EARTHQUAKE PREPARATION ADVICE
Each of you should make some preparation just in case a major
earthquake, tornado or hurricane does strike your area.
It is very important to not overreact following such a major
There have been dozens of harebrained suggestions from various
well meaning groups put forward. We wish to offer you some simple, common sense
emergency procedures and reasonable preparations which everyone living should
On the top of our list is at least one a legal size clip board with
paper and pen or pencil (attached by a string). A red, permanent ink, felt
tipped marking pen attached by a string is also necessary for your clipboard.
(Carbon paper recommended) and a can of international orange spray paint!
The spray paint is used to paint a large arrow on the side of the
building/residence that points to the location of the clipboard so that rescuers
can find it.
On the top sheet of paper create a form with headings such
- The Dwelling's Address: 523 Your Street
- Preliminary Search: Yes No Searched and Cleared: Yes No To
be Searched: Yes No
- Owner's name: John Smith Address: 733 His Street Contact
#: (just in case a phone is working someplace) 212-555-9112
- Principal Occupant's name: Your Name
Total number of occupants in dwelling: People (and
- The following is a list of residents at this address: (List of each
person resident, your name first, at your location along with their ages)
Name Age Relationship Present
John Q. Public 49 owner Local High School Shelter OK Mary
Public 46 wife Municipal Hospital Broken leg (treated) Timmy Public 16 son
unknown, was at swim class Unknown
Condition of Utilities: Gas: ON OFF Oil:
ON OFF Hydro: ON OFF
Additional Notes and Instructions: (sample use
follows) Timmy, we are all right. I am at the High School Shelter and Mom
is at the hospital with a broken leg. She is doing well. Come to the school.
Dad Aug., 12, 1993 - 10:32 a.m. - Building verified and cleared by VUHR
Cliff Henry, VUHR Team etc.
The clipboard and form serve the following purposes:
- It provides any rescuer with pertinent information on the occupants, their
condition and where about.
- It allows rescue teams to pass information to other rescuers so that the
dwelling is not searched a second or third time thus wasting valuable search
- It provides information to friends and relatives who may have joined in
the search for you.
- By using carbon paper it provides authorities with a removable record
which may be taken to the Disaster Command Center and added to a database.
- Can you think of any more purposes this form would serve?
The red marker will allow a rescuer to place a check mark on the paper to
show the dwelling has been cleared.
Radios and Flashlights:
For one thing, you won't need a flashlight or radio inside a
basic disaster (earthquake, tornado or hurricane) survival kit. One radio for
200 persons is plenty. A century ago there were zero radios. News will travel
from person to person. Radios and a flashlights both need batteries, which run
out quickly, have a short shelf life, etc. And don't forget, there probably
won't be any stores open that can sell you more new batteries after a major
If you end up at the refugee center they will probably have an
emergency power source such as a small portable generator. If not, why not just
sit in the dark to talk in the evenings. If you feel that must have a light
source we would recommend chemical light sticks. They are cheap, light weight,
readily available and have a long shelf life. One half dozen six inch light
sticks! Each will burn for 12 hours (actually, they provide light for a much
longer period of time). At least one should be r ed! You will use the red
stick if you are trapped or pinned inside and can see outside. Once you have
activated the red light stick a rescuer will see that there is someone in need
There's an excellent chance, after a major disaster, that
martial law will have been declared and you won't be going out at night. In this
eventuality most activities requiring light will be done during the day when the
sun was out. You prepare for night ahead of time. Depending on how you look at
it, and having a positive outlook is very important during such trying times,
losing electricity for a few days could actually be a blessing in disguise.
Disaster or Quake Kits:
One of the kits and you should have at
least one per household member, should be just inside the front door or near a
window in your bedroom. A chemical light stick should be near your bed and
readily accessible, not buried down inside your long term survival kit. A good
location might be to place one or two between the box spring and mattress on
each side of the bed.
A major disaster can happen anytime, day or night. So you have a
50% chance that a disaster hits it will happen during darkness. And if you sleep
8 hours a night then there is a 33.3% chance that you'll be sleeping. 66.7%
chance that you'll be awake. How many hours a day are you at work or school? You
should have one of our recommended disaster kits there as well. You probably
won't be killed or maimed in a major disaster! Look at the statistics. It's kind
of like flying. Some people are afraid of flying , but statistically speaking -
flying is the safest way to travel. So let's make a reasonable level of general
preparation, then we can go about our lives.
In any major disaster people may be killed immediately. But many
more will die in the confusion of the aftermath possibly due to occurrences such
as fires. Disorganization, lack of communication, no water, screaming people
trapped in building rubble will all add to this confusion. People will rush to
the large parks, where the authorities said they should go.
Disasters are horrible! People will die. Rumors start.
Looting can begin with the breakdown of law enforcement. When regular authority
breaks down people believe rumors according to their prejudices. Consequently
ethnic people might be killed by insane mobs trying to stop the looting.
International rescue teams have been accused of being looters in efforts to
prevent their saving lives or to cover up government corruption and mistakes. In
a major disaster, the world as you know it, will cease to exist and you must be
prepared both mentally and with personal survival kits.
If you live or are in a big city when a major disaster, such as
an earthquake, occurs try to get some personal identification like your
passport, some money, clothes, etc., and walk out, if it appears possible to do
so. A person can walk pretty far in one day with relatively level terrain, roads
to follow, etc. No problem. At 4 miles/hour an uninjured person could walk a
fair distance in a day or two.
There are several reasons to try to leave the quake area - and
to help others do the same. In the Kobe quake we saw the almost total lack of
personal initiative on the part of average Japanese citizens. Why should the
locals need to be told what makes sense? Tourists driving in, blocking roads so
that relief vehicles couldn't get through. Lack of coordination in food
delivery. Little effort to search for trapped persons until a couple of days had
passed... Unbelievable! A whistle on your pajamas? A pick ax and hydraulic jack
would be more appropriate. What is the most reasonable level of preparation?
That's our focus. We can't stop the quakes from happening. But we can respond
quickly and help others to escape the danger. An important note is in order: the
Japanese government wants everyone to go to the large city parks. But if law
& order breaks down (followed by lack of sanitation), remember what has
happened in history. -Incredibly, just following the Kobe Quake some Japanese
news reports said that "foreigners" were looting. In fact, one story
told that some foreigners were coming into the area to steal. That's just what
"pre-judging" people need to hear! Actually I don't doubt the
validity. But the consequences could be disastrous for us minority foreigners.
Guilty until proven innocent.... This writer's advice is to make a few newfound
friends and walk out to less congested areas, if possible.
The ARTI recommended Quake Kit is cheap, flexible and long
lasting. Let the department stores sell their expensive wares. We're going down
to the neighborhood shops for our kits. The main part of this kit should cost
you a few dollars! That's all. For that amount of "insurance" you are
reasonably prepared for most quake-related danger. But if a large cabinet
crushes your leg or a chunk of concrete lands on your head then even the most
expensive kit in the world wouldn't do you a bit of good, would it?
The essential items are:
- a dozen or so disposable dust masks - there will be a lot of dust
and airborne bacteria from decaying bodies
- 1 roll of toilet paper,
- 2 candles,
- 4 safety pins,
- a pen,
- a small knife,
- $20.00 (or more) in cash,
- 3-5 meters of strong string,
- plastic bowl with lid,
- 1 liter of bottled water and a water filtration straw,
- and 1 package of dry biscuits or crackers.
- Heavy winter clothes? Depends on your climate, but maybe a sweater and
plastic poncho are a good ideas as well.
These items are put together, wrapped inside 2 T-shirts, then
wrapped in a waterproof plastic bag or 4-5 plastic shopping bags. All of this is
minimum. And except for the cash and T-shirts it should cost you very little to
put this all together.
The idea is to be able to survive the first day or so without
too much discomfort given the overall situation. You must make 2 kits. One for
home and the other for your primary work or school location. Earthquake
preparation kits should be kept: Kit #1 - in trunk of car; Kit #2 - in a plastic
sealed garbage can in a hole in backyard filled with sand and covered by a
couple of inches of sand on top. Statistically speaking, this would be pretty
good preparation. A compact, durable kit which will last for several years.
Think about this - the San Francisco quake happened at 5 p.m.
Most people weren't home. So their elaborate kits at home were buried or at
least inaccessible. We remember seeing people returning home a few days later -
to retrieve (among other things) their emergency kits. You just can't completely
prepare for the Big One.
In an emergency situation you must be innovative. This is
paramount! Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn once wrote an entire book
(while in prison) on onion skins. What can you do with a whole roll of toilet
paper? You could write on it, make temporary flags, clean a wound, wrap food for
later, blow your nose, twist tightly when wet, then dry, to make a crude wick,
etc. And if there's no water you can't flush the toilets or wash your hands. How
will you keep clean? Add a large container of `pre ned towelettes' to your
survival kit. Sealed, they keep for years. Believe me, there is nothing like
wiping your face with one when you've been coated in dust and grime for hours or
even days at a time.
This is important - a million people, with limited
sanitation! In 3-4 days diseases will begin spreading. Keep as clean as
There is a possibility of heavy smoke from fires. Tie one of the
T-shirts around your mouth and nose. If possible, a wet T-shirt. Your 2 T-shirts
double as towels or they could be torn into strips for either a tunicate (to
stop the blood from a gaping wound) or a splint. With toppled buildings nearby
wood for splints should be readily available.
A broken arm or dislocated shoulder? Use those safety pins (or
even heavy staples, glue, etc.) to make one T-shirt into a temporary sling.
Affix the hem to the neckline. Put the T-shirt on and slip the arm into the
"sling" made by the material.
And you really should add a few more things. But at least have
the water, biscuits and a few other things on hand. To make 2 kits the cost is
negligible. And it's all useable, long lasting stuff. Your school/office based
kit should have extra prescription medication, contact lens cleaner, sanitary
napkins, etc. Imagine that you can't go home and no stores will be open for a
Part of your kit might include a few cans of cola. It has a long
shelf life and carbohydrates. Chocolate though won't last through one August. As
we stated earlier you want nothing that needs batteries. But then a deck of
cards or flask of whiskey would be useful. Whiskey is a pain killer, friend
maker, and crude sterilizer. How about one of those paperback books that you've
been planning to read someday. Do you smoke? Unless you plan to quit for a few
tense days you may want to add a few packs to your k it.
Without a change of clothes and probably no razor you won't win
any beauty contests, but then who wants to carry extra baggage either.
Realistically ... you'll probably be aiding the injured in some relief center
rather than just saving your own skin. You'll help with foraging, traffic
control, caring for the injured, etc. Don't plan to be alone nor completely
outside. But this depends largely on where you live.
For disaster planning bureaucrats in many countries think they
have it down pat. A lot of wisdom goes into their decision making. But when
the unexpected happens it seems that no one knows what to do unless they're told.
If and when a tragedy does strike ... let's help our neighbors and show them
how to make quick decisions - that save lives.