Learn how to prepare for an earthquake
The house of William Mercuchi is damaged after the previous day's magnitude 6.4 earthquake in Yauco, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
"More than 2,000 people in shelters. Nearly one million without power. Hundreds of thousands without water.
The aftermath of a 6.4-magnitude earthquake that killed one person, injured nine others and severely damaged infrastructure in Puerto Rico’s southwest coast is deepening as the island’s government says it is overwhelmed."
So begins an Associated Press story about the aftermath of the recent Puerto Rico earthquakes.
Acting Director of the UWI Seismic Research Centre, seismologist Dr Joan Latchman has stated that an even more damaging earthquake is long overdue in the Eastern Caribbean.
"The important thing to bear in mind is that the region is known to have produced large magnitude earthquakes in the past and will do so in the future, therefore, preparedness is a necessary part of living with the earthquake hazard."
But how can we prepare for an earthquake?
Loop News spoke with Dorine Gustave, Acting Director of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) this week who encouraged St Lucians to "develop a culture of readiness so that they can stay ready. The new slogan is "stay ready so you don't have to get ready".
Here is what you should do before, during and after an earthquake according to NEMO:
What to do before an earthquake:
- Become aware of fire evacuation and earthquake plans for all of the buildings you occupy regularly.
- Pick safe places in each room of your home, workplace and/or school. A safe place could be under a piece of furniture or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases or tall furniture that could fall on you.
- Practice drop, cover and hold on in each safe place. If you do not have sturdy furniture to hold on to, sit on the floor next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms.
- Keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person's bed.
- Make sure your home is securely anchored to its foundation.
- Bolt and brace water heaters and gas appliances to wall studs.
- Bolt bookcases, china cabinets and other tall furniture to wall studs.
- Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, away from beds, couches and anywhere people sleep or sit.
- Brace overhead light fixtures.
- Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets. Large or heavy items should be closest to the floor.
- Learn how to shut off the gas valves in your home and keep a wrench handy for that purpose.
- Learn about your area's seismic building standards and land use codes before you begin new construction.
What to do during an earthquake:
If you are inside when the shaking starts you should:
- Drop, cover and hold on. Move as little as possible.
- If you are in bed, stay there, curl up and hold on. Protect your head with a pillow.
- Stay away from windows to avoid being injured by shattered glass.
- Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit. If you must leave the building after the shaking stops, use stairs rather than an elevator in case there are aftershocks, power outages or other damage.
- Be aware that fire alarms and sprinkler systems frequently go off in buildings during an earthquake, even if there is no fire.
If you are outside when shaking starts you should:
- Find a clear spot and drop to the ground. Stay there until the shaking stops (away from buildings, power lines, trees, streetlights).
- If you are in a vehicle, pull over to a clear location and stop. Avoid bridges, overpasses and power lines if possible. Stay inside with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Then, drive carefully, avoiding bridges and ramps that may have been damaged.
- If a power line falls on your vehicle, do not get out. Wait for assistance.
- If you are in a mountainous area or near unstable slopes or cliffs, be alert for falling rocks and other debris. Landslides are often triggered by earthquakes.
What to do after an earthquake:
- After an earthquake, the disaster may continue. Expect and prepare for potential aftershocks, landslides or even a tsunami. Tsunamis are often generated by earthquakes.
- If you are near the ocean and you feel an earthquake then you should leave immediately. Move to higher ground. More information can be found on the tsunami section of the website.
- Each time you feel an aftershock, drop, cover and hold on. Aftershocks frequently occur minutes, days, weeks and even months following an earthquake.
- Look quickly for damage in and around your home and get everyone out if your home is unsafe.
- Open closet and cabinet doors carefully as contents may have shifted.
- Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and stay out of damaged areas. Stay out of damaged buildings.