By Georgiana Ilie
Translation by Craig Turp
Originally published in June 2017 in issue #28 of DoR, a journal of Romanian nonfiction.
How to prepare for an earthquake
Most of these suggestions cost nothing. Those which do imply a cost can be bought over time, reducing the financial burden.
Before an earthquake:
Donot make any structural changes to the supporting walls of your home; do not install any heavy appliances (air conditioning, advertising hoardings) if they affect the structural resistance of the building.
Prepare an earthquake rucksack for your family.
Make a plan for the family: choose a safe public space an accessible distance from home, school, office and arrange to meet there if you are, or become, separated. Decide on a length of time that you should wait for each other.
Identify safe places in your home and at work: a sturdy table, a supporting girder, a door frame or a supporting wall.
Take a look in every room and try to imagine what would happen to the things in it during a major earthquake. Will anything fall on the bed? Will the wardrobe block the door? Is there a picture or mirror above the bed? Solve any problems: fix furniture to the walls or move it so that it will not present a danger. Move heavy things onto lower shelves, put no-slip discs under the television, computers and other electronics. Move beds away from windows. Always close wardrobe doors.
Ensure that you know where to turn off the water, electricity and gas supply.
Make sure your kids know how to phone 112 and what to say. Make sure they know how to take shelter during an earthquake if they are not with you, who to go to if an adult does not show up at your meeting place (you may not want to think about such things, but it could turn out that you do not survive).
Make sure your family know how to use apps that will allow them to tell each other where they are.
Carry a piece of paper with your name, blood type and contact person with you at all times. Do the same for the kids.
Do a first aid course once a year.
If you are on holiday, familiarise yourself with the hotel’s evacuation procedures and find a safe place in your room.
What to do during an earthquake
Wherever you may be, stay in the same place until the earthquake is over. Do not use stairs, take the lift or try to jump out a window. Do not go out onto a balcony, or come inside from outdoors. Even if you are afraid, keep calm.
If you are inside:
Take shelter under a table with solid legs, a supporting beam or a door frame.
If you have none of these things around you, crouch down next to a supporting wall.
Cover your head with something solid: a bag, book, even a laptop if that’s all you have.
Stay away from windows, glass doors, mirrors, bookcases, tall furniture and light fittings.
If you are in a wheelchair, put the brakes on and protect your head.
If you are in a shop, move away from heavy objects and follow the rules above. Do not try to leave until the earthquake is over.
If you are in a lift: press the emergency button, which will stop the lift, and get out as fast as possible.
Note: The Triangle of Life Theory, which turns up every now and then on television and Facebook, is not recommended by any of the emergency services, from GIES to the Red Cross. The idea is based on the fact that if you create a pyramid from furniture you will have a safe space around you. While this might be useful in buildings made of paper-thin walls, false ceilings and light furniture, it is no defence against concrete walls, heavy wardrobes and shelves packed with books or files. Follow the above advice.
If you are outside:
Take shelter away from windows, buildings, bridges, electric cables and pylons. Keep at least 10 metres away from fallen or torn electric cables.
If you cannot keep your balance, crouch down.
If you are in a vehicle:
Stop in a safe place without blocking the road, away from bridges, viaducts and buildings.
Do not get out of the car until the earthquake has ended. If cables have fallen around you, wait for the emergency services, do not go near them.
If you are in a public place: cinema, metro or such like: Find a safe place and follow instructions of staff. Do not try to exit during the earthquake.
After an earthquake:
Keep calm and help others to recover.
If somebody is hurt and you know what to do, give them first aid.
Check if your home has suffered damage. If you suspect a gas leak, open the windows and turn off all appliances. If the water is still on, fill the bath and every available recipient with water, in case it gets turned off.
If your home is not safe, check if you can leave the building. Dress appropriately for the weather, take your emergency rucksack and leave carefully, avoiding electrical cables and damaged stairs.
Do not use the telephone network to make calls as it will be over capacity. Instead, try to use data applications — chat, social networks — to communicate.
If you have been caught under rubble, try to make a noise by hitting something hard against a water pipe or something compact. Rescue workers can hear you through ten metres of rubble, and until they arrive neighbours may be able to hear and save you.
If you cannot leave your home (the stairs have completely given way, for example) put a sign in the window: HELP.
Listen to the radio and follow any instructions from the authorities.
Do not use your car unless you really have to — to get to hospital, for example. The roads must be kept free for the emergency services.