Natural Disasters

Coping with Earthquakes and Tsunamis

Coping with Earthquakes and Tsunamis
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Understanding the Devastating Effects of Earthquakes and Tsunamis

Earthquakes and tsunamis are two of the worst types of natural disasters on the planet. Earthquakes are caused by a shift in the tectonic plates in the planet’s topmost crust. The impact of a quake is worsened in areas where the soil is loose and prone to sliding.

When an earthquake causes a long, high sea wave that crashes on the shore and wrecks anything and everything in its way, that is known as a tsunami.

While earthquakes are bad, tsunamis are much worse because if you are in its way, your best chance of survival is to get to high ground. The picture below will show you just how devastating a tsunami can be.


As a prepper, you do not really need to focus on the science behind earthquakes and tsunamis. It doesn’t really matter if the earthquake is due to a strike-slip fault or a reverse fault. What matters is whether the area you live in is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.

If you live in a place like Japan which has earthquake proof buildings, you know that there is always the possibility that an earthquake can strike at any time.

If you live in such a quake prone area and your house faces the sea, you must be aware that there could be a tsunami that washes away your house and everything you own.

In the next paragraphs, we’ll look at how you can be better prepared to cope with the devastating effects of earthquakes and tsunamis. It would be ideal if you lived in a place like Japan, which has retrofitting and clever construction. However, in most cases, this is expensive and the area you live in just won’t be prepared. So, your safety is in your hands.

Making Your House Quake Proof

When there’s an earthquake, it’s definitely better to be indoors rather than outdoors. There are bigger objects like lampposts, tree branches, and signboards that can fall on you when you’re outside. There’s also the risk of a power cable falling on you and electrocuting you. So, being indoors is definitely safer.

That said, you must take steps to retrofit your house so that it can withstand an earthquake and keep you safe. It would be a good idea to get in touch with a contractor and reinforce weaker walls in your house that may collapse during a violent earthquake.

The foundation of your house is the most important part of your house. If the foundation is weak, the house just might slide and collapse with you in it. It’s imperative that you get it checked.

One good measure to take is to check if the mudsill in your home is bolted to the foundation. Your contractor will need to check the fasteners and see if the house is firmly fixed to the foundation.

Reduce the Risk of Falling Objects

During an earthquake, even objects like ceiling fans and chandeliers can come crashing down on you. That’s because the structural integrity of the house is affected and that affects everything else.

One of the biggest risks caused by earthquakes are falling objects. That’s why children in schools are taught to hide underneath their desks during an earthquake. Even if chunks of concrete start falling off the ceiling, they’ll be relatively sheltered by the desk.

At home, however, you can take extra measures to be safe. Aim to secure your furniture and other large objects to the walls. Use brackets to secure your cupboards against the wall. The same applies to your refrigerator and other items such as washing machines. An L-bracket will do the job. Do not forget to reinforce water heaters too.

If you have mirrors hanging on the wall, bring them down. Do the same with ceiling fans and other items fixed on your ceiling. If you use fluorescent light tubes or bulbs, during an earthquake these tube lights may come crashing on the ground and you’ll have bits of glass all over the place to deal with.

Take them all out and wrap them in old newspaper. Place them in a cupboard or somewhere safe.

You should also use latches to fasten your cupboard doors. These can swing violently during an earthquake and even fly off if the shaking is bad. Whatever can move will move. So, it’s best to keep it all fixed and tight.

Some guides will recommend using adhesive putty to stick your collectibles, china, etc. to the shelves so that they don’t move around. While this is a measure that you can take, it can be done better. How?

Remove all items from your open shelves, place them in a carboard box and store them in a cupboard and of course, lock the cupboard door.

You must view every item in the house as a potential projectile that might crash on top of you or against you. With this mindset, you’ll do your best to make sure everything is as safe as can be.

Stick Around or Evacuate

You must pay attention to the information provided by the authorities. Ideally, if you are given early warning signs, it’s best to pack up and leave for a place that won’t be affected by the quake.

Do not wait till the last minute or you’ll be stuck in massive traffic jams as everyone else tries to evacuate too. In the event that you’re in a car and a quake occurs, do NOT leave the car.

Try and get to an open area where no trees, lampposts or overhanging wires can fall on your car. Do not park under overpasses. An open field is a great place to park your car during a quake.

If the quake hits while you’re driving, immediately stop the car. Do not try to get somewhere safer. Once the shaking stops, do not be too hasty to drive off. There’s always the possibility of aftershocks. So, do wait a while and see what happens.

Help! I’m Trapped!

This is one of the worst things that could happen. If your house collapses and you’re trapped under debris, you are truly in a survival situation.

One of the best things that you can do is carry a whistle with you if you’re expecting an earthquake. Make sure every member in your family has one. During an earthquake, hold the whistle in your fist and place the fist under your chin.

Should you get trapped under debris, and your hand with the whistle is close to your mouth, you can use it to whistle for help. Keeping your hands by your side is not advisable because your arm may get pinned down and you may not be able to reach for the whistle.

During a crisis situation like this, do not panic or start screaming. Conserve your energy and strength. Do not use a lighter to see where you are. There may be a gas leak and you might ignite the entire place.

Wait for help to arrive and blow the whistle or shout when you hear people around. If you have an object that you can strike against a metal pipe or wall to signal for help, do that too.

Hopefully, you have access to some food and water. If you do, ration them out carefully. If you’re carrying a mobile phone, use it to call for help.

If there’s no signal coverage or no one answers, turn off your phone to conserve your battery and try again every 2 hours. Keep your spirits up and have faith.

Dealing with Injuries

It’s common for people to have concussions when objects fall on them during an earthquake. Common symptoms are dizziness, nausea, confusion, headaches, vision problems, difficulty balancing and other issues.

The blow to the head has caused it to lose its sense of orientation and it’s still trying to come to terms with what happened. The best thing people with such issues can do is to lie down, close their eyes and rest.

Place a cold compress on the injured part and allow any swelling to subside. If symptoms still persist after 24 hours, it’s best to seek immediate medical help.

Other injuries like bruises, lacerations and mild cuts can be treated with a first aid kit at home. If someone has a fracture or deep wound, it’s best to seek professional medical help too.

Dealing with Tsunamis

Unlike an earthquake which you can ride out at home, when it comes to tsunamis, you need to take immediate action to get away to higher ground and you must do it fast.

Take a hand-held radio with you so can to listen to warnings and other evacuation information. If you live close to the sea and you see a sudden receding in the water level, you MUST immediately get all your family members into the car and drive away.

You only have a few minutes to get away to high ground. The goal is always to find the highest possible ground closest to you.

Do not try to put distance between you and the tsunami by driving away straight. Almost always, it will catch up with you. It’s height and not distance that matters when you’re crunched for time.

As a prepper, if you live in an area prone to quakes and possible tsunamis, you must spend a good deal of time planning your escape route and know the area well. Do you know where high ground is? How long will it take for you to get there?

Bug Out Bags

As a prepper you must have a bug out bag ready in the event you need to leave fast. It needs to be packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Every member in your family must have a bug out bag that’s prepped and they must know exactly where it is.

There’s no time to search should you need to evacuate. It would be a good idea to practice as a family to reduce your reaction time. There should be a code word that everyone responds to when you shout it.

Their first action will be to grab their bug out bag and head to the car so that you can beat a hasty retreat. Repeated practice will make all of you faster and better trained to react instinctively.

It’s important to have the right items in your bug out bag. Water is the most important item. It may seem ironic because during a tsunami, there’s going to be water everywhere and yet, most of it will not be potable.

Ensure that your bug out bag has enough drinking water and food to last you 72 hours. You should also have extra clothing, water purification bottles or tablets, a first aid kit, a Swiss army knife, a sleeping bag, duct tape, insect repellant, personal hygiene items, water proof matches and an item that you can use for self-defense.

Dealing with the Aftermath

After an earthquake is over, you’ll need to check your home for structural damage and decide if you’ll stay inside or not. If you took shelter in a multi-story building, do not use the elevators. Take the stairs but watch your footing. You can’t be sure of the integrity of the staircase. So, proceed with caution.

As for a tsunami, the damage can be so devastating that you’re either stranded where you are and have no choice but to wait for help or you need to leave the area and get to somewhere not affected.

Of course, where you go will depend on your support network. Do you have family in an unaffected area that will let you stay with them for a week or more? If you have no family, do you have enough funds to stay in a motel for a couple of weeks?

All these factors play a role in your next course of action. It’s also important not to dwell on the fact that you may have lost everything in a tsunami or that your dream home has been destroyed in an earthquake.

Thinking these thoughts will mentally wear you down. You’ll get depressed and not be in the right state of mind. What matters is that you survived and as long as you’re breathing, there’s hope and you can start anew.

You must have a survivor’s mindset and know that you can handle whatever life throws at you. Do your due diligence beforehand and plan well. Readiness is the mother of luck… and when facing these natural disasters, you’ll need all the luck you can get. Be ready.

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