Earthquake preparedness

You never know when disaster will strike, here are some tips to be prepared for emergencies, including making a family disaster plan, preparing an emergency kit, and what to do during and after an earthquake.

Family Disaster Plan

Your family may not be together when disaster strikes. Develop a communication plan that covers how you will contact one another and what you will do in different situations. Your plan should include:

  • Two places your family will meet in the event of an emergency:  one right outside your home and the other outside your neighborhood.
  • A friend or family member outside of Taiwan who will act as your “family contact”.
  • An earthquake plan which identifies a safe place in every room of your home where family members can protect themselves during shaking.

Practice your plan and be sure all family members are clear on what to do.  For more information on creating a family plan, see www.redcross.org and click on the “Preparing and Getting Trained” link  or www.prepare.org and click on the “Disaster Preparedness” link. It’s good to have a workplace plan as well, check this site for tips. Your disaster plan should also include registering you and all your family members with your country’s embassy or trade office in Taipei.

Disaster Supplies Kit

Prepare a disaster supplies kit for home, car and office.  These kits should include some or all of the following:
  • first aid kit and essential medications
  • canned or non-perishable food and can opener – enough to last at least 72 hours
  • at least 3 gallons of water per person
  • protective clothing, rainwear and bedding / sleeping bags
  • battery-powered radio, flashlights and extra batteries
  • alcohol-based hand cleaner
  • special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members.
  • copies of important documents, including passports, ARCs, credit cards, financial accounts and lists of important telephone numbers
  • food, leash and kennel for pets
Consider packing your disaster kit in something waterproof that is easy to grab and carry in the event you must evacuate quickly.   The Red Cross provides an excellent, detailed disaster kit checklist here: Disaster Preparedness Kit.

 

What You Can Do to Prepare

Soon after you have moved into your residence, assess your home’s readiness to withstand an earthquake. To prepare for an earthquake, do the following:
  • Secure bookcases and other top-heavy furniture to wall studs with metal L-brackets and/or lag screws.
  • Replace conventional cabinet door latches with safety latches that will not open in a quake.
  • Keep heavy objects on low shelves.
  • Secure hanging fixtures well.
  • Store toxic and flammable materials in spillproof, crushproof containers on low shelves, preferably in locked cabinets.
  • Remove any lock wheels or casters on the refrigerator and other heavy appliances or block them so they will not move.
  • Brace your water heater by fastening it to a wall with metal straps.
  • Keep flashlights and sturdy shoes by your bedside.

When an Earthquake Occurs

Stay where you are! Most earthquake injuries occur as people enter or leave buildings. The greatest danger is from falling objects just outside exterior doorways and walls. In the event of an earthquake, do the following:
If you are inside,
  • Stay inside unless fire has broken out or until you are advised otherwise. Take the best available cover and make sure children are protected.
  • Open the door for your exit route, as strong movement can cause door frames to distort and doors to jam.
  • Turn off electricity and gas.
  • Move to a safe location, get under a sturdy table or desk, stand or crouch in a strong doorway in a load-bearing wall – not a partition wall – or brace yourself in an inside corner of the room.
  • If possible, shield your head with a coat, cushion or blanket.
  • Stay away from windows, mirrors or other glass that might shatter.
  • Avoid chandeliers and other heavy hanging objects that might fall.
  • Keep clear of bookcases, cabinets and other pieces of heavy furniture that might topple or spill their contents.
  • Stay away from stoves, heating units, fireplaces and any area where bricks might fall from the chimney.
  • If you are in a high-rise building, do not use the elevators or the stairs.
  • If you are instructed to leave the building, protect your head with a chair or some other sturdy object and watch for falling objects such as windows, glass, walls, ceilings or other loose objects.
If you are outside,
  • Find shelter outdoors, unless you are lucky enough to be in an open space where nothing can fall on you. Be sure to stay clear of power lines and poles, trees or branches, external stairs, building facade ornaments, chimneys or anything that might fall.
  • If you are downtown, hazards increase, especially in areas of highrise buildings. Windows and building facades can shower the streets with deadly litter. Get under a strong doorway or crawl under a parked vehicle, the bigger the better.
What to Do After the Shaking Stops
  • Check yourself for injuries.
  • Check others for injuries, provide first aid and/or seek medical assistance, as required.
  • Check your home for damage and fires.  Turn off the gas if you think you smell a leak.  If you think your home is unsafe, get everyone out.
  • Listen to ICRT (FM 100.7) for information updates.
  • Prepare to experience after-shocks which can be almost as severe as the initial quake and may occur minutes, hours or even days later.  If you feel one, take cover.
If the earthquake is severe it may be wise to contact your local trade office for advice.

Water
Typhoons and earthquakes have the potential not only to disrupt but also contaminate the city’s drinking water supply. Until you can be certain that your water is safe following an earthquake or typhoon, you may wish to take one of the following steps:

Level 1 Protection – Filter tap water through charcoal filters which are available locally for drinking and cooking. Make sure to run the faucet wide open for about one minute in the morning before using and reduce the flow during use to a slow trickle. Charcoal needs time to filter organic materials and chemicals.

Level 2 Protection – Use only filtered or boiled tap water for cooking. For drinking purposes boil the water for 15 to 20 minutes after charcoal filtering or use bottled water.

Staying Healthy During a Natural Disaster
Disasters present not only property safety concerns but also family health concerns. During a serious disaster impure water, spoiled food, garbage and sewage can lead to sickness. Normal services may not be available for days during an emergency. You should prepare your household to function without outside services for at least seven days, although interruption to services for this length of time is rare.
The following measures will help your family members to stay healthy:
  • Store enough drinking water to last seven days: at least 3 gallons (12 liters) for each family member. Humans can survive for quite some time without food, but clean water is a necessity.  Emergency drinking water can be made by adding five drops of household bleach to one gallon of water or by boiling water for 15 minutes. To reduce consumption of emergency drinking water, supplement with other fluids such as canned juices and sodas.
  • Note: Stored water does not stay pure for long. Water should be changed and containers cleaned and disinfected at least monthly.
  • Keep enough canned / shelf-stable food on hand for seven days. Power outages can be counted on during and after typhoons and serious earthquakes. If the power outage is lengthy, fresh food may spoil. Powdered, condensed or evaporated milk is a handy substitute for fresh milk. When purchasing emergency food supplies, stick to items that can be eaten without cooking.
  • Store all refuse in large plastic trash bags and close them securely. Garbage attracts insects that may carry disease into your home. Household insecticides may also be helpful to discourage insects.
  • Fill all bathtubs, sinks and containers with water, then use this water to operate toilets.

Links to disaster planning resources

Taiwan Central Weather Bureau information on typhoons and earthquakes
USGS information / tracking of earthquakes world-wide

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