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Earthquakes themselves rarely kill. However, falling objects, debris, and building collapsing on you can kill, as well as flying glass and downed power lines. Earthquakes rarely give any warning, but slight movement may be felt perhaps days or just seconds, prior to a serious quake. This movement usually means a large earthquake may occur later, but not always. What you're experiencing may be a foreshock and not the serious quake. The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests:
Try not to panic and assess what is going on.
Attempt to remain calm and move to a doorframe if possible or under a strong piece of furniture. Doorframes are strong. Both doorframes and heavy furniture may give you space to live if the building comes down on you.
Watch for falling objects, they will vibrate from shelves and counter tops.
Stay away from windows, mirrors, glass doors, cabinets, and shelves.
Cover your head with anything to protect it. Use a box, clothing, pillow or blanket if possible.
Do not rush outside during a quake and do not use elevators. If you rush for the door to leave the building, you may be struck by a falling object and once outside there is the danger of collapsing structures and downed power lines. Elevators are dangerous because the power may go out, trapping you inside, or the building may collapse.
If you're in a car, try to stop out in the open on level ground. Avoid stopping near buildings, bridges, ramps, trees, and overpasses if possible. While avoiding all of these things may be impossible, choose the least dangerous situation and that may vary from second to second as you drive. Eventually a choice of where to stop will have to be made, because the road may break up in life-threatening quakes. Stay in your car too, because it will protect you better than you being outside without any protection at all. If a power line falls on your car, remain inside but do not touch any metal. The tires of the car will keep you safe from shock as long as you avoid touching any metal.
After the quake, take a little time to think and try not to panic; only this may be hard to do as you look around at the destruction of your home or business. However, panic kills, so force yourself out of the pity and fear mode and into something productive. Here are a few steps that may keep you busy and not give you time to become filled with fear or self-pity:
Do not turn on any electrical devices, not even a light switch, due to possible gas leaks. Warn others in the area.
Do not strike a match or light a lighter, due potentially ruptured gas lines. I'd also suggest, though I have no hard evidence that you refrain from using your cell phone or other electronic devices when near collapsed buildings due to possible gas leaks.
Do not move around in darkness, there will be scattered debris, broken glass and downed electrical lines. Structures may be very weak and hardly standing, which means they may fall with the slightest wind or touching. Injury or death is a real possibility.
Check and treat all injuries as well as you can – I'd suggest everyone take a basic first aid course, usually offered by the Red Cross, before any natural disaster strikes. Besides for use during disasters, it just makes good sense to know how to treat injuries around the home or following automobile mishaps.
If it is light outside, do a physical head count of your family or those that were in your home prior to the quake. Try to discover if anyone is trapped inside debris. In the dark, call out names and listen closely, as some may be injured and unable to respond in a loud voice. In the event of missing folks, and no response from them, keep calm, because they may be trapped in a way you cannot hear their replies or they may not hear you. Do not give up hope and accept them as dead until they're pulled lifeless from the structure. Hope keeps you moving. If you're a praying person, and I am, turn to God.
Stay where you are until help arrives. We will discuss what to do if help does not come later in this book. Understand that emergency response folks will be swamped with calls and while they will do all they can to assist everyone, this takes time. It may be days before they can clear enough roadways to get to your location. In the mean time, you have to survive.
If your home sustains severe structural damage, shut off the gas and electrical power at the main switches, if you can reach them. Leave them off until the utility company turns them back on. You'll notice this is a common practice following most natural disasters. But, it also means you'll be without power and gas, two very important comfort items for most Americans, except they're not really needed to survive.
If you live in a coastal area and experience an earthquake , a Tsunami is likely to follow soon, so consider immediate evacuation. However, roads and walkways may be cluttered with debris to the point an evacuation is not possible. If evacuation is impossible, move to the highest ground you can find. Structures are to be considered unsafe and unsound, they may have been damaged by the quake, so do not seek shelter from a Tsunami in a building. The force of the water could wash both you and the structure away. The force of water in a tsunami was seen on video during the March 2011 earthquake in Japan and it was frightening as it swept away everything in its path.
Once the water from the tsunami has receded, you'll have problems similar to flooding: no potable drinking water, dead animals and people, and related disease problems. Continue reading and you'll learn how to attain safe drinking water, reduce the risk of disease, and how to survive in ways you've never imagined.
Excessive heat, or drought in some cases, kills and it does the job quickly. In the United States, heat related injuries kill people each year through heart attack, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or health related complications. In high heat disasters, people on medication, as well as the elderly, should speak with their medical professional about any concerns they may have and get additional medical advice.
Let's look at the most common heat related injury, heat exhaustion. This injury results from prolonged exposure or high physical activity during high temperatures. Additionally, high humidity makes it easier to acquire. I saw many men and woman pass out during physical exercise when I was in the military due to heat exhaustion (that's why all the military drill instructors made us drink a lot of water). When you combine high heat, high humidity, with low body fluids, heat exhaustion will occur. You can reduce the risk of heat exhaustion by staying in the shade as much as possible, traveling very little during the heat of the day, and drinking lots of water (water is not hard to find in most states, even in a survival situation, but make sure you purify it before drinking). Well, we know what causes it and how to avoid it, how do you recognize it?
Weakness or dizziness
Nausea and perhaps vomiting
Clammy or pale skin
Perspiration on the face and forehead
Heat exhaustion is easy to treat, but a frightening experience for most of us. The victim should be moved to a shady area, if possible. Treat for shock; give small sips of cool water (if available), remove as much clothing as possible, and sponge the body with tepid water. Usually the injured person will be up and about in little time. However, if the person does not seem to “bounce back” seek medical attention, if you have this option. You may have a person experiencing a heat stroke instead of heat exhaustion.
Heat stroke, caused by overexposure to the sun combined with a high body temperature, can be a real killer. This situation can turn life threatening if not treated immediately. The victim may have:
A high body temperature
Hot and flushed skin
Red and perhaps dry skin
Restlessness or bizarre behavior (it helps if you know the victim so you're able to judge their behavior.)
Complain of a severe headache, having vomiting, or nausea
If not treated, the individual will eventually lose consciousness
With heat stroke, move the person to a cool and shady place (out of the sun), check for breathing and pulse (use CPR if needed). Use cool compresses around the persons head, sides of the chest, and armpits. If you have ice, use it to make the compresses and add a compress to the groin area. You should remove as much clothing as you can and fan the person, by hand if necessary. If the person is conscious and not vomiting or nauseated, you can give them small sips of cool water. Immediately seek medical attention with heat stroke. If you're unable to seek medical assistance, you'll have to continue with treatment until change occurs. The person will recover or they will not, but understand, in a survival situation you may not be able to save everyone who is injured. Just do your best, pray if that helps you, and go on with your duties.
We have discussed the two most common heat injuries, only how do you prevent them? First, do not stay exposed to the sun and heat any longer than you have to (seek shade). Keep your head (hat or cap) and body (sleeves down) covered from direct sunlight. In an emergency situation, move to a shady area during the day and do your work at night, after the sun goes down. It will be cooler and you will sweat less, which will assist you in retaining body fluids. If you have it, drink more water than you usually do.
Also, when you urinate, check the color of your urine. Dark colored urine indicates you need to increase your water intake (dehydration is happening). Many survival professionals recommend that we have at least one-quart of water for every two lost. But, remember, drinking less fluid will not result in less sweat! In extreme heat, you may not even feel yourself sweat because the sweat evaporates so quickly. Always be on the lookout for sources of additional water, but avoid alcohol or caffeine, because both will dehydrate you. Purify all water that you suspect is unsafe with water purification tablets, boiling, or using unscented bleach. We'll discuss water purification methods shortly.
Heat related injuries claim numerous victims each summer in America. We are a country filled with people who just enjoy nature and hardly slow down when the temperature goes up. I suggest we understand the threat of heat related injuries that can occur during a natural disaster. We should know how to recognize and treat them, and use good common sense. Additionally, be sure to check on the elderly often and those on medication. Armed with this knowledge, your chances of surviving a heat related natural disaster are very good.
Images are from MEMA and used with permisson.
Some content from FEMA.