Earthquake Preparedness for People with Mobility Needs
Yesterday I participated in the 4th annual Great ShakeOut. This giant earthquake drill began in California in 2008 as a way for people to become educated about earthquake preparedness. I spent several days ahead of time reviewing the website and learning what to do when an earthquake happens where I live.
I must admit that it felt a little weird doing it at home all by myself and I considered not going through with it (but saying I did!). But they say the best way to be prepared is to practice – so I went for it. I downloaded the audio drill broadcast and hooked up my Jambox (so I could feel and hear the rumble). Then at 10:18 AM, I played the recording and did the Drop, Cover and Hold On exercise. Of course, I got to choose where I was during “my earthquake” and I decided the kitchen table was the best place to be. As I was down on the ground, safe under my table, listening to the recording, I had a strange thought- what are people who are not as mobile as me supposed to do during an earthquake? What if I was in a wheelchair or couldn’t get under a table – what am I supposed to do then?
During the Shaking – Stay Put and Cover your Head and Neck
The earthquakecountry.com website suggests that “if there is no table or desk near you, drop to the ground and then if possible move to an inside corner of the room. Be in a crawling position to protect your vital organs and be ready to move if necessary, and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms.” Basically get as low as possible and hold on until the shaking stops. You do have to be aware of your surroundings though, and it might not be smart to take cover under a window or a heavy picture, if you haven’t taken the time to secure it before hand.
If You Have a Physical Disability or Movement Limitation:
Create a personal support team (PST). This is an important part of earthquake preparedness and is a vital planning step for those with disabilities or limitations. A PST is made up of at least 3 people who are within walking distance and can assist you immediately, such as neighbors and co-workers. Team members will need to know how to enter your home to check on you in case you are injured or cannot answer the door.
During earthquakes it is important to protect yourself from falling, or being hit by falling objects. When shaking begins, if possible:
•Drop down to the floor (before the earthquake knocks you down);
•Take Cover under a table or desk (or cover your head and neck with
your arms); and
•Hold On to the leg or other part of the furniture until the shaking stops.
• If in a recliner or bed, do not try to move during the shaking. Stay where you are until the shaking stops.
• If using a wheelchair, lock your wheels and remain seated until the shaking stops.
• Create safe spaces by securing heavy furniture and other items that could fall, injure you, or block your way out.
• Always protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, a book, or whatever is available.
If you have mobility or balance issues, the shaking motion may increase your difficulties. Get to the floor in a seated position (and against an inside wall if possible). Protect your head and neck with your arms.
The Earthquake Preparedness Guide for People with Disabilities or Access Needs is an eight page guide that follows the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety. This is featured in the Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country series of publications at www.earthquakecountry.org/roots. The content has been specially adapted for people with disabilities and other access and functional needs and covers these areas:
1. Secure Your Space
2. Plan to be Safe
3. Organize Your Disaster Supplies
4. Safeguard Your Finances
5. Drop, Cover and Hold On during the shaking
6. Improve Safety
7. Restore Daily Life
If you missed the Great ShakeOut on October 18th @ 10:18 AM you can still sign up and participate during the next two weeks. We encourage you to be prepared.