Monday, February 29, 2016

Emergency Readiness Tips - Updated Version

Since mid-February the shaky little city in which I live (Christchurch, NZ) has been going through an especially wiggly phase. 

Some of these quakes have made it onto 'the peak ground acceleration list', so they are not weeny. We had one last night that rudely woke the city at 3.30 am. Flight or fight response is not conducive to drifting back to sleep, nor is it a good way to start a productive working day. Oh.. so tired.

We've been living with random quakes for five years now, since the 2011 one that flattened Christchurch and the whole country has become, I think, somewhat resilient.  However, familiarity should not equal complacency. I feel like it's time for a reminder on how to equip yourself for something I hope you'll never experience.

It only takes a few things to be ready, and believe me, in a natural disaster being prepared turns you from helpless into helpful. You become part of the answer to what is probably a huge problem.

The Quake

- Stay as calm as possible. Quakes are loud and scary but most people survive them, and in modern cities, most houses do not collapse. There is a high chance you'll be fine. Try to avoid being hit by stuff falling over (see next point).

- Secure things which might fall over.  Bedside lamps, bookcases, TV's, dressers. All of these things can injure you. Bluetack works for small things. For larger ones, there are ways to secure them to the walls - chains, brackets.

- Quakes can happen at night and the power will probably go out! Stash a few sturdy torches around your house, and have one somewhere close to your bed that you could find in the dark and that is of a shape that won't roll away. Schedule battery checks!

- Clothes and shoes. Don't be naked in the street with cut feet from broken glass! I have sandals, tracky pants and a sweatshirt just tucked in my bedside table.

- As regards what to do, I say it depends where you are. Be aware that outside is not necessarily safer as things fall off buildings (brickwork, chimneys). Getting under something sturdy like a table or doorway is still good advice, although, personally, I head for an open space outside as soon as possible. It's like a primal instinct I can't repress.

Disaster kit

- The Californians have been doing earthquakes rather well for a long time. Click here for their 
recommendations of what you should have. A few things I found essential:

- Water is the #1 thing. We have 20L stored in glass bottles (drinking water) and 40L stored in plastic bladders (washing etc, drinking if necessary). These need to be refreshed now and then.

- Panadol. After each quake I came down with a massive headache. As a habitual coffee drinker, I get the panadol with caffeine in it. 

- Wipes and sanitising gel. Water may be scarce and it's good to keep yourself stink-free with wet-wipes and so on. Alcohol-based hand sanitiser (that evaporates) is also a must for avoiding sickness from eating with grubby hands.

- Paper towels. Dishclothes and so on quickly get stanky if you can't wash them.

- Battery powered radio + spare batteries. It may be your only connection to the outside world.

- Fresh socks and undies.

- Catfood! You do not need the added pain of whining felines.

- Smokers should have cigarettes stockpiled. Although I disagree with smoking (pew!), post EQ is no time to turn over a new leaf.

- First Aid Kit, including the usual (bandages, antiseptic creams, gauze, alcohol wipes, saline etc.) and any essential medications.


- Canned food and other non-perishable food. Try to get low-salt versions so that they don't make you thirsty. Dried food is good too, but again, you need to stay hydrated. Remember to cater for special needs (gluten free etc) and for children.

- Don't forget the chocolate ... ;)   

- Although it's good to have a freezer full, you can't rely on it completely because of the possibility of a lengthy power cut.

Other considerations

- Workplaces should also be prepared. It may not be possible for people to get home.

- Cash. Electronic cash systems may fail. A change jar should do the trick. Small denomination notes and coins are much appreciated by retailers.

- Gas in your car! Not only may the car be your source of information (car radio) but if it's cold, you can get the heater going in there. Perhaps treat the midline as 'empty'. The queues and fights at gas stations after the major quakes in Christchurch were alarming.

- A gas barbeque or gas cooker - with a full gas bottle.

- I like to store some things outside (actually, in the garage, just inside the door) and some inside. I always thought that if the house became unsafe, we would still need to be able to get to our essential things.

- It's good to have some clothes made of natural fibres. They do not get rank if you have to wear them for a few days, or even weeks, without washing. This goes doubly for socks.

I hope that gives you some ideas, and unlike all of my other posts, I hope this one remains completely useless to you for the rest of your life!

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