Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Surviving Disaster: Earthquake

In the most recent episode of Surviving Disaster, earthquake survival was the topic. You can catch the episode here (which I highly recommend as my notes are just the high points, there is more to learn from from watching the entire video). Here's my notes from this episode:
  • The scenario is an 8.0 earthquake along the New Madrid fault line in the Midwest. This is one of the most dangerous fault lines in the US. A major earthquake along this fault line would be felt in 20 states and kill thousands. Scientist say there is a 95% chance of a major earthquake along this fault line in the next 30 years.
  • Earthquake survival is difficult to prepare for because they strike without warning, unlike a flood or hurricane in which you usually has advanced notice.
  • Once you feel an earthquake, drop, cover, and hold. Don't stand in a doorway, along a wall, or run outside. Get under a heavy table or near a large piece of furniture and hang on to the thing you are bracing yourself against. If the table moves, you move with it.
  • Being under or next to a heavy piece of furniture will help create a 'void space' if the ceiling or walls collapse, giving you enough space to survive in the void created between the furniture and the collapsed debris.
  • When the shaking stops, wait for a minute to get your bearings. You will probably be disoriented, even in your own home. Cover your mouth and nose with a piece of fabric (clothing, towel) because there will be a lot of dust and debris in the air.
  • Look for light and carefully move towards it to exit your home/building. Be careful moving debris out of your way as it could be supporting something that could fall on you. Don't try to force your way through anything load bearing. Listen for shifting as you move through the rubble.
  • It was mentioned quite a few times throughout the video that during a major disaster like an earthquake, fire and law enforcement personnel will be overwhelmed and rescuing individuals will be very low on their priority list (plus you probably won't be able to call for help anyway as communications will be down). So you will be responsible for your own rescue.
  • Aftershocks are a big concern after a major earthquake. Even smaller aftershocks can bring down buildings so you need to get out in an open area as quickly as possible.
  • After you exit your home, make sure everyone is accounted for. If someone is missing, you will need to rescue them (see above about rescue help not coming for quite a while).
  • Before beginning a rescue operation, shut off the gas at the outside meter (they used bricks to grip the knob as a wrench was not available) and turn off the electricity at the main breaker box.
  • Fire is a major threat after an earthquake. The combination of live electrical wires and broken gas lines is a major cause of fire. On a side note, they said that more people died in fires after the San Francisco earthquake than from the quake itself.
  • To search a house for any victims that didn't make it out: break into search teams of two people. Find something to write with (pen, mustard, paint, etc). The teams should search the house in opposite directions and meet in the middle. Move carefully and methodically around the house, keeping a clear path between you and the exit. Watch where you are walking so you don't get stuck in the debris.
  • Listen for voices or tapping to help locate victims. It is better to tap if you are stuck than yell as it uses less energy.
  • In each room that you go into, draw a diagonal line on the door (if you get stuck in the room, this will alert rescuers to your location).
  • Search each room looking at all four walls, the floor, and the ceiling. Look into void spaces and under things.
  • When you leave the room, make another diagonal line on the door to form an X. In the bottom section of the X place the number of victims found in the room (or "O" if you found no victims). This is reminiscent of the signs you saw on doors where houses were searched after Hurricane Katrina.
  • As the teams were searching the house, they noticed a hot spot in a wall where a fire was starting. In a major disaster, the fire department will be overwhelmed so you should try to extinguish the fire if possible so it doesn't burn the house down and kill trapped survivors and so it doesn't grow and consume the entire neighborhood.
  • Use something like a broom handle to break through the drywall that is on fire. Start breaking the wall about a foot above where the fire is coming through the wall. Be careful when you open the wall as fire could shoot out. Wrap a natural fabric around your hands (not synthetic fabric as it will melt onto you) and pull out pieces of drywall.
  • If water isn't available, get it from the hot water tank. Turn off the valve that allows water into the hot water tank. Turn on a hot water faucet in the house to create pressure, then open the drain valve on the hot water tank and drain the water into buckets. Be careful, the water will be hot. Pour buckets of water on the fire until it is completely out.
  • When you find a survivor, gather all search teams together for the rescue.
  • Carefully remove debris from on top of the victim. Gather 2x4s from walls (again, not load bearing) and a car jack in order to create a cribbing and shoring system to lift up heavier walls and debris. Make a lever to lift the wall a bit then slide the jack under it (with 2x4s on both the top and bottom of the jack to distribute the weight). As you lift up the wall, place stacks of 2x4s under the wall to catch the weight of the wall should it fall.
  • An untrained person should never rescue a trapped person if there are any other alternatives. In this case, there were no other alternatives. One rescue crawled under the fallen wall which was being lifted up with cribbing, shoring, and the jack. Another rescuer pulled the first rescuer by his feet after he got a hold of the victim.
  • When the victim had been rescued, everyone left the house. It was noted that you should not re-enter a damaged building until it has been certified as stable by an engineer.
  • You will probably need to camp outside for a few days after an earthquake. Pick a spot such as in a park that is away from buildings, trees, and anything else that can fall on you during an aftershock.
  • As you are traveling away from your home, watch out for downed power lines, sinkholes, and landslides.
  • In the scenario, there was an aftershock and one person from the group fell into a newly opened sinkhole that was about 20 feet deep.
  • The group placed plywood from destroyed homes around the perimeter of the sinkhole so that it would distribute their weight and they could get a closer look into the hole. Cars were placed a distance from the sinkhole with their lights on to illuminate the area and a rear view mirror was used to reflect the light from the car into the sinkhole to view the victim.
  • The group was warned that the sinkhole can expand rapidly so being right around a sink hole was a dangerous place to be.
  • When looking at the victim in the hole, the leader ascertained the victim's condition--airway, breathing, back/neck injuries, other injuries. You should never move someone with serious back or neck injuries, instead go for help. If there does not seem to be back or neck injuries, you will want to rescue the person.
  • The group picked up a swing set from the park to create an A-frame over the sinkhole. Garden hoses were used to tie down each leg of the swing and stabilize it by tying the legs to car bumpers. You want to use an A-frame for below ground rescues so you do not disturb the sides of the sinkhole which could cause it to collapse even more.
  • Another hose was tied like a harness around the rescuer, the hose was tossed over the top of the A-frame and the rescuer was lowered in the hole. Three people lowered down the rescuer and one person acted as a 'spotter' to watch the situation and give orders to the rescuers.
  • When the rescuer got to the bottom of the hole, he stabilized the victim's injured leg and put the victim into the hoist to be lifted out of the hole.
  • When the person was out of the hole, her injured leg was stabilized with a couple of rods and belts placed above and below the break. It was noted that the rescuers should not try to realign the leg but should get the victim to medical treatment as soon as possible.
  • People should not drive after an earthquake unless it is an emergency because there will be downed power lines, sinkholes, etc. In this case, getting the victim to medical care constituted an emergency so two people took the victim in a car to look for medical care.
  • It was stated that locations of emergency triage centers and other services will be announced on local radio.
  • When driving, avoid bridges, overpasses, underpasses, and freeway on/off ramps as these may be down or damaged.
  • As the group was driving, there was another aftershock and live power lines fell on the car. Don't get out of the car when there are live power lines on or around it or you will be electrocuted. Stay in the car until help arrives. If someone comes by tell them to stay away from the area because if they touch the car, they will be electrocuted. You should, however, ask them to call for help for you.
  • If help is not coming, you will need to get out of the car. Open the car door, toss a rubber floor mat about three feet from the vehicle, and jump from the car with both feet together and arms crossed landing on the car mat. If you fall back against the car or in any way touch the car you will be electrocuted.
  • Once on the car mat, keep your feet together and shuffle away from the car. About 20' around the car could be electrified from the live lines. You don't want to move your arms or feet away from each other because it could create space for the electricity to arc.
  • The person who jumped out of the car got into another car and used it to push the car with the victim and other rescuer away from the power lines and electrified area.

Another informative show that again, everyone should watch just so that they will have basic knowledge about what to do during this type of disaster.

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading that 'stay beside heavy strong object, not under or you may get crushed' advice on an old American Survival Guide article - sounds good to me!

    I missed this one, last week no show so I thought the series had died, forgot to check this week. Cool beans - will look to see this one - thank you insight for the write up.