Earthquake Survival Guide
by Tobie Openshaw
(first published in the Taiwan Observer)
Looking back at the last 20-odd years of earthquakes and disasters in Taiwan and elsewhere in the region, one can learn a few lessons and prepare some necessities to ensure that you can survive similar scenarios to what we have seen play out here.
1. AT HOME, BUILDING DAMAGED, BUT YOU CAN GET OUT (The 9/21/1999 Earthquake)
During the earthquake of 9/21, we were living on the 10th floor of an apartment building in Taoyuan. The building swayed to such an extent that our bed moved away from the wall by about a meter. We got the kids into jackets and shoes in between violent aftershocks, and got them down the stairwell and bundled into the car. We covered them up with the duvet we had brought down with us, drove to an open space, and spent an uncomfortable night sleeping in the car. The next day we spent driving around because there were still aftershocks and we thought the apartment was unsafe.
7-11 remained open but all necessities were quickly sold out. All other businesses and restaurants were closed, ATMS were dead, so we were running out of cash. On the 3rd day we found a lone bank employee with a generator, running one ATM!
We snacked on whatever we could find at 7-11.
Eventually we returned, but we had no electricity and no water for over a week. We did have gas supply so we could cook. The most severe problem, that was the most immediately sign that you were in a state of emergency, was the fact that without water, you can’t flush the toilet.
We developed a system of only flushing once a day, and getting water out of the swimming pool for that. Carrying a 20l can of water up 10 flights of stairs was no joke, and that was barely enough for one flush. The men peed into the sink. It was almost 2 weeks before things were normal again.
Some general thoughts in no particular order
HAVE A PLAN
WHAT TO DO WHEN THE EARTHQUAKE HITS
EARTHQUAKE EMERGENCY EQUIPMENT LIST
This is my list. Yours may be tailored according to your needs. Some of these are essentials, others can be described as “Comfort Items”.
1. ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE:
Here you should have the stuff that you really cannot do without, things that you can grab in an instant – or, should you be trapped, they are immediately to hand.
Phone on charge
Wallet with money and ID
Automatic flashlight (plugged into wall, this keeps its charge and switches on automatically when there is a power failure)
In closing, remember that Taiwan has had a lot of experience in dealing with disasters, and if you can survive the first hours of an event, you will probably be ok.
BE PREPARED, AND BE SAFE!