At 5:31pm on Tuesday 21st August, 2018, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake shook Trinidad and Tobago. The quake, which was centred near the town of Guiria, Venezuela, had a depth of 88km and a magnitude of 7.3 at the epicenter.
Although no fatalities have been reported from this event, it is important to be prepared for earthquakes. They are caused by sudden breaking and shifting of rock beneath the earth’s surface and they strike suddenly, without warning, at any time.
Here are 10 tips to minimise damage and injuries before, during, and after an earthquake.
Identify and discuss the safe spots in each room of your home or workplace.
Ensure your family or employees are aware of the location of muster points in and around the area in case they are outside the building when the earthquake occurs. Safe spots may include under a sturdy desk or table, or next to an interior wall.
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Practice earthquake drills and cover your safety bases.
Make it your business to engage in regular practice drills with your family and employees. Arrange your workspace for safety by keeping bookcases, standing cabinets and glass cases anchored. Heavy objects should be stored on low shelves and breakables in cabinets with secure latches. Ensure your emergency supplies are stocked up. Basics include a first-aid kit, flashlight, whistle, gloves, goggles, and blankets.
Protect the children and elderly.
Teachers and parents, ensure children are aware of what an earthquake is and help them understand what to do in the case you are not with during an earthquake. In the case of elderly persons, ensure caregivers’ have good disaster plans. Find out what the evacuation plans is and if you are required to pick up your child at the site or another location. Keep contact information such and phone numbers and addresses updated.
During an earthquake
Drop, Cover, and Hold On
If inside, practice the widely recommended Drop, Cover, and Hold On technique. Drop to the ground, take cover under something that is sturdy and large enough to cover you, like a desk or table. Hold on to the object with one hand and protect your head and neck with the other arm. If there are no sturdy objects to take cover under, go to the nearest interior wall. If indoors, stay inside until the shaking stops and the debris settles. Move away from windows and unsecured tall furniture.
Go to and stay in the open
If outdoors, move to open area and avoid falling hazards such as trees, power lines, streetlights, and buildings. Drop to the ground and cover your head and neck. Stay there until the shaking stops. If in a vehicle, pull over to a clear location, stop and remain there with your seatbelt secured until the shaking stops.
Although you are scared, it is important not to panic as others will respond to your actions. Keeping a cool head will help you make decisions that are thought-out and can save your life and the lives of those around you. If you are in bed when the shaking begins, it is recommended that you stay there and cover your head and neck with a pillow. Trying to move around in the dark may lead to more injuries.
After an earthquake
Check yourself and others for injuries.
Persons who are injured should not be moved, unless they are in immediate danger, as movement may damage them further.
Leave the building only when it is safe to do so.
Use extreme caution when leaving the building. Continually evaluate your surroundings and look out for falling debris and other hazards. When the shaking stops, look around for a clear path the safety. Then, and only then, leave the building and go to an open space away from damaged areas.
It is important to remember that although your first instinct will be to contact your family and loved ones, networks will be down or jammed after an earthquake. Use telephones only to report a life-threatening emergency. Text messages take less bandwidth and are more likely to go through when voice calls can’t be made. You should monitor local news reports via battery operated radio if electricity is down.
Tremors and aftershocks can continue for days after a large earthquake. They cause further damage to unstable buildings and in some cases, buildings may be destroyed by aftershocks following the main quake. As such, inspect your home for damages and weakened areas.