Civil Engineering

10 Tips on Earthquake Safety

 Once you feel earthquake shaking, find a safe place and perform “Duck Cover and Hold”.
» If you are in a place such as department store, or an exhibition hall, follow the instructions of the security guard or warden.
» If you are at ground floor and near to exit, follow the safest and shortest route for evacuation. Be careful if the exit leads into a narrow lane which could be dangerous.
» If you are outside, protect your head;avoid hazards like falling buildings, trees, electricity poles, bridges etc.
» If you are in an automobile, move to the left curb and park, do not enter prohibited areas;avoid tall buildings, poles, tall trees and bridges.
» Be careful of landslides, rock falls and impending hazards.
» Do not panic or perform unsafe act such as rushing, jumping out of window.
» Before evacuating, if possible turn off flames or heat sources that can cause fire.
» As shaking stops, grab your Go Bag and then evacuate.
» Ignore rumors, move only after receiving accurate information. 

Be Informed

Know what to do before/ during and after earthquake

Before an earthquake

» Know what to do during an earthquake 
» Identify safe and unsafe places 
» Prepare reunification plan 
» Prepare communication plan Develop and deploy family emergency plan
» Prepare an emergency kit 
» Safeguard your home by regular maintenance 
» Conduct earthquake simulation exercise (Drill) 
» Acquire Live Saving Specific Skills 
» Turn off power switches, gas regulators, water lines 
» Fire suppression 
» Safe Evacuation with “GO BAG” 
» Light search and rescue, SAR 
» First aid skills 
» Dos and Don’ts During and After Earthquake
During an Earthquake
If you are inside a Building Duck, Cover and Hold

» Find a safe place and “DUCK”
» “COVER” your head and your neck
» “HOLD” on to something stable
» Take deep breaths and stay calm
» Stay where you are until shaking stops

If you are trapped inside
» Remain quiet, breathe slowly and believe in your survival
» Panicking and shouting can exhaust you very quickly
» wait for signals & respond with a whistle 

DO not

» Do not Panic and run 
» Staircases are usually unsafe!
» Do not jump out from windows, balconies! 
» If your are outside
» Get into nearest open space
» If you are in a city, seek shelter under doorways
» Do not try to walk through narrow streets
» Be Careful if you are driving (avoid Bridges, tall buildings, do not stop abruptly) 

After an Earthquake
» Be Prepared for Aftershocks. Lead your family to a previously identified safe place outdoors.
» Check for Hazards in your house. Put out fires immediately. Turn off gas, electricity and water at main source. Clean up any spilled medicines, drugs, or other harmful materials such as bleach, kerosene. Leave the house if a fire cannot be put out or gas leak is detected.
» Beware of items falling off shelves when you open doors of cupboards.
» Check for Food and water supplies. Plan meals to use up food that will spoil quickly. Food in the freezer should be good for at least 2 days days, if the door is kept closed. If your water supply is cut off you can drink water from water heaters, melted ice cubes or canned vegetables. Use barbecues or camp stoves outdoors, and only for emergency cooking.
» Help injured or Trapped People. Administer first-aid (if you know how). DO NOT try to move seriously injured persons unless they are in further danger of injury. Get medical help for the seriously injured.
» Tie pets and domestic animals. Be wary of all animals.
» Wear shoes to avoid injury from broken glass and debris.
» DO NOT enter any building.
» DO NOT turn on the gas again if you have turned it off.
»DO NOT use matches, lighters, stoves, electrical appliances and equipment until you are sure there are no gas leaks. They m ay create a spark that could ignite leaking gas and cause an explosion and fire
» DO NOT use your telephone except for a medical or fire emergency. The telephone lines are needed for emergency services
» DO NOT leave any child alone. Talk and play with the children
» DO NOT drive. Walk or use a bicycle
» DO NOT criticize or pass judgment on rescue workers. They are doing it under severe constraints.
» DO NOT panic and shout for help, If you are trapped inside a collapse building. Breathe slowly and believe in your survival. Response when you hear signals from outside. The best way to response is to blow a whistle.

Develop and Deploy a Family Emergency Plan

»  Explain the earthquake risk and discuss the emergency plan with your family.
»  Identify the safe and unsafe places in each room at home (and in the office). Safe places are under well-built furniture such as heavy tables, against an inside wall, close to door frames and supporting pillars. Also find out the best way to escape from each room.
»  Identify a safe place outside your home. The safe places are empty fields away from buildings, trees, telephone and electrical lines etc.
»  Ask an out-of-city/country relative or friend to be your family’s contact. Family members should call this person and tell them where they are if they are unable to go or call home.
»  Teach each family member what to do during an earthquake, and reinforce the learning by having drills.
»  Show each family member how and when to turn off the water, gas, and electricity supply at the main sources.
»  Know where the nearest fire, police stations and emergency medical centres are, as well as those who can help you during an emergency. For example, a neighbour who is a doctor.
»  Plan for people with special needs such as babies, the elderly, and the pregnant.
»  Paste a list of updated emergency telephone numbers on your telephone.
»  Stock emergency supplies. Change the items every six months. Stock some supplies in the office too.
»  Assemble an emergency kit in an easy-to-carry bag. Prepare one kit each for your home, car and office. Change the items every six months.
»  Learn first-aid.
»  Learn to use the fire extinguisher.
»  Coordinate an emergency plan with your children’s school & your neighbours.

These things should already be packed in an easy-to-carry bag, ready for any emergency. Prepare one kit each for your home, car and office. Change the items every six months.

» Adequate supplies of medications that you or your family members are taking
» Drinking water, in 1 or 2 liters bottles
» Non-perishable food such as canned and package foods, dried fruits and nuts, cereals, beaten rice, lakhamari, dalmoth etc.
» Flashlights with extra bulbs and batteries
» Portable radio with extra batteries
» Water purifier tablets
» Mechanical can opener or Swiss army knife
» Copies of important family documents (such as birth and marriage certificates, passports, insurance papers, bank documents etc.) and important telephone numbers
» Copies of your house plan (useful in case of search and rescue action)
» Money
» Duplicate set of keys
» Blowing Whistle

Emergency Kit for Household is a box/container that contains the Tools,
Equipment and Accessories (TEA) to be used during emergency at household
level. All the family members should be aware of it, and at least the adults should
know how to operate the TEAs kept inside the Kit. The items recommended for
this kit are only for light search and rescue. Hence other survival items for
emergency e.g. medical, food and clothing etc., are recommended to keep inindividual earthquake “Go Bag”.

Non-Structural Safety

Safeguard Your Home By Regular Maintence

»  Store large, heavy or fragile objects on lower shelves or in low, closed cabinets
»  Remove flower pots from balconies and parapets
»  Hang pictures and mirrors away from beds
»  Repair damaged electrical wiring and leaky gas connections
»  Bolt tall furniture and appliances such as bookshelves, refrigerators to walls
»  Limit the sliding and rocking movement of furniture and electrical appliances by using Velcro, straps, non-slip mats etc.
»  Use positive-latches such as childproof latches in cabinets
»  Support overhead light fixtures and fans with extra cables Store pesticides, kerosene and flammable items away from heat sources


The entire territory of Nepal lies in high seismic hazard zone. The country’s high seismicity is related to the movement of tectonic plates along the Himalayas that has caused several active faults. A total of 92 active faults have been mapped throughout the country by the Seismic Hazard Mapping and Risk Assessment for Nepal carried out as part of the Building Code Development Project – 1992-1994 (MHPP, 2994). Earthquakes of various magnitudes occur almost every year and have caused heavy losses of lives.

The entire country falls in a high earthquake intensity belt: almost the whole of Nepal falls in high intensity scale of MMI IX and X for the generally accepted recurrence period. The seismic zoning map of Nepal, which depicts the primary (shaking hazard), divides the country into three zones elongated in northwest-southeast direction; the middle part of the country is slightly higher than the northern and the southern parts. 

The country has a long history of destructive earthquakes. In this century alone, over 11,000 people have lost their lives in four major earthquakes. A 1934 AD earthquake produced strong shaking in Kathmandu Valley, and destroyed 20 percent and damaged 40 percent of the valley’s building stock (NSET, 1999). In Kathmandu itself, one quarter of all homes was destroyed. Many of the temples in Bhaktapur were destroyed as well. This earthquake was not an isolated event. Three earthquakes of similar size occurred in Kathmandu Valley in the 19th Century: in 1810, 1833, and 1866 AD. The most recent earthquake that badly hit Nepal was the earthquake of 1988 which was a moderate size earthquake (Magnitude 6.5) affecting mostly the eastern part of Nepal. 721 people lost their lives in this earthquake. 

Based on the data available from the Department of Mines and Geology, CBS (1998) concludes that earthquakes of more than or equal to 5.0 on the Richter scale have occurred at least once every year in Nepal since 1987, with the exception of 1989 and 1992 when no such events were recorded. The current disaster database of Nepal shows that there were 22 earthquakes with magnitudes ranging from 4.5 to 6.5 on the Richter scale throughout the country for last 37 years period (1971-2007). About 34,000 buildings were destroyed and 55,000 were damaged (DesInventar, 2007) during this period due to earthquakes. Many studies have been carried out in the past to evaluate the earthquake risk of Kathmandu Valley. The most significant among such studies are: the Study on Earthquake Disaster Mitigation for Kathmandu Valley conducted in 2002 by Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) with support from Japan International Coopertation Agency (JICA); and the earthquake risk assessment and scenario development in 1997 by Kathmandu Valley Earthquake Risk Management Project (KVERMP) implemented by the National Society for Earthquake Technology – Nepal (NSET). A simple loss estimation carried out during the KVERMP suggested that in case of a reoccurrence of similar shaking to that of 1934 in Kathmandu Valley would result in the following consequences: death: 40,000, injury: 95,000, homeless population: 600,000 – 900,000 , and building damage: 60% (NSET, 1999). Recent studies have shown that the situation is not much different in other cities also.

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