Sunday’s scare need not leave Nepal scarred. Consider it a wake up call and practice measures of precaution. The wall that collapsed and claimed three lives in Lainchour was unfortunate, but will pale in comparison to damages should the epicentre of an earthquake fall closer to Kathmandu.
While the actual quaking may last from a few seconds to minutes, its aftermath is unimaginable; telephone towers, roads, and bridges – communication and infrastructure – are expected to be dysfunctional.
If you were nervous about your cell phone rendering useless, take it as a lesson to refrain from using it during a large-scale calamity unless you are in danger. Checking up on loved ones is a natural desire, use Facebook, but don’t choke the network if you can help it.
With relief some five (and counting) days away, active citizenry is a must. www.eqknepal.com, a user-friendly website set up by Dinesh and Pinki Deokota describes five simple to-dos that can be tackled today:
One, check for hazards and brace light fixtures, mirrors and pictures away from where people usually sit. Two, identify secure places both indoors and outdoors. Three, increase awareness and educate your household, office or hostel on turning gas off when not in use, etc. Four, gather disaster supplies. Five, develop emergency communication plan like a pre-destined place to meet afterwards within a stipulated timeframe.
EARTHQUAKE BOX, KIT AND GO-BAG
Guesstimations of Kathmandu’s death toll varies, but without basic survival tools more lives than needed may be lost. National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET) suggests households equip themselves with an ‘Emergency Kit’ for basic search and rescue.
Establishing neighborhood watch programs and learning Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is recommended, but begin by preparing an Earthquake Box, an Earthquake Kit and a Go Bag. What is described below has been adapted from the list published in Earthquake Survival, as developed by Matt Hamilton who can be reached at email@example.com.
An Earthquake Box is to be prepared in durable containers and best stored wherever it is most easily retrievable immediately after an earthquake. The box should include the following.
Some 4 litres of water per person for three to five days as well as water purifying chemicals like Pyush must be included. Canned and packaged foods like chiura, bhattmas, dried noodles, biscuits and nuts are also to be kept aplenty. Store the water and dry goods in separate boxes, note expiration dates and change items accordingly.
Be sure to keep medication as required by family members (a month’s supply is suggested) alongside rehydration packets like Jeevan Jal, pain relievers, tube of burn cream, instant cold compress, band-aids in various sizes, sterile dressing, gauze pads, roller bandages, roll of adhesive tap, antibiotic ointment and waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizer as well as latex gloves, scissors and tweezers.
12 disposable masks, a bar of soap, pads or tampons for women and toothbrushes and toothpaste. A tarp with nylon rope for your make-shift shelter, adequate blankets and sleeping bags for the whole family, at least one complete change of clothing per person and large plastic trash bags to protect yourself and your possessions from the rain. You won’t regret extra shoes or flip-flops either.
Pack in a shovel, pick, crow bar, hacksaw, nylon rope, strong knife or a khukuri. Also, have flashlights and portable radio with extra batteries as well as candles and matches in waterproof containers.
Alternatively, contact Dinesh and Pinki Deokota at firstname.lastname@example.org and 01 4425677 to purchase your assembled Earthquake Box.
An Earthquake Kit is a must for those constantly on the go. If you spend a good few hours on the road, do keep a kit in your vehicle, office, etc. It will help you respond to immediate first aid needs.
The kit should include the necessary medication for you and or your family members. Dust masks, soap, toilet paper, flashlight, candles, safety pins, a pen, small knife, and extra cash as well as 3-5 meters of nylon rope. Don’t forget drinking water as well as water purification chemicals and a packet of dry biscuit or crackers.
For added security, do also carry copies of important papers like your birth and marriage certificate, bank and insurance documents as well as passport. All of these items should be wrapped together in two T-shirts and then in one or two large trash bags.
Finally, the Go Bag is something to pick up and run with as soon as the shaking stops. Put some cash and copies of your most important documents in it. A basic first aid kit and passport-style photos of household members to assist you in identification won’t be regretted. Also carry your bank and credit card information and a map of the city.
The oncoming earthquake is inevitable, what is not is preparation to mitigate the damage. While thousands are expected to immediately die, thousands more may due to lack of basic preparation.
ADDITIONAL STEPS AND PRECAUTION
All these tools will be of less help if you are unaware as to how to use them, Nepal Red Cross Society provides First Aid training complete with practical sessions. Contact: 01-4270650 or email@example.com. Survivors will defeat the earthquake but they may be injured and could do with your help since professional assistance will be limited and could be hours, if not days away.
Oftentimes even a sincere desire to help can cause more harm than good if you are untrained. Tips and other helpful information that may help you in a situation when there is no one else available can be found in the Earthquake Manual, but these are just tips and not trainings. Get yourself certified!
An earthquake alarm will sound once it detects vibration and though it may provide a false sense of safety as it’s not guaranteed to save your life as much as to signal for evacuation, Akshay Sthapit, owner of harilo.com, the popular web portal through which the alarm can also be ordered is thankful for the one he has installed in his house. In light of the 5.7 earthquake on the Richter scale that hit western Nepal in April this year, he says, “I´m happy to say that my EQ alarm went off even though nothing else in the house shook”.
The alarm is said to detect the smaller “P” waves that arrive before the fearful “S” waves giving some 10 to 20 extra seconds to get to your safe place or to exit the building altogether.
If you are currently in the process of building your house, NSET also provides free consultations every Friday for those who would like to develop earthquake-resistance techniques. Conducted by NSET engineers who read the building design, advice will be offered on how to improve earthquake performance and focus on building construction.
There is, of course, no earthquake-proof building, but with appropriate construction, modification or basic preparation the effects of an earthquake can be negotiated. Do prepare as best you can and be creative with the supplies (the T-shirt can be used to wrap a broken arm).
We will all sleep better knowing we did what we could have mitigate the catastrophe. Get more information from NSET (www.nset.org.np), Earthquake Nepal (www.eqknepal.com) or purchase the Earthquake Manual, printed in Nepali, from Gospel for Asia in Jawalakhel.
Source: Thapa, Sradda(2011),"Earthquake 101: Basics of preparing for the inevitable ", The Kathmandu Post, 20 Sept 2011
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