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In case of an earthquake: what to do and what not

The earth continues to shake… The big one in California is coming soon, and still, millions of people are living their lives as if nothing will happen, while the power of the actual earth is slowly breaking apart, and will soon end in a massive earthquake that we need to prepare for!

There were tremors recorded a few days ago, and another one was felt today. Some call them “shocks”, others “joint phenomena”: in these cases, the correct scientific terminology comes to terms with the expressions of ordinary people that run after each other in the media.

But it’s not just the terms that get mistreated in these situations. As unfortunately often happens in these cases, the advice and indications on what to do are a mixture of indications from the competent authorities, hearsay, information taken from the TV and advice from the grandmother. 

It then becomes almost an obligation for this site to give the correct indications on what to do and what NOT to do, giving clear explanations and motivating the choices made, also reporting the indications of civil protection and highlighting the wrong advice that could cost us our lives.

So let’s see the possible scenario and what to do: we are at home with the whole family, it could be 15.00 or 23.00, and suddenly we feel the shock. What’s now?

During the shock

It seems (but not all scholars agree on this point) that earthquakes cannot be predicted. So let’s say that we will feel the shock and we will be taken aback. The first things they taught us to do are:

  • seek shelter under the table
  • seek shelter in the opening of a door of a load-bearing wall

These are indications from the 1960s and may not work or even worse outcomes. In fact, once the furniture was made of solid wood and the houses had load-bearing walls. Today houses are built on a system of pillars and beams and not of load-bearing WALLS, as can be seen in a construction site. so the probability that we will find the bearing wall is much lower than it used to be. 

In addition, many have at home a beautiful Swedish design table with an unpronounceable name made of pressed chipboard covered in birch on which it is strongly not recommended to stand up because it certainly would not stand …

  • Rule # 1: There are no “no-brainer” rules to swallow and parrot without understanding
  • Rule # 2: Understand the meaning of the instructions and understand if / how they should be adapted to our specific case

It is up to us to find the most solid shelter under which to shelter ourselves and our loved ones. Be it a piece of furniture, a masonry construction or something else. The function of this shelter is mainly to protect us from falling objects such as furniture, ornaments, furnishings and rubble of smaller dimensions that could fall on us. Such shelters are unlikely to be adequate to protect us in the most catastrophic case of a building collapse.

As soon as the shock is over

The first thought must be to evacuate the building taking the whole family with you to go to a predetermined collection point or even simply outdoors away from other buildings. 

This must be done quickly and efficiently but without rushing, without rushing and trying to remain lucid and present without falling into panic. After the first shock, there may in fact be others within a short distance (minutes or seconds).

The first thing to do is to put on your shoes. Without these, all subsequent operations could be severely hampered. Rather run naked, but with shoes …

In this case, our trusty Bug Out Bag (BOB) and the other accessories must be grabbed in a very short time to then proceed quickly to an open place. If unfortunately the BOB is not reachable or is stuck under furniture and rubble, do not insist on recovering it in order not to waste time.

  • Rule # 3: Put your shoes on !! Is critical.
  • Rule # 4: The Bug Out Bag must be on hand in an easily accessible place.
  • Rule # 5: If the Bug Out Bag or other material is not immediately reachable it must be abandoned.

Leave the building.

Leave the building proceeding calmly, without running. Despite all the advice, it is logical to expect to be scared, agitated, and not very clear, and therefore many mistakes will be made even in the best of hypotheses. Running would be one of these: moving without awareness in a dangerous and unsafe environment could add to the emergence of an injury, sprain or other

We do not take the elevator for any reason. Let’s make sure of the state of the building and the safest route step by step. We avoid passing in unsafe, collapsed or obviously unstable points.

  • Rule # 6: Don’t panic, let’s try to stay calm
  • Rule # 7: Leave the building on the safest route possible. Don’t take the elevator.

The first destination

Once outside the building, it is important to move to an open area such as a parking lot or park that is as far away as possible from other buildings and industrial structures. Alleys and alleys are extremely dangerous in these moments, given the possibility of collapses of varying degrees and crowding. What we want to do is move away from any possible source of danger:

  • panicked people (who we can go to help later)
  • rubble, bricks, flower pots, glass or other objects that can fall from buildings and balconies
  • gas pipes damaged by the shock
  • uncovered and powered power wires
  • hazardous industrial plants (chemicals, high voltage, gas)

Once this destination has been reached, it is advisable to make the first check.

Are we all here?

Are we all well?

What were we able to take with us?

Do we have water, blankets, a first aid kit or something else?

What do we see around us and in what condition are other people?

  • Rule # 8: Go to an open place away from sources of danger
  • Rule # 9: Make a first point of the situation
  • Rule # 10: Coordinate with relief efforts
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At this point, it is best to avoid using the telephone (which we have with us, right?) As most likely the lines will not work, and they must certainly be left free for emergencies.

At this moment, if we have wounded people around us, the priority becomes to bring or find help. 

If everyone is safe and the situation remains stable for a few hours we can think that the worst is over. At this point, we can wait and put our trust in ourselves and in the competent authorities such as civil protection, the red cross or the army.

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