Locating Earthquake Survivors
Earthquakes are among the most destructive and damaging of
natural disasters. When buildings collapse, it is all too probable that people
will be trapped beneath the rubble. The earthquakes in Haiti and New Zealand
warn us of how quickly and unexpectedly earthquakes can happen. If you have any
warning of an earthquake whatsoever, get yourself and your family outside as
quickly as possible, and away from buildings or trees. However, if you are
inside during an earthquake and the building does collapse, you should act
quickly to free yourself and family members.
Hopefully, if you were inside when the earthquake struck, you quickly got into
the ‘Triangle of Life’ next to a sturdy piece of furniture. If your family has
been instructed in this procedure, it may be that they are either unhurt or
have sustained only minor injuries. You must first make an assessment of your
own condition before you are able to help others. Although you may be somewhat
stunned by the circumstances, try to decide if anything hurts, if there is any
bleeding, and if you can move all your limbs.
If you are in reasonably good shape, you can try to extricate yourself from the
rubble. Be very careful while doing this, and if things begin to shift, stop
moving – you might bring more of the building down onto yourself. However, if
you are able to get out, try to locate family members. Call out loudly and
listen for replies or crying. Children will be very frightened and may cry even
if they have not been hurt.
Family members who are near the surface can often be helped out, but do this
carefully in order to prevent more collapse. Sometimes, it will be impossible
for rubble to be removed without heavy equipment, and in this case you will
have to wait for emergency services. Stay near trapped family members and talk
to them to try to keep them calm. If possible, pass water and food to them.
If you and your family are all right, and everyone has been able to get out,
then it is time to turn some attention to the needs of your neighbors. The
elderly, children, and sick people will require more help during this time,
even if not trapped in debris.
Neighbors who have family members still trapped in a collapsed structure will
appreciate any help you can give them, particularly help in digging out anyone
caught inside. Be sure to call out loudly to attract the attention of those
trapped, and if you have a dog, even one that has not been trained for rescue
work can come in handy in locating people. A dog’s hearing and smell are much
more acute than ours, and a dog can often locate people too badly injured to
answer a call.
Your first aid kit can be used to treat the minor injuries of your neighbors,
too, and any knowledge you have of how to treat more serious injuries can be
important as well.