Taking into account the geology of Pakistan, the country encompasses land where both the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. Due to its placement, the country particularly susceptible to earthquakes. This makes Pakistan one of the most seismically active countries in the world, being crossed by several major fault lines. As a result of its placement on where the two tectonic plates collide, earthquakes in Pakistan occur often and are destructive.
Since Pakistan is in a region prone to earthquakes, it’s best to be prepared. Here are some steps that you can take before, during and after an earthquake to ensure your safety, and the safety of those around you.
Before an earthquake:
1. Make a plan:
Earthquakes happen without any warning. However, one can always take certain steps to minimize the impact and damage incurred by the tremors. Preparedness starts with a plan, so for starters:
- The first step is to develop an emergency communication plan. Be it anywhere, you must have a plan for yourself, your family, neighbourhood, and organisation to assess your surroundings and what steps to take in case of an emergency.
- Learn the earthquake plan at your school or workplace and take note of the escape routes and their conditions. Raise a flag if you’re not satisfied with the conditions.
- A few essentials that should be stacked up in the area, especially near the escape routes are a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, extra batteries, charging devices for phones and other critical equipment, and a whistle. Most importantly, also consider each person’s specific needs like medication.
- In your homes, store important documents and other belongings in a dedicated yet safe spot. Guide your family members on how to act in case of emergencies, so that they can easily be retrieved by any member of the family. The documents may include passports, Identity cards, and property documents.
- Have an effective communication plan, particularly in case you are separated from your family during an earthquake. Don’t forget to practice this plan especially with young children. Prepare them by briefing about the calamities daily or weekly. Tell them the procedures to protect their head and neck safe, and later brief them on ways of evacuation.
2. Educate yourself and your family members:
- In your homes, make sure to educate your family about natural emergencies and guide them about what to do in such situations.
- In case of such an emergency, all family members should know how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water.
- ‘Drop, Cover, then Hold On’– this is the most useful technique one must know of especially since we live in an earthquake-prone area. Drop to your knees and cover your head and neck with your arms.
- Identify safe places for your family members, both indoors and outdoors.
3. Check for hazards in your home:
- Fasten shelves securely to walls and place heavy and/or large objects on lower shelves.
- Remember to hang items such as paintings, pictures, and mirrors away from your beds, couches, and anywhere people sit.
- Check for faulty electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. Along with timely checks, make sure to fix any defective pieces. These can be a source of potential fire risks.
- Check for signs of structural defects like cracks in walls or foundations. Get them repaired as well.
4. Check the property you live in:
- If you are choosing a new property, check if it is earthquake resistant as per the local building codes. If not, enquire about how to make your homes earthquake resistant.
5. Bringing the community together:
It is important to bring the community together to help out in a state of emergency. It can minimize losses and damages as well. Since we live in a country that has so many fault lines, the neighbourhood needs to come together as soon as an emergency occurs.
- The entire neighbourhood should save contact numbers of one another.
- If feasible, a wooden shed could be built to store emergency kits, blankets and other things that could come in handy during the dire time.
- To work together in your community, share knowledge, from house codes, hazard hunts in case of emergencies, and your family emergency plans. Afterwards, devise neighbourhood emergency plans.
During the Earthquake:
When this calamity strikes, staying as safe as possible during the shocks should be your priority. Beware, because some earthquakes can actually be foreshocks due to the presence of our country on two tectonic plates and a bigger earthquake might occur. Wherever you are, minimise your movements to the few steps it will take you to get to a nearby safe place.
In case of indoors
1. Drop, cover and hold on:
Drop where you are, onto your hands and knees. Make sure to cover your head and neck with your arms. If there is heavy furniture nearby, like a sturdy table or desk, crawl underneath it to protect yourself, but only if you can reach better cover without going through any danger or more debris. Remember to stay on your knees and bend over to protect vital organs from any injury.
In case of being on wheelchairs or are in a seated position, make sure to lock your wheelchairs and bend forward to cover your head with your arms, and hold on to your neck with both hands.
2. In case of debris, don’t run outside.
3. Don’t use the elevators.
4. If a desk or a table is unavailable, drop to the floor next to an interior wall and protect your head and neck.
5. If you’re in the bed, stay there and cover head with a pillow. Get out after the tremors stop.
6. Stand against the nearby wall, the centre of the building, or in a doorway.
7. Stand away from windows and outside doors.
In the case of outdoors:
1. Move away to an area that is clear of buildings, power lines, trees and other hazards.
2. If you’re driving, safely pull over to the side of the road. In case you can’t pull over, avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signboards, trees and other things that have a risk of collapsing on the vehicle.
After the Earthquake:
If an earthquake had just recently happened, there is a serious chance of aftershocks, as well as other hazards such as damage to the building and houses, leaking gas and water lines, or suspended electricity.
1. Avoid damaged building:
- If you are in a damaged building, go outside and quickly move away from the building.
- Refrain from entering damaged buildings or houses to retrieve your stuff.
2. Be careful of the debris:
- To help rescue people from debris, remember that there will be broken glass and debris everywhere. Wear boots to keep from cutting your feet.
- Cover your eyes and mouth properly to stay safe from dust.
3. Secure your home from damaged and hazardous conditions;
- Do not re-enter your home until you know it’s safe.
- As soon as you enter your home, shut off power at the main breaker switch to avoid any further issues or further damage. It must be off until the authorities deem it to be safe and the damage is repaired.
- Unplug every appliance, especially any broken or toppled light fixtures and appliances as these could start fires.
- To curb the gas leaks, turn off the gas supply as well. Amidst all the panic, it can be difficult to suspect or assess a broken pipe or leak. Don’t turn gas back on by yourself.
- Depending on the magnitude of the earthquake, the walls may be weakened, with a chance of toppling during aftershocks. Try to stay away from the walls until you have assessed the damage.
Earthquakes are a natural disaster that can happen quite suddenly and without warning. However, if we are well-prepared and keep a cool head, the loss and damage incurred in the event of an earthquake can greatly be reduced. We hope these tips will help keep you and your loved ones secure in the event of an earthquake. If you have any questions, or if there’s something you want to add to the discussions, please do a leave a message in the comment section below.