It will soon be vacation time. Are you prepared to survive and thrive after an earthquake should your vacation become more of an adventure than you planned? You may be surprised how many areas of the United States and the world are prone to earthquake activity. Preparing before you travel and understanding survival strategies can mean the difference between disaster and a treasured memory.
Before Leaving Home
If you are traveling to a foreign country be sure to register with your home country’s embassy. Sign up for the USGS earthquake notification service. You can have text notifications sent to your cell phone. While you are about it be sure your cell phone will work where you are traveling, if not, purchase one locally when you arrive.
Create a list of emergency contact numbers, including emergency services in the area you will be visiting, hospitals and embassies or consulates.
If visiting another country where you do not speak the local language, bring a list of emergency words and phrases.
Check to see if your hotel is “life safe,” with routine fire and emergency drills, an evacuation plan, and fire safety inspections. Poor maintenance at a hotel is a clear warning sign. Do not assume a foreign country has the same safety standards and practices as your own.
If your hotel is by the water ask about their evacuation plan. Determine how they will alert guests of an impending tsunami and where the evacuation area is located.
Carry a flashlight and if possible a few glow sticks. A headlamp type flashlight will leave your hands free to maneuver around obstacles following a quake or to carry a child. Glow sticks are perfect to provide light should you have a safe place to stay but no electricity. A glow stick will provide light all night for safety when waking in the dark.
Carry a water bottle with a filter. If traveling by car this is easy, just remember to take them to your room at night. If traveling by air take it empty and fill after you get thru security. Following an earthquake the water supply is always affected. After an 8.8 earthquake 2010 in Chile the missionaries survived using filtered water bottles in some cases, for over a month. These are available at a great price thru store.lds.org
Think choking dust. If you don’t want to carry facemasks decide what you will do to mitigate the effects of dust, especially if you have a respiratory challenge such as asthma. You may want to use a scarf, a bandana, a t-shirt or even tear a pillowcase in to strips.
Pack a whistle. A whistle can be heard much farther than a human voice.
Now that You Have Arrived at Your Hotel
If you have not already done so investigate how notification is made in case of an emergency and inquire about escape routes and safe locations in the event of a tsunami.
Check out your surroundings. Locate all exits and staircases and point them out to children. Locate fire extinguishers.
Determine where your family will reunite if a quake strikes. You should already have established a family contact person in case of emergency. Make sure every family member traveling with you has this information. This is important even if your trip is “just” to a favorite amusement park. Imagine not being able to locate your children with thousands of people all looking for loved ones.
Make your room safe. Move items out of the way that may be tripping hazards in the dark. Check to be sure any items over the bed are bolted to the wall. Identify places in the room available to duck, cover and hold on. Desks and tables are the best.
When getting ready for bed place a pair of shoes next to the bed. Place your water bottle, face cover, whistle and headlamp on the nightstand.
Be sure your cell phone is always charged.
And the Earth Begins to Move
If you are in your hotel room and the earth moves go immediately to your safe duck cover and hold on place. If there is no appropriate furniture under which to duck, squat in a corner and cover your head. The corner is structurally the strongest part of the room. The council to stand in a doorway is no longer advised as doors can swing and injure you and building construction has improved so there are now safer areas to utilize for safety.
If you are in bed and there are no objects on the wall over the bed and no ceiling light fixtures, stay there. Curl up in to a ball and protect your head with your pillow.
If you are in bed when an earthquake strikes and it is not safe, use your arm or a pillow and sweep the items on the nightstand on to the floor, you don’t want them coming down on top of you. Roll off the bed and protect your head. When the shaking stops place your shoes on, put on your headlamp, grab your water bottle and whistle and carefully determine if it is safe to exit your room.
If the shaking has stopped and your room and the building seems to have sustained little or no damage, remain in your room. If you wander outside and a large after shock hits you could be injured by falling debris.
If you find yourself trapped do not strike a match or lighter as you could cause leaking gas to ignite. Cover your mouth and nose with the “face mask” you brought with you. Use your whistle to alert rescuers. Stay still as aftershocks and rescuers can cause debris to move and your moving around may do the same. If you hear rescuers and they do not seem to hear your whistle, or you did not bring one, shout or bang on something in a pattern so rescuers will know you are signaling and they are not just hearing noise from debris moving. For example bang three times count to three, bang three times, count to three and continue until you can hear them calling for you and they can hear your voice.
If you are near the ocean, be ready to move to higher ground. Earthquakes can cause tsunamis and you may have only twenty or thirty minutes to escape. If you hear a tsunami warning get out quickly! Be aware the tsunami dangers may last for hours so stay safe on high ground.
If you are outdoors, move as far away as possible from buildings, overhead utilities and streetlights.
If driving pull over to an area away from buildings, bridges, trees, overpasses and utility poles. Never park under an overpass. Remain in your vehicle with seatbelts on until the shaking stops. If power lines are down within 30 feet of your car do not exit your car. Wait for help to come. If the lines are still hot you will be electrocuted stepping out of the car onto the ground.
When you resume driving, drive very slowly and be ready for potholes, damaged bridges, downed trees, injured individuals in the road and lots of debris.
If you are traveling outside your home country call your emergency contact at home to let them know you are safe. Next call your embassy to report your location and condition. Do not make more calls leaving phones available for those needing help and for first responders.
Aftershocks will happen so be prepared and prepare your children so they will be ready and less frightened.
Remember those who thrive and do not merely survive a disaster, are those who have thought thru scenarios and prepared.
Take time, plan and prepare and have a fantastic vacation.
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