Earthquake Survival List of Five
5 Emergency Checklist Tips: Prepare For An Earthquake or Other Natural Disaster!
Christchurch, known as the garden city of New Zealand, has had its fair share of earthquakes having experienced a 7.1 in September 2010 and only five months later a 6.3 more deadly quake. I say more deadly as the effect of the supposedly smaller earthquake toppled buildings that stayed up earlier and ended in a death toll.
Preparing for an earthquake or natural disaster is important for everyone as residents of Christchurch will attest. They thought that earthquakes were not part of their scene -- Wellington was where it was supposed to happen.
And if you've experienced Hurricane Sandy, I'm sure you'll also agree to being prepared for any natural disaster!
I thought I'd like to share my list of five essentials to disaster preparedness. Of course there are many more things you can do and would be wise to check out your own Government website, the Red Cross and your local Civil Defence.
Photo shows chaos in my office following the February quake My husband would say it always looks like that!
Have you ever experienced an earthquake?
# 1 Water
Prepare for no water...
We all know the importance of fresh water and when there's been an earthquake the water is no longer fresh so it needs to be boiled. This is due to the impurities that have seeped in and cross contamination. If the water supply is still on it is best to boil it as the pipes may be compromised. Boil for three minutes. If you have power let your kettle boil, let it settle and boil again. Repeat until you have boiled the water three times. Even if the water supply in your area is not interrupted after a major quake you should boil your water. If not used within 24 hours re-boil the water.
Keeping clean and germ free can be a problem with no water to wash hands, and none to flush toilets. Have plenty of wet wipes and wet towelettes for personal hygiene. Have hand sanitizer available and use frequently.
Without water there are many health hazards that can befall us and this just adds to the misery of the aftermath of the losses you have endured.
You know you're from Christchurch when the idea of drinking straight tap-water scares you more than earthquakes.— "You Know You're From Christchurch when..."
In your emergency kit keep a supply of bottled water. Enough for at least three days. You will need at least three litres per person per day. Label and replace after 12 months in storage. Allow extra for pets.
Store bottles in two separate places in the dark and away from direct sunlight.
If you have to use water from the tap or another source add five drops of household bleach per litre of water. Do not drink for at least 30 minutes...or boil as above.
You Know you're from Christchurch when you have to sanitize your hands after washing them.— "You Know You're From Christchurch When..."
Hand Sanitizers are essential. This pack includes wipes as well as hand sanitizer. No water available? - this is a MUST!
At times the water appeared slimy so it was good to be able to use a sanitizer or wipes which made you feel fresher....
Have you experienced a natural disaster?
# 2 Power
Prepare for no power....
When the February quake struck we were without power and water for four days. We were the lucky ones as many were without for far longer. In fact while most of the city had power back some eleven days after the earthquake there were still some suburbs that are without.
During the aftershocks the power can go off many times even though it may be back on most of the time. This means that when the power comes back everything that you were using bursts into life, including some that were not on, such as the TV. Because of this it is important that you turn off certain switches if you are leaving the house for a while. If you are abandoning the house you will need to switch off power at the mains. We found the TV would suddenly boom on very loudly, giving us quite a shock...and we hadn't even had it on before the power cut!
It is worth noting that if there is no power on your cordless phone will be of no use to you. It works on electricity so something is to be said for having an old-fashioned corded phone that you can connect to the jack point.
Charging of cellphones is another issue. When you prepare your kit make sure you have a hand-held charger. It takes a lot of winding to get just a few minutes of conversation on your mobile but better than being without any means of communication!
Be aware too that if your fridge has a water and ice dispenser the outlet won't work without power either. If the power is likely to be off for a while selvage the ice from the freezer compartment as it is sure to melt all over your floor...this is what happened to me. And to think if I had been aware of this I could have had another source of water to use rather than having it wasted on the kitchen floor!
What can happen...
One of the neighbours had a fire in her son's bedroom following one of the quakes. She was not at home and her mother was house sitting for her. After the February quake the bedside lamp fell on her young son's bed. The vibrations had knocked the 'on' switch and when power came back the hot lamp started a fire on her son's bed. She now switches everything off at the wall! Fortunately no one was hurt but her son's room was uninhabitable.
You know you're from Christchurch when you've had enough days without electricity already, so you plan to celebrate Earth Hour by turning your light on— "You Know You're From Christchurch When..."
In your emergency kit: Have torches, batteries, gas cookers or barbeques and candles to cope without power. Keep an old phone that connects to jack points and does not rely on electricity.
If leaving your home remember to switch off the power to all electrical appliances as the power may suddenly come on and cause problems!
# 3 Communication
Prepare for no communication...
Have a plan of action with family members. Phones may not connect and communication becomes a problem. These days we tend to use cordless phones which actually operate on power. It is worth noting that if there is no power available your cordless phone will be of no use to you. It works on electricity so something is to be said for having an old-fashioned corded phone that you can connect to the jack point.
Charging of cellphones is another issue. When you prepare your kit make sure you have a hand-held charger. It takes a lot of winding to get just a few minutes of conversation on your mobile but better than being without any means of communication.
Keep an old cord phone in your preparation kit. Unless the phone lines are out you will at least be able to maintain contact with the outside world. Mobile phones may not have connections and all the frantic messages you sent to your family may come through days later. In this case try calling friends in places outside of your area.
It is best to text to keep the lines clear. Have a hand-held charger that comes with torch and radio. Since I first wrote this page and since experiencing our earthquakes there is now a gadget called a power bank that can be used when no power is available. Naturally this will need to be charged to be of any use.
In the February quake when I was unable to get hold of anyone in close proximity like my husband, his sister or my mother-in-law, I frantically called my brother in South Africa. I didn't give any thought to timing! It was 2.00 am so I awoke him and his wife from their sleep....screaming as another aftershock came to rock me. I was out in the garden by then too afraid to enter the house as furniture was scattered about and aftershocks kept happening.
You know you're from Christchurch when your cellphone vibrates and you jump under a table.— "You know You're From Christchurch When..."
Have a plan with your family members. Have a radio that operates on batteries and listen for advice and information.
Remember to have a stock of batteries too!
If you can find an old phone that does not use electricity keep this in your emergency kit.
Although this is not the same brand it is very like the hand crank emergency torch and radio I bought just days before the February earthquake.
It has a super-bright 5-LED flashlight, 1-LED/5-LED selectable. Charges by hand-cranking action, lasts 30 minutes cranked 1 minute. It has an AM/FM radio with Siren. as it is hand crank rechargeable there is no need for replacing batteries or bulbs. A USB cable is included for charging cellphones that work with USB connections.
# 4 Gas and Petrol
Keep the (petrol) gas in your car and the gas in your BBQ topped up
Your Vehicle: We know from experience that many service stations were damaged and those still operating soon ran out of petrol. Don't let your gas get too low.
Your BBQ: Make sure your BBQ has gas in the bottle / tank too. If you have no power this is likely to be your only source of cooking and for the boiling of water...besides making a fire of course. Make sure you have enough gas to cook! Since the earthquakes we now have two gas bottles so that we don't run out...
Get together with neighbors and share your food supply...make it fun. You may have to work through your freezer supply as you will have no idea how long the power will be off.
If you keep the freezer door closed as long as you can the contents will remain relatively unharmed before beginning to defrost.
The photo is our own BBQ in action and you will note that beer replaced water!
NB: In New Zealand gas fills our gas bottles for the BBQ but petrol fills our vehicle tanks...in case you are confused!
You know you're from Christchurch when you have to home-cook your own junk food.— "You know You're From Christchurch When..."
Keep your motor vehicle filled with gas / petrol.
Ensure you have enough gas in your BBQ tank.
Do you have an emergency kit?
# 5 Your Grab Bag
Prepare your getaway kit...
Some call a getaway kit a grab bag.
Have a small bag ready for a quick getaway. Include emergency items as well as important documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, insurance policies and family photos.
Have a little travel bag with towels, soap, toothbrush and change of clothes. You'll be glad you did!
At the time of originally writing this it had been 16 months since the February earthquake and there were still people who did not have access to their homes. This may have been because of structural issues with their home as was the case with the receptionist at the doctors. She had limited access to her home to get photos, her parent's ashes and some clothes. She was not allowed to take someone with her and had to leave her furniture. Fortunately her home has recently been rebuilt...some four and a half years after the quake that originally banished her.
Then there are people whose homes are under the cliff that came down in the quakes and there are concerns over further rockfalls.
You know you're from Christchurch when you take your dirty washing on holiday with you.— "You know You're From Christchurch When..."
Prepare a small grab bag ready for a quick getaway.
Include emergency items as well as important documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, insurance policies and family photos.
Have a little travel bag with towels, soap, toothbrush and change of clothes.
Part of your grab bag kit....
The contents of this deluxe kit are too numerous to mention. Whether preparing for a short term blackout or a disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane you will be glad to have this as your grab bag emergency kit already made up...it could be a matter of life or death.
It's all about disaster preparedness!
Whether you are in an earthquake or other natural disaster ~ be prepared!
If you didn't have an emergency kit before will you put one together now?
You Know You're from Christchurch When...
Quotes throughout this article are extracted from the original book "You Know You're From Christchurch When..." A second edition has been produced celebrating "Cantabrians' unremitting capacity for finding humour in the darkest of times".
This little book represents the thoughts of Cantabrians following the February 2011 earthquake. They were comments posted to a Facebook page and compiled by Bruce Raines. They have been sold as a fundraiser with proceeds going to the Christchurch Earthquake Mayoralty Fund.
Red and black are the colors of Canterbury and the Crusaders (the Canterbury rugby team). Many people wear this color combination to show support for the province.
Free photos from MorgueFile.com have been used with acknowledgement. Other photos belong to Lyn Bell.
The Christchurch Love Pin shown here was sold for charity towards the earthquake fund.
Share your thoughts and tips with us.
Why not share your own experiences of an earthquake with us? Perhaps share a tip or two.