Earthquake

An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the ground caused by the shifting of rocks beneath the earth’s surface. Earthquakes strike suddenly, without warning, and can occur at any time of the year- day or night. The impacts of earthquakes include deaths, injuries and property damage, loss of shelter and livelihood, disruption of critical or ‘lifeline’ infrastructure, and destruction of community.

Earthquakes are among the deadliest of natural hazards. Most deaths are due to building collapse or to secondary hazards, such as fires, tsunamisfloodinglandslide and release of chemicals or toxic materials. Injuries tend to be due to less-severe building damage, parts of buildings or their contents falling or breaking, and failure to take precautions during aftershocks.

[Source: IFRC, Public Awareness & Public Education For Disaster Risk Reduction: Key Messages”]

Household

Identify safe places

  • Identify the safest places in your home, and in each room. These places should be located away from exterior walls, unsecured partition walls, windows, glass and large or heavy objects that can fall, slide or collide, or objects such as heaters and open fireplaces that can cause fire
  • Outside your home, the safest places are away from overhead and underground hazards
  • Create a personal or family disaster-preparedness plan

Practice earthquake drills in different locations

  • Practice earthquake drills, both physically and as thought exercises, in different locations
  • Consider the impact of strong shaking and identify the safest actions in each place (at home, work and school)
  • Join others in your community to promote earthquake awareness and education

Identify items that could cause death or injury and work out how to secure them

  • Identify items within your home and around the perimeter that could fall, slide or collide during earthquake shaking (“hazard hunt”); move them or find the best ways to secure them
  • Move or secure objects that may fall and block exits

Secure your belongings

  • Secure large objects and furniture that could fall, break, slide or collide during an earthquake and cause crushing or piercing injuries
  • Relocate, remove, refit, anchor and/or fasten certain objects:
    • fasten bookcases, display cabinets and other tall and heavy furniture to the wall. Position them away from anywhere where they could block exit pathways. Security anything that could fall on people while they are sleeping.
    • secure water heaters, gas cylinders, outside fuel tanks and other gas and electrical appliances
    • install latches on cabinets and drawers
    • hang heavy items, such pictures and mirrors, away from exit doors, beds, couches or anywhere that people sleep or sit
    • anchor computers and televisions
    • secure fire extinguishers
    • move beds away from windows

Repair and retrofit for life safety

  • Whether you are a homeowner or a tenant, there are things you can do to improve the structural integrity of your home. Anything you do to strengthen your home could reduce the risk of death or injury.
  • Where possible, consult a qualified engineer or skilled professional to help identify your building’s weaknesses and fix them. Check that the person you hire is fully qualified in anti-seismic building techniques, has full knowledge of local regulations, and follows them rigorously
  • Check for:
    • inadequate foundations
    • unbraced walls
    • discontinuous columns or beams
    • damage to concrete
    • unreinforced masonry
    • rotting wood
    • vulnerable pipes
    • buildings are supported by columns and means that are evenly spaced, continuous and well-constructed
  • Implement retrofit–even minimum retrofit is effective in preventing total collapse of structures, saving lives

[Source: IFRC, Public Awareness & Public Education For Disaster Risk Reduction: Key Messages”]

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Workplace

Identify safe places

  • Identify the safest places in your workplace, and in each room. These places should be located away from exterior walls, unsecured partition walls, windows, glass and large or heavy objects that can fall, slide or collide, or objects such as heaters and open fireplaces that can cause fire
  • Outside your workplace, the safest places are away from overhead and underground hazards
  • Create a workplace disaster-preparedness plan and notify staff

Identify items that could cause death or injury and work out how to secure them

  • Identify items within your workplace and around the perimeter that could fall, slide or collide during earthquake shaking (“hazard hunt”); move them or find the best ways to secure them
  • Move or secure objects that may fall and block exits

Practice earthquake drills in different locations

  • Coordinate and practice earthquake drills, both physically and as thought exercises, in different locations
  • Consider the impact of strong shaking and identify the safest actions in each place (at home, work and school)
  • Join others in your community to promote earthquake awareness and education

Secure potentially hazardous workplace items

  • Secure large objects and furniture that could fall, break, slide or collide during an earthquake and cause crushing or piercing injuries
  • Relocate, remove, refit, anchor and/or fasten certain objects:
    • fasten bookcases, display cabinets and other tall and heavy furniture to the wall. Position them away from anywhere where they could block exit pathways. Security anything that could fall on people while they are sleeping.
    • secure water heaters, gas cylinders, outside fuel tanks and other gas and electrical appliances
    • install latches on cabinets and drawers
    • hang heavy items, such pictures and mirrors, away from exit doors, beds, couches or anywhere that people sleep or sit
    • anchor computers and televisions
    • secure fire extinguishers
    • move beds away from windows

Repair and retrofit for life safety

  • Whether you are the landowner or a tenant, there are things you can do to improve the structural integrity of your workplace. Anything you do to strengthen your workplace could reduce the risk of death or injury to staff and visitors
  • Where possible, consult a qualified engineer or skilled professional to help identify your building’s weaknesses and fix them. Check that the person you hire is fully qualified in anti-seismic building techniques, has full knowledge of local regulations, and follows them rigorously
  • Check for:
    • inadequate foundations
    • unbraced walls
    • discontinuous columns or beams
    • damage to concrete
    • unreinforced masonry
    • rotting wood
    • vulnerable pipes
    • buildings are supported by columns and means that are evenly spaced, continuous and well-constructed
  • Implement retrofit–even minimum retrofit is effective in preventing total collapse of structures, saving lives

When making improvements, maintain the structural integrity of your building

  • Make improvements that follow local building codes, in consultation with a qualified engineer
  • If you make structural changes, take care not to remove or damage any part of the load-bearing elements of the building (the columns, beams or walls). This can weaken the structure and impact everyone in the building.

If you are planning construction, select a safe site for your building

  • Find out from local authorities where earthquake risks are highest in your local area
  • Locate buildings on stable, solid, dry ground (in other words, on deep and unbroken rock known as bedrock)
  • Avoid adjacent hazards by leaving sufficient space between buildings so that they cannot pound against each other during earthquake shaking
  • Avoid building on unstable slopes or sites subject to liquefaction, avalanches, or inundation from tsunami, flooding, or dam failure
  • Avoid building directly on top of, or within 15m (50ft) of known earthquake faults

Build and maintain your building with earthquakes in mind

  • The way a building behaves during earthquakes depends on the ground it sits on, its shape, the design of its structural system, the materials it is built with, and construction detailing. Ideally, it should be strong but flexible, so that it does not fail when shaken.
  • Follow these principles for seismic-resistant construction:
    • rigorously follow anti-seismic building codes for your area
    • select an appropriate foundation system for the topography, soil conditions and construction type
    • select a simply symmetrical shape for the building (usually a simple rectangle)
    • ensure that the parts of the structural system (such as the columns, beams and walls) are continuous, evenly distributed and well-connected
    • use the appropriate quality and quantity of materials
    • protect your building from water and moisture damage
    • review the overall safety of your building periodically

[Source: IFRC, Public Awareness & Public Education For Disaster Risk Reduction: Key Messages”]

Additionally, consider creating a or revising your current workplace’s Business Continuity Program.

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Community Organization

An important element of earthquake mitigation is community awareness and participation. Awareness of earthquake risk and a desire to live in houses safe from seismic forces help motivate construction of earthquake-resistant buildings. Knowledge of what to do in the event of an earthquake can be increased by earthquake drills and public awareness programs. Community fire fighting, search and rescue, and first aid training groups can also be formed. These groups can take responsibility for readiness and maintenance of fire extinguishers, excavation tools and other civil protection equipment. When an earthquake hits, community organizations – like the local Red Cross Red Crescent – are often the only organizations available to provide support to communities within the first 24-72 hours. Community volunteers are typically responsible for the bulk of search and rescue efforts and have a greater impact than rescue teams from abroad which generally take several days to arrive. Community organizations and local officials should develop plans to prepare and react to the emergency.

The plan might include the following elements and activities: 

  • Identifying and training teams for search and rescue operations 
  • Ensuring the rapid availability of detection equipment 
  • Identifying and training teams for disaster assessment 
  • Identifying safe sites and emergency shelters where vulnerable populations could be relocated 
  • Training personnel in trauma care and first aid 
  • Planning for an alternative water supply 
  • Preparing plans to clear streets for emergency access 
  • Preparing emergency communication systems and messages to the public regarding their security 
  • Training teams to determine if buildings are safe for reoccupancy
  • Coordinating preparations with voluntary organizations

​[Source: IFRC]

Stay Informed and be involved

  • Find out what types of disaster are likely to occur in your area or community and how to prepare for each
  • Find out how local authorities will contact the community during a disaster
  • Contact your local Red Cross Chapter for details about community disaster education presentations that may be arranged or are available in your community organization
  • Get trained in CPR and first aid so you will know how to respond to emergencies and aid your community in the event that help is delayed
  • Identify families who have gone through earthquakes and are willing to tell how they are better prepared and serve as disaster advocates for the community
  • Partner with Red Cross chapters and local emergency response units who may have upcoming community events in which they could share the preparedness message and hand out brochures

Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills

  • Community organizations also have an important role to play in promoting awareness and education and galvanizing local action on earthquake risk. A great place to start is organize ShakeOut drill in your community.

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Local and National Government

Coordinate with land developers and business owners

  • Risk-sensitive land-use planning works to ensure that critical facilities and infrastructure are not placed in earthquake-prone areas
  • Strengthen and consistently enforcement of building codes
  • Consider incentives (and access to safe land) to encourage households and businesses in vulnerable areas to move to safer locations

Base safety information on the available scientific evidence

  • Find out what types of disaster are likely to occur in your area or community and how to prepare for each

Government supported public education campaigns are also very important. Nearly every country has a means of communicating with its most remotely located citizens, either through the media or through informal communication networks. Public awareness programs can be designed to reach every vulnerable person and may significantly reduce the social and material costs of an earthquake. 

Some examples of information to be provided include: 

  • Causes of earthquakes and warning signs 
  • Awareness of earthquake risks and ways to minimise personal vulnerability 
  • Practical ways to reinforce vulnerable houses 
  • What to do in the event of an earthquake (with possible participation in a drill) 
  • How to form teams to assist in the search for injured people and other post-disaster recovery activities 
  • Volunteer fire fighting and first aid training

[Source: IFRC]

Other outreach efforts: communicating with citizens, business leaders, and community organizations

  • Contact your local Red Cross Chapter for details about community disaster education presentations that may be arranged or are available in your community organization
  • Partner with Red Cross chapters and local emergency response units who may have upcoming community events in which they could share the preparedness message and hand out brochures
  • Promote awareness and educational campaigns. A great place to start is organizing a ShakeOut drill for your community.

Each year there are about 15 major earthquakes, 135 strong earthquakes and more than 1,000 moderate earthquakes each year. However, only 70-75 of these are reported to cause damage. Their impacts differ widely and depend a great deal on the resilience and preparedness of human settlements. Vulnerability factors include:

  • non-compliance or non-conformity to building codes established for expected intensity of shaking
  • poor land-use planning
  • building in unsafe locations
  • unprotected critical infrastructure
  • inadequate non-structural measures to secure building contents and equipment
  • disorganized or unpracticed response

Tsunamis are usually associated with earthquakes, but they can also be generated byvolcanic eruptions or underwater landslides.

[Source: IFRC, Public Awareness & Public Education For Disaster Risk Reduction: Key Messages”]

Earthquake: A shaking or trembling of the earth that is volcanic or tectonic in origin causing any type of damage or negative effect on communities or properties. [Source: ReliefWeb]