes. A contractor or engineer can help you identify your buildings’ weaknesses and fix them now.
- DROP, COVER, AND HOLD ON! These are the exact instructions that the children and adults in New Zealand have been trained to do. Know what to do during an earthquake, regardless of being at home, work, school, or just out and about. Taking these proper actions can save lives and reduce your risk of death or injury. During earthquakes, drop to the floor, take cover under a sturdy desk or table, and hold on to it firmly. Be prepared to move with it until the shaking stops.
- Check it out! One of the first things to do following a major disaster is to check for injuries and damages that need immediate attention. Make sure you are trained in first aid and in damage assessment techniques. You should know how to administer first aid and how to identify hazards such as damaged electrical, gas, water, sewage lines. Be ready to report damage to city or county government.
- Communicate and recover! Communication is an important step in recovery efforts following a major disaster. Turn on the portable radio for information and advisories. If your home is damaged, contact your insurance agent right away to begin the process. For most Presidentially declared disasters, resources will also be available from federal, state, and local government agencies.
Most of these suggestions would apply in different emergency situations, as stated. We have talked about emergency supply kits and being prepared in many articles. But truthfully, have we done anything about it? I need to get things better organized. We never know what may be coming. To the people of New Zealand, we pray for successful rescues of the many who are missing, and that they will be able to come back from this devastating earthquake better than ever.