An earthquake is a sudden slipping or movement of a portion of the Earth's crust, accompanied and followed by a series of vibrations or shakings. Dominica experiences both tectonic earthquakes caused by plate movement and volcanic earthquakes caused by movement of magma within the lithosphere. Earthquakes can cause destruction of structures, roadways, water and gas supplies, loss of electricity and other significant disruptions.

Preparing for an Earthquake

Earthquakes can occur at any time and without warning. It is important to be prepared so you know what to do when the earth starts to shake. Some of the most important things you can do to prepare are:

  • Be aware of your surroundings – potential earthquake hazards in the home and workplace should be removed or installed securely including fastening top-heavy objects and furniture to the wall, bolting down water heaters and other appliances and placing the largest and heaviest objects on lower shelves. Pay special attention to emergency equipment, such as radio transmitters and medical equipment.
  • Make plans – make sure you have a well-prepared Disaster and participate in the local community processes for planning, preparedness, hazard mapping, evacuation planning and search and rescue. Set aside emergency supplies and equipment, learn first aid and teach family members how to turn off electricity, gas and water supplies by learning location of safety valves and main switches.

During an Earthquake

Earthquake Hazards –  some direct hazards caused by and earthquake are:

  • total or partial collapse of structures due to poor design and construction materials
  • falling debris and dust from rubble
  • transportation casualties due to collapse of bridge
  • floods from collapsed dams or river banks
  • release of hazardous materials, landslides and Tsunamis flooding low-lying coastal areas resulting in loss of lives.

Some of the most important things you can do are:

  • Be aware of your surroundings – If you are in a store or shop, move away from display shelves containing bottles, cans, or other objects that may fall. Try to remain calm and reassure others. Move away from windows, glass doors, heavy mirrors, pictures, bookcases, hanging plants and heavy objects.
  • Take action to protect yourself – remain calm, protect your head and face and Drop, Cover, and Hold On under a sturdy desk, table, bench or bed.  If there isn't a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building. If you use a walker or wheelchair Lock, Cover and Hold On.
  • Stay where you are – if you’re inside a building, stay inside. If you’re already outside, stay outside. Avoid using elevators as power can fail, trapping you inside. If you're in an automobile, do not stop on a bridge, under or near to electrical poles or close to buildings from which debris may fall

After an Earthquake

  • Pay close attention and remain calm– listen to local radio stations and obey official instructions given by local authorities.
  • Assess your situation – check your house for serious damage and evacuate if there's threat of collapse or a fire. Shut off utilities and prepare yourself for additional earthquake shocks. Check for injuries.
  • Stay safe – Do not enter into declared danger zones identified by local authorities and do not touch fallen power lines. Avoid landslide prone areas and coastal tsunami prone areas.  Stay out of damaged buildings and return home only when authorities say it’s safe.
  • Get help if needed – seek necessary medical care at health centres or hospital and boil all drinking water until the Health Authorities have declared the water supply safe.
  • Help out – assist your neighbours and notify relevant authorities and search and rescue personnel. Share information and eyewitness accounts of your area where possible of things like:
    • loose or dangling wires
    • broken sewer or water mains

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