Useful Tips to Save Ourselves Against Disasters
What to do before an Earthquake?
- Repair deep plaster cracks in ceilings and foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
- Anchor overhead lighting fixtures to the ceiling.
- Follow BIS codes relevant to your area for building standards.
- Fasten shelves securely to walls.
- Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
- Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.
- Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, settees, and anywhere people sit.
- Brace overhead light and fan fixtures.
- Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks.
- Secure a water heater, LPG cylinder etc., by strapping it to the wall studs and bolting it to the floor.
- Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.
Identify safe places indoors and outdoors.
- Under strong dining table, sturdy table, and bed
- Away from where glass could shatter around windows, mirrors, pictures, or where heavy bookcases or other heavy furniture could fall over
- In the open, away from buildings, trees, telephone and electrical lines, flyovers, bridges.
- Educate yourself and family members.
- Know emergency telephone numbers (doctor, hospital, police, etc.)
Have a disaster emergency kit ready?
- Battery operated torch
- Extra batteries
- Battery operated radio
- First aid kit and manual
- Emergency food (dry items) and water (packed and sealed)
- Candles and matches in a waterproof container
- Chlorine tablets or powdered water purifiers
- Can opener.
- Essential medicines
- Cash and credit cards
- Thick ropes and cords
- ID proofs
- Sturdy shoes
Develop an emergency communication plan. In case family members are separated from one another during an earthquake (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), develop a plan for reuniting after the disaster. Ask an out of state relative or friend to serve as the ‘family contact’ after a disaster it’s often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person. Help your community to get ready.
- Publish a special section in your local newspaper with emergency information on earthquakes. Localize the information by printing the phone numbers of local emergency services offices and hospitals.
- Conduct a weeklong series on locating hazards in the home
- Work with local emergency services and officials to prepare special reports for people with mobility impairments on what to do during an earthquake.
- Provide tips on conducting earthquake drills in the home.
- Interview representatives of the gas, electric, and water companies about shutting off utilities.
- Work together in your community to apply your knowledge to building codes, retrofitting programmers, hazard hunts, and neighborhood and family emergency plans.
What to do during an Earthquake?
- Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur.
- Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and stay indoors until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe. If indoors DROP to the ground; Take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; And HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
- Protect yourself by staying under the lintel of an inner door, in the corner of a room, under a table or even under a bed.
- Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
- Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
- Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, loadbearing doorway.
- Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
- Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
- DO NOT use the elevators.
- Stay there.
- Move away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and utility wires.
- Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops.
- The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits, and alongside exterior walls.
- Most earthquakes related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.
If in a moving vehicle
- Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
- Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.
If trapped under debris
- Do not light a match.
- Do not move about or kick up dust.
- Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
- Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
After an earthquake
- Keep calm, switch on the radio/TV and obey any instructions you hear on it.
- Keep away from beaches and low banks of rivers. Huge waves may sweep in.
- Expect aftershocks. Be prepared.
- Turn off the water, gas and electricity.
- Do not smoke and do not light matches or use a cigarette lighter. Do not turn on switches. There may be gas leaks or short-circuits.
- Use a torch.
- If there is a fire, try to put it out. If you cannot, call the fire brigade.
- If people are seriously injured, do not move them unless they are in danger.
- Immediately clean up any inflammable products that may have spilled (alcohol, paint, etc).
- If you know that people have been buried, tell the rescue teams. Do not rush and do not worsen the situation of injured persons or your own situation.
- Avoid places where there are loose electric wires and do not touch any metal object in contact with them.
- Do not drink water from open containers without having examined it and filtered it through a sieve, a filter or an ordinary clean cloth.
- If your home is badly damaged, you will have to leave it. Collect water containers, food, and ordinary and special medicines (for persons with heart complaints, diabetes, etc.)
- Do not reenter badly damaged buildings and do not go near damaged structures.
Before a Flood
To prepare for a flood, you should:
- Avoid constructing your home in a flood prone area unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
- Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel if susceptible to flooding.
- Install “check valves” in sewer traps to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
- Contact community officials to find out if they are planning to construct barriers (levees, beams, floodwalls) to stop floodwater from entering the homes in your area.
- Seal the walls in your basement with water proofing compounds to avoid seepage.
- If a flood is likely in your area, you should listen to the radio or television for information.
- Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flashflood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
- Be aware of streams, drainage channels, canyons, and other areas known to flood suddenly.
- Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without such typical warnings as rain clouds or heavy rain.
If you are preparing to evacuate you should do the following:
- Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture.
- Move essential items to an upper floor.
- Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so.
- Disconnect electrical appliances.
- Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
- Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving.
- Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
- Do not drive into flooded areas. If flood water rises around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground otherwise you and the vehicle can be quickly swept away.
After a Flood
The following are guidelines for the period following a flood
- Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.
- Avoid flood waters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage.
- Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
- Avoid moving water.
- Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a vehicle.
- Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to the power company.
- Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
- Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by floodwaters.
- Use extreme caution when entering buildings. There may be hidden damage, particularly in foundations.
- Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible.
- Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards. Clean and disinfect everything that got wet.
- Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.
Flood: Know Your Terms Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a flood hazard:
Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Tune in to Local Radio for Weather Services, commercial radio, or television for information.
Flash Flood Watch: Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; Listen to Local Radio for Weather Services, commercial radio, or television for information.
Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
Flash Flood Warning: A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.
The actions that need to be taken in the event of a cyclone threat can broadly be divided into four classes:
- Immediately before the cyclone season
- When cyclone alerts and warnings are on
- When evacuations are advised; and
- When the cyclone has crossed the coast.
Before the Cyclone season:
- Check the house; secure loose tiles, carry out repair works for doors and windows
- Remove dead woods or dying trees close to the house; anchor removable objects like lumber piles, loose tin sheds, loose bricks, garbage cans, signboards etc. which can fly in strong winds.
- Keep some wooden boards ready so that glass windows can be boarded if needed
- Keep a hurricane lantern filled with kerosene, battery operated torches and enough dry cells
- Demolish condemned buildings
- Keep some extra batteries for transistors
- Keep some dry nonperishable food always ready for emergency use
- When the Cyclone starts listen to the radio (All India Radio stations give weather warnings).
- Keep monitoring the warnings. This will help you to prepare for a cyclone emergency.
- Pass on the information to others. Ignore rumors and do not spread them. This will help to avoid panic situations.
- Believe in the official information
- When a cyclone alert is on for your area continue normal working but stay alert to the radio warnings.
- Remember that a cyclone alert means that the danger is within 24 hours. Stay alert.
- When your area is under cyclone warning get away from low lying beaches or other low lying areas close to the coast
- Leave early before your way to high ground or shelter gets flooded
- Do not delay and run the risk of being marooned
- If your house is securely built on high ground take shelter in the safer part of the house.
- However, if asked to evacuate do not hesitate to leave the place.
- Board up glass windows or put storm shutters in place.
- Provide strong suitable support for outside doors.
- If you do not have wooden boards handy, paste paper strips on glasses to prevent splinters.
- However, this may not avoid breaking windows.
- Get extra food, which can be eaten without cooking. Store extra drinking water in suitably covered vessels.
- If you are to evacuate the house move your valuable articles to upper floors to minimize flood damage.
- Have hurricane lantern, torches or other emergency lights in working conditions and keep them handy.
- Small and loose things, which can fly in strong winds, should be stored safely in a room.
- Be sure that a window and door can be opened only on the side opposite to the one facing the wind.
- Make provision for children and adults requiring special diets.
- If the Centre of the cyclone is passing directly over your house there will be a lull in the wind and rain lasting for half an hour or so. During this time do not go out because immediately after that very strong winds will blow from the opposite direction.
- Switch off electrical mains in your house.
- Remain calm.
- When Evacuation is instructed
- Pack essentials for yourself and your family to last you a few days, including medicines, special foods for babies and children or elders.
- Head for the proper shelter or evacuation points indicated for your area.
- Do not worry about your property
- At the shelter follow instructions of the person in charge.
- Remain in the shelter until you have been informed to leave Post cyclone measures
- You should remain in the shelter until informed that you can return to your home.
- You must get inoculated against diseases immediately.
- Strictly avoid any loose and dangling wires from the lamp posts.
- If you are to drive, drive carefully.
- Clear debris from your premises immediately.
- Report the correct loss to appropriate authorities.
- Learn about the geology and history of your property.
- Get advice from a qualified geologist before buying a potentially unstable site or building your home.
- Leave a safe setback from top or bottom of steep slope. Avoid sites that are too small to allow a safe setback from the slope.
- Maintain existing vegetation both above and below slopes.
- Regularly inspect and maintain drainage systems. Collect runoff from roofs and improved areas and convey water away from the steep slope.
- Don’t irrigate or put drainage on bluffs.
- Don’t change natural drainage.
- Don’t dump on a slope.
- Don’t overlook slide hazards.
- Develop a Family Plan: Place to reunite if family members are separated; Routes to evacuate; Locations of utility shut-offs.
- Purchase supplies like hammer, nails, rain gauge, sand bags, shovel, etc. to protect your home.
- Store emergency supplies and evacuation things.
- Look for geological changes like new springs, cracked soil or rocks, bulging slopes, tilted trees, mud water, etc. near your home.
- Monitor the amount of rain during intense storms.
- Listen to radio or watch TV to get information and instructions from local officials.
- Prepare to evacuate if told to do so.
Landslide Warning Signs
- Sticking or jamming of doors or windows
- Appearance of cracks in plaster, tile, brick, or foundations
- Pulling away from the building of outside walls or stairs.
- Slow development of widening cracks on the ground or on paved areas such as streets.
- Breakage of underground utility lines
- Appearance of bulging ground at the base of a slope
- Emergence of flowing ground water in new sites
- Sudden decrease in creek water levels though rain is still falling or just recently stopped
- Tilting or moving of fences, retaining walls, utility poles, or trees.
- Faint rumbling sound that increases in volume as the landslide nears. The ground slopes downward in one specific direction and may begin shifting in that direction under your feet.
Steps to be taken
For imminent Landslide
- Contact your local Fire, Police or Public Works Department.
- Inform affected neighbours.
- Leave the area quickly.
Before Intense Rainfall
- Become familiar with the land around you. Slopes, where landslides or debris flows have occurred in the past, are likely to experience them in the future
- Buildings should be located away from known landslides, debris flows, steep slopes, streams and rivers, intermittent-stream channels, and the mouths of mountain channels.
- Observe the patterns of storm-water drainage on slopes near your home, and watch especially the places where runoff water converges, increasing flow over soil-covered slopes. Observe the hillsides around your home for any signs of land movement, such as small landslides or debris flows or progressively tilting trees
- Contact your local authorities to learn about the disaster management response, and develop your own emergency plans for your family and business.
During Intense Rainfall
- Be observant. Many landslide and debris flow casualties occur when people are sleeping. Listen to radio for warnings of intense rainfall. Intense short bursts of rain may be particularly dangerous, especially after longer periods of heavy rainfall and damp weather.
- Unusual sounds might indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together. A trickle of flowing or falling mud or debris may precede larger landslides. Be alert for any sudden increase or decrease in water flow in streams or channels. Such changes may indicate landslide activity upstream, so be prepared to move quickly
- If you live in areas susceptible to landslides and debris flows, consider leaving if it is safe to do so. If you remain at home, move to a part of the house farthest away from the source of the landslide or debris flows, such as an upper floor, but keep an escape route open because it is necessary to leave the house.
- Be alert when on the roads. Embankments along roadsides are particularly susceptible to landslides. Watch the road for collapsed pavement, mud, fallen rocks, and other indications of possible landslides or debris flows.
After Intense Rainfall
- Be alert for signs indicating land movement. Landslides can occur weeks or months after intense storms.
- Try and get out of the path of the landslide or mudflow.
- Run to the nearest high ground in a direction away from the path.
- If rocks and other debris are approaching, run for the nearest shelter such as a group of trees.
- If escape is not possible, curl into a tight ball and protect your head.
- Stay away from the slide area. There may be danger of additional slides.
- Check for injured and trapped persons near the slide area. Give first aid if trained.
- Remember to help your neighbours who may require special assistance--infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities.
- Listen to a radio or television for the latest emergency information.
- Check for damaged utility lines. Report any damage to the utility company
- Check the building foundation, chimney, and surrounding land damage
- Replant damaged ground as soon as possible since erosion caused by loss of ground cover can lead to flash flooding.
- Remain calm.
- Protect yourself if it is accompanied by an earthquake.
- Immediately head inland and to higher ground (at least 60 feet above sea level) if you experience an earthquake that lasts a minute or more. If you are on the beach and the tide suddenly goes way out, or you see a wall of water rushing toward you. If you can’t get inland and up, go up.
- Know whether you are in a tsunami hazard zone or not.
- Know where the nearest tsunami escape route is.
- Have already put together portable emergency survival kits for you and your family.
- Have an emergency radio that automatically turns on in the event of a hazard warning.
- Assemble your family and walk to the nearest tsunami safety zone (unless someone with you is mobility impaired).
- Wait for an official announcement that the danger has passed before returning home or to the beach.
- Have emergency supplies set in at home, since it might take days or weeks for electricity, food, water, and protective services to be restored.
- Wear an avalanche rescue beacon that signals your location.
- Learn how to use the rescue equipment.
- Practice using the rescue equipment.
- Constantly evaluate avalanche conditions.
- Areas with fresh accumulations of wind-driven snow are particularly vulnerable.
- Extremely steep slopes particularly in shaded areas near a ridge are also risky.
- Always travel with a partner. Descend risky areas one by one and watch for avalanche signs
What to do if caught?
- If caught in a slide, try to get off the slab or grab a tree.
- If swept away swim to the surface.
- Carry a small shovel and a long probe to locate a buried partner.
- Evaluate the avalanche hazard before attempting a rescue.
What to do before a fire?
- Prepare escape routes from the site by analyzing the different ways available with your family. Practice the route if necessary.
- Ensure that each room has a fire safety opening feature on windows for exit.
- Place fire extinguishers at various places in the building. Test and clean it at regular intervals.
- Have a ladder in a storeroom of the apartment to evacuate people from other floors.
- Don’t smoke indoors particularly near flammable substances.
- Store flammable substances like gasoline, kerosene in approved containers.
- Keep matchsticks and lighters at a high place away from the vicinity of children.
What to do during fire?
- Call fire brigade alerting services immediately.
- Remember that hot air raises to the top. So, air near floor will be cooler. Try to crawl through any exit.
- If you are out of the room that has got fire, keep the door closed and evacuate the room. Do not open it.
- If your clothes catch fire instead of running which will only intensify it, cover yourselves with a blanket or roll on the floor till the fire is extinguished.
What to do after fire?
- Do not open any closed boxes immediately after entering the room since it would have been heated and opening it would result in bursting of contents.
- On entering the house, if you still detect heat leave the room.
- Inform your landlord if it is a rented house.
Prevention of fire due to Hazardous chemicals
- Chemicals used and stored in school and college laboratories must adhere to strict Hazards Communication Policies.
- Safe storage and handling of chemicals is of prior importance to prevent combustible chemicals from producing fire hazards.
- Thus, these institutions must follow strict guidelines and the staffs handling them should be provided training to handle such chemicals.
Safety at home
- Check if you have turned off the gas before leaving home.
- At kitchen, ensure that oil is not close to combustible substances as it intensifies the fire.
- If you detect any leakage of gas or short-circuit, turn off your main, open the kitchen windows, alert everyone in the site to leave to open ground and immediately call to fire brigade service.
- It is always advisable to wear apron or cotton clothes while working in kitchen as nylon or silk materials stick to one’s skin on burning.
- During festivals like Diwali, take at most care while bursting crackers. Burst rockets and sky crackers at a high altitude (terrace) or open grounds (most preferable).
Safety at Work place
- All companies are requested to have fire extinguishers (minimum of one on each floor) so that incase of outbreak of fire it could be immediately put off.
- Each and every employee must be taught to operate these fire extinguishers.
- For air-conditioned rooms, emergency exits should be created.
- In case of companies dealing with chemicals and electronic equipment it is solely their responsibility to undertake safety measures enumerated in the manual of those chemicals and electronic items.
- Unused e-items should be disposed off immediately rather than storing them in a repository.
Safety during mass gatherings at an event
- Use decoration items that are non-combustible.
- Inspect lighting wires for damaged insulation, bare wires, and loose connection.
- Ensure that there is no lit candle and the cooking area is away from the gathering.