Monday, May 18, 2015

What I know about responding to earthquake disasters at home

The major earthquake that struck Nepal on 25th April 2015 has sent a strong message across the neighboring countries reminding us of the need to be prepared for such disasters when they struck our own home. Looking at the extent of damage on human lives and properties caused by the 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Nepal, we should understand that we cannot afford to take things for granted and relax because as experts point out, we too fall within the active seismic zone and we don’t know when will it be our turn to face it. So, it’s comforting to learn from the Kuensel article Prepared for earthquake response, the Royal Government of Bhutan has decided to take initiatives right from now to help the people of Bhutan prepare well in advance for such inevitable calamities so that we can respond to the situation more effectively.

History tells us that Bhutan has hosted large earthquakes before and it’s possible that we can be hit once again someday. We don’t know what’s going on deep under us. We simply take things for granted believing that such disasters are the acts of God and that there isn’t much we can do to prevent them. But I strongly feel that while we can’t prevent natural disasters, proper preparedness and knowledge can certainly help us respond to such tragedies effectively and make crucial decisions to save ourselves and others. As the government is coming up with various plans and projects at the national level to prepare the country for similar disasters, I have learned about other basic tips that might help us remain safe at the personal level. So, I thought I would share them with you here today. The tips are as follows:
1. Switch off electrical appliances and cooking gas: I have heard that the moment earthquake strikes, you should first make sure that your electrical appliances like heaters and cooking gas are switched off to avoid accidents and further destructions.
2. Do not panic as it can inhibit your ability to make crucial decisions at that crucial time. When earthquake, or for that matter, any natural disaster strikes, the situation demands you to make right decisions and take right steps at the right time to get to safety. During all of the tremors I felt over the past few weeks as a result of Nepal’s earthquake, I never panicked and responded to the situation with ease and comfort. I feel it’s very important to have good control of the situation and over-reacting might be even more dangerous at times.
3. If you can’t escape out of the house, look for a table or bed to squeeze yourself under. This would protect you from the falling objects from the ceiling or walls. Do not let your children remain near the TV stands and book-shelves for they might get injured.
4. I have heard that if you can, the first thing you should do is to open the main door so that even if the house collapses, you would have the possibility of squeezing out the house through the rubbles. Otherwise, the closed door could further jam the entrance when the house comes down.
5. If you get a chance to run out of your house, you should look for an open space, free from the reach of falling walls, trees and other objects in the areas. It’s advised that you should not take refuge near any building, electric poles or trees during such moments. You should pay attention to the ground where you are standing because large earthquakes can create cracks in the ground that might drag you in.
6. If you are in your car, you should park it in an open space, away from buildings, cliffs and trees.
7. You should also be mindful of the fact that tremors can cause landslides, floods and displace heavy rocks on the hills. So, you should choose a place which looks safe from all those possible consequences of earthquakes.
8. Last but not the least, you should not forget to grab your mobile-phone when you rush out of your house. It would help you get to the rescue teams and friends/families for help.

I am not sure how much those tips can help us when the real earthquake disaster strikes us but I feel at least they might help some of us. What scares me the most if such a disaster strikes Bhutan is that tremors might cause some of our glacial lakes to explode resulting in catastrophic floods down the valleys. We have thousands of glacial lakes in our mountains most of which are on the verge of explosion as reported by geologists. So the biggest worry for Bhutan if large earthquakes strike would be how to be safe from those dangerous lakes which have the potential to cause Tsunami from the sky, as a documentary on Bhutan’s glacial lakes is titled. Moreover, I feel that there’s chance even for our rivers to change their course as a result of which many human settlements can be wiped out. But these are the worst consequences we can ever imagine. The first and foremost thing we should have in place are strong buildings and houses that can resist the brunt of high magnitude earthquakes. I hope the guardian deities of Bhutan would continue to safeguard us against such evil forces of Nature.


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