Living Life In A Tremor Zone
There has been quite a bit in the media recently about natural disasters, including the aftermath of earthquakes around the world.
If you live in an area prone to earth tremors – or were considering a move to somewhere where they can occur – it’s quite natural to feel a little more apprehensive.
However, what many of us don’t realise is that earthquakes are actually pretty common. Indeed, they happen every day all over the world, including in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Turkey, where we have property for sale.
But, although feeling the earth moving beneath your feet can be disconcerting – particularly if it’s the first time – a small tremor is actually a good thing. It releases pressure underground and makes a much more significant earthquake less likely.
However, despite modern technology and extensive research, the bigger events still remain entirely unpredictable. So, if you are considering a move abroad – or if you have just completed one – it’s always best to be prepared.
Here are a few hints and tips on things you can do both to make your home safer in the event of an earth tremor, action you can take yourself should it be necessary during the event, and a few suggestions on things to consider afterwards.
1/ If you buy large pieces of furniture such as wardrobes or bookcases these days, they often come with wall studs designed to reduce the risk of them toppling over. Use them. If you’re buying second hand, you can achieve much the same by attaching some hooks to the wall behind the furniture and using flexible nylon ties to secure it, allowing a little movement but reducing the risk of the furniture falling on top of you.
2/ Even a minor tremor can be enough to rattle the crockery and pots and pans in kitchen cupboards but a more significant one can swing the doors open, allowing anything inside to fall out; smashed glass on the floor can then become an additional hazard. Latches on the cupboard doors will prevent them from being jolted open.
3/ Try not to store anything heavy above head height. For example, an unsecured TV set on top of a unit is unlikely to stay there during a more severe tremor. A heavy casserole dish or kitchen appliance in a top cupboard can also present a risk; it might be an idea to keep them in a unit closer to the floor.
4/ It’s not a bad idea to spend a little time thinking where you would take refuge if you were in any given room in the house when a big quake struck and even doing a quick rehearsal. Most who have no experience of earthquakes would probably want to make for the exits but expert advice is to get down on the floor, get under cover of a sturdy piece of furniture such as a table or chair and hang on until the shaking is over. Why not choose a place of safety and see if you can fit in it comfortably?
5/ Keep some canned food, water, a torch, a whistle, a charged power pack for your phone and a first aid kit somewhere handy near your chosen location – plus a store of medication if you need it. Don’t forget some food for pets too as it may be hard to acquire in the immediate aftermath of a significant event. It’s also not a bad idea to have some cash available as ATMs may not work either.
6/ Documents such as your home insurance policy, your passport, or your residents permit may be really important in the first few days after a significant event. It might be useful to have copies stored somewhere you can access them if your home was damaged. You might also want to include photographs of any valuables.
7/ Naturally, you won’t want to concern younger members of the family too much but you might want to discuss a plan of action to cover what you would do if a bigger tremor occurred when you were apart. How would you meet up or communicate in the immediate aftermath? Remember, a cell phone may not work so it may be an idea to have alternative in mind.
During The Event
1/ As we’ve already indicated, expert advice is against trying to leave a building during an earthquake. First of all, the movement of the earth can throw you off balance, which isn’t great if you’re trying to run. Also, there is a chance you could flee into the path or falling masonry or furniture or fall on broken glass, causing a significant injury. If you’re inside and the ground continues to shake after the initial jolt, get down on the floor, get under cover and hang on. If you happen to be in bed, cover your head with a pillow and stay put. Don’t try to move or leave the house.
2/ If you’re outside when the tremor strikes, try to move away from buildings, tall trees or power lines.
3/ If you’re driving, slow down and try to stop in a clear space away from buildings, trees or power lines. Apply the handbrake and remain in the car until the movement stops.
In The Aftermath
1/ Although a tremor may not last more than a minute, it can still be enough to damage the local infrastructure and make it vulnerable to aftershocks. Although not as powerful as the original tremor, they could be enough to bring down weakened structures, putting lives at risk. Re-entering a damaged building is therefore extremely risky as an aftershock can occur at any time, sometimes days after the first one.
2/ If the worst does happen and you are trapped or in a position where you need assistance and you have access to a cell phone, try to use text rather than make calls to preserve as much of the battery power as possible. Alternatively, make as much noise as you can by tapping on masonry or pipes or by blowing a whistle if you have one. Shouting increases the risk of inhaling dust and so will excessive movement. Try to remain as still as possible to conserve energy and air.
3/ Avoid using naked flames or light switches until you can be sure there are no gas leaks in the building or the immediate area. If you still have running water, it may be wise to fill a bath or a large container as the supply could be cut off at any time. Remember, your hot water tank may also still be full.
4/ If you have a home phone, check to see if it is still on its cradle as it may have been dislodged and family may be trying to contact you. If access to social media is still possible, post that you are safe and where you can be found. If you need any assistance, it might be an idea to leave a sign in your window for emergency teams to read so they are aware of your requirements, even if you’re not there at the time. Stay tuned to local media if you can for guidance and advice being offered by the recovery agencies.
Although reading through the advice can be concerning, it’s important to remember major earthquakes are not frequent and, although they do happen in countries around the Mediterranean, several generations may live their lives without ever experiencing one. Building regulations in affected countries have also been amended to incorporate the risks while homes, offices and apartments are now designed to withstand even a major incident.
But, just the same, it’s still not a bad idea to have a plan and we hope the tips above will help if you’re considering a new start in a villa or an apartment in Turkey, Spain, Portugal or Greece.
If there’s anything else you think we might be able to assist with, feel free to give us a call or drop us a line and we’d be delighted to help if we can.