Lying along the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, Costa Rica is highly prone to seismic activity. Thankfully, most of them are below the magnitude of 5.0. Small tremors are felt here almost every day while major earthquakes take place once in a while.
What are earthquakes?
Wikipedia describes an earthquake as “the shaking of the surface of the Earth resulting from a sudden release of energy in the Earth’s lithosphere that creates seismic waves.”
Earthquakes may range in intensity, from mild ones that cannot be felt to big ones that can cause damage to infrastructure and human lives. Sometimes, there are additional earthquakes, called ‘aftershocks’, that can be felt for hours, days, or even weeks.
Why do we need to prepare?
Costa Rica is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. Though earthquakes are mild most of the time, larger earthquakes are possible and can cause loss of life and property.
Earthquakes are an act of nature, and there is very little we can do about them. Our best weapon against earthquakes is to be prepared by knowing simple safety rules.
What to do before an earthquake
- Assemble an emergency kit and learn the basics of first aid.
- Learn the turn-off points for gas, water, and electricity in your house.
- Create an emergency plan with your family.
- If you live in an apartment, work with your building manager to create an evacuation plan.
- Identify safe places to take cover.
- Make sure you have a fire extinguisher and a battery-operated flashlight.
- Repair loose roof shingles.
- Secure major and heavy appliances to walls.
- Do not keep heavy objects at a height.
- Discuss your earthquake insurance with your company, and check your coverage.
- Practice how to ‘drop, cover, and hold on’.
- Have a kit ready for essential supplies like food, snacks, and water. You don’t know when things might get back to normal.
- Have a pair of shoes near your bed so that you do not have to run barefoot in case of an emergency. Shoes will protect you from sharp or broken objects lying on the ground.
What to do during an earthquake
If you are indoors
- Stay calm and stay inside. Do not get in a doorway, as there will be no protection from flying or falling objects. You may not even be able to stand.
- Stay away from windows or outside doors.
- Don’t use matches, candles, or any other flame. There may be broken gas lines.
- Drop, cover, and hold on
Drop – Drop down to the ground so that the earthquake doesn’t knock you down. Take shelter under heavy furniture such as a table, bed, desk, etc.
Cover – Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from falling debris.
Hold on – Hold on to the object you are under so that you remain covered.
- If you can’t get under anything, lie flat on the ground and cover your head and neck with your arms.
- Don’t use elevators, they might stop.
If you are outdoors
- Stay outside.
- Go to an open area away from the buildings, streetlights, and power lines.
- If you are in a crowded place, take cover at a place where you won’t be trampled.
If you are in a vehicle
- Pull over to a place where you are not blocking the road. The road should be clear for emergency and rescue vehicles.
- Stay inside.
- Stay away from bridges, underpasses, overpasses, buildings, streetlights, power lines, or anything else that may collapse.
- Listen to the radio for instructions.
- If you are stuck, wait for help to arrive. Place a ‘Help’ sign on your window.
What to do after an earthquake
- Stay calm. Be prepared for aftershocks.
- In case you are trapped, try calling or texting for help.
- Do not call anyone unless it’s very important. Text instead. Help keep the lines clear for those who need immediate attention.
- Check everyone near you for injuries. Provide first aid if needed.
- Monitor the media for updates and instructions.
- Check your house for damage. Take pictures in case there is any damage to show to the insurance company.
- Stay away from damaged buildings, electrical lines, or other damaged areas.
While the earthquake may be inevitable, disaster is not. With preparation and determination, we can prevent an earthquake from becoming a disaster. Make sure you are ready for the next earthquake. Start preparing today!