The Department of Emergency Management (DEM) in Barbados defines an earthquake as a shaking of the ground caused by the sudden breaking or movement of large sections (tectonic plates) of the earth’s rocky outermost crust.
The edges of the tectonic plates are marked by faults (or fractures). Most earthquakes occur along the fault lines when the plates slide past or collide against each other. Below is a list of DEM’s safety tips.
Before an earthquake:
Have a list of emergency numbers on hand
Have an emergency kit ready with non-perishable foods, emergency lighting, spare batteries, medication and first aid supplies.
Regularly check for objects that can fall and cause injury in the event of an earthquake.
Bolt heavy furniture, water tanks, water heaters, cylinders and storage units to a wall or floor so that they remain in place.
Make sure you know the location of the safety valves and switches for gas, electricity and water as well as how to operate them.
Be informed about building codes and make sure you comply with them.
Every business, school, home and community should have a disaster plan which should be practised often.
During an earthquake:
Do not run outside during an earthquake. If inside, stay inside and protect yourself.
Do not use elevators or stairs
If outside, stay outside away from buildings, electricity poles and bridges.
If in a vehicle, do not stop on or under a bridge.
After an earthquake:
Check for injuries. Seriously injured persons should not be moved unless they are in immediate danger of future injury.
Do not light matches, open flame appliances, ignite lighters or turn on electric switches until you are sure that there are no gas leaks. Use a flashlight instead.
Wear shoes and protective clothing like hard hats or gloves to avoid injuries while clearing debris and cleaning dangerous spills such as flammable fluids and poisonous pesticides.
Do not use the telephone except in extreme circumstances.
Cupboards and other storage areas should be carefully opened because things may have shifted during the earthquake.
Stay away from beaches and other waterfront areas where seismic sea waves (tsunamis) may happen.
Do not go sightseeing or into damaged areas unless authorised by appropriate personnel. (JC)