Do you know what to do in case of an earthquake? Here are some guidelines that you need to know.

Many in India watched in awe as they saw news footage of Japanese men and women respond to the devastating earthquake that struck their country. Instead of panicking and creating a ruckus (as often seen in India following disasters), they knew precisely what to do.

Some slid beneath tables, the others kept away from shelves and materials that might topple over them, those near buildings ran to open spaces. They tried to keep cool till the quake lost steam.

Awareness

In the wake of quakes of lesser intensity in many parts of India, the Ernakulam District Administration distributed booklets to school teachers and others, which carried details of how to survive an earthquake and the tips on administering first aid to the injured.

All districts in Kerala fall within Zone III of the quake-prone areas. The last quake was reported on June 7, 1988 in Idukki, with an intensity of 4.50 on the richter scale.

The booklet that was prepared with technical help from the UNDP and the Central Government, also speaks of the need to build quake-resistant buildings. An official of the Urban Risk Reduction Programme (which followed the Urban Earthquake Vulnerability Reduction Project) said that the risk-reduction programme now covers Kochi and four other municipal-corporation areas within the State.

The programme's Project Officer Tinu Rose Francis said that school-based awareness programmes are often arranged. “Apart from earthquake, students and teachers are trained to overcome other disasters too. Mock drills are also conducted. More schools must set apart some time for the programme.”

Ms. Francis can be contacted at 94951 45897.

Guidelines

The following are some of the important tips:

The quake might occur all of a sudden or there would be a sound occurring before it.

People must move to a safe area within seconds. They must seek refuge beneath tables, cots or other strong furniture. Care must be taken to change position if anything falls from above.

If there is no furniture around, stand near a strong wall. The hands can be pressed against the floor for balance.

Do not stand against doors, windows, book racks, mirrors etc., since they might fall over people.

Never use the lift.

The body must be covered with pillows or thick bed sheets if one is lying on the bed.

Those living in old, vulnerable houses must move to open spaces, taking care not to stand near trees or electric posts.

In case the house or building has suffered damage, people must collect food, water, medicines, important documents and valuables and move to a safe location. Post-quake tremors might bring down the buildings.

Use only torches since lamps and candles might cause a fire.

There are guidelines for people travelling in vehicles also: They must park at an open space. Bridges and roads with trees are best avoided.

Once the quake is over, venture out only with footwear.

Care must be taken to evacuate children, aged people and patients at first.

Keep away from chemicals/ gases that might trigger a fire.

Do not use water from burst pipelines since they may be contaminated.

Use telephones only in case of urgency.

Power and gas connections must ideally be turned off.

In case the family members are at different places during the quake and are unable to contact each other, telephone numbers and address of a relative or common friend living a little away must be kept handy.

It is crucial to keep ready a first-aid kit, bottled water, eatables that last for a few days, torch light and a battery-operated radio. They come in handy even during other disasters.