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February 2, 2001


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The Rediff Special

Bombay civic body alerts people to quake talk

The Bombay Municipal Corporation has urged Bombayites to stay alert at all times, in the wake of predictions that an earthquake is possible in the metro. The BMC issued guidelines for citizens in advertisements published in vernacular newspapers in Bombay. Here's a rough translation of the ad.

Guidelines / precautions / comments -- pre-quake phase:

  • Be alert at all times to tackle a crisis situation like an earthquake and its aftermath. Seismologists have not ruled out chances of a major earthquake in any part of Maharashtra.
  • No one knows what is going to happen next.
  • If you happen to be inside a building during the quake, you may experience tremors or hear a strange buzz or roar, and you might lose your sense of balance due to sudden jerks.
  • If you face these situations, or if your house's window glass planes break due to tremors and fly about endangering your safety, then there may be aftershocks. You should be ready to face such a situation.
  • We can't stop earthquakes from happening, but we can minimise damage to our dwelling units and protect ourselves.
  • Please ensure that you store up at a safe place food that can last at least 72 hours after an earthquake.
  • Mentally psyche up yourself and your family members up to face crisis situation without panicking.
  • Please practice in advance steps and measures that you should take during and after the quake.
  • Prepare a safety plan for an earthquake situation, write it down on paper, and practice the steps.
  • Find out and get familiar with safe spots and unsafe zones inside your house. So you will know where to run if there is an earthquake.

What to do during an earthquake:

  • Crawl under a heavy table and sit there.
  • Try and reach these areas which are considered safe: open spaces inside your house (lobby, aisle, entrance, corners, arches).
  • Avoid unsafe spots like area near mirrors, windows having glass-panes, unsteady suspensions that can crash (wall-mounted geyser, hanging chandelier, etc). Kitchen is unsafe because it has cupboards, refrigerator, gas-stove.
  • Also avoid other places where things can come crashing down on you. Do not stand near doors which can bang against you.
  • Please ensure that every family member is familiar with how to use fire extinguishers.
  • Plan in advance an escape route in the event of an earthquake. So when it does quake, you know where and how to escape.
  • Tell your family members the precautions to take and things to do during and after an earthquake if they happen to be outside your house (school, office, bazaar, etc).
  • It is possible that all the family members may not be at the same place during and after an earthquake. So please fix up a common meeting point so that all of you can converge there when necessary.
  • Each and every family member should maintain contact phone numbers and address on their person always.
  • During crisis situations, always try to follow the guidelines issued by the authorities in charge. Do not get swayed by rumours, etc. Stay tuned to mass media whenever possible for possible announcement of imminent dangers.
  • Every family member should be familiar with elementary tasks like switching off gas cylinders, electricity mains and water mains. Try to switch off the gas cylinder only if there is a fire or if you suspect a gas-leak. Your first priority should be to run to the safe zone.
  • Make a mental note that after the quake, if the gas cylinder nozzle or tap stops functioning, you should seek the help of technicians. Do not operate them yourself.
  • Prepare a list of things you wish to retain with you even during the quake, something that you feel you should carry at all times, for use after the quake (medicines, cash, etc). Include that in your plan of action.
  • Co-opt your neighbours into your plan of action.

Guidelines / precautions / comments -- during a quake:

  • If you practice the exercises in advance, you will be mentally stronger to face the crisis situations and also help others.
  • Always be alert and try to adapt quickly to the place you are in during and after the quake. This will help you to protect yourself, wherever you are.
  • At the time of the quake, if you are in the safe zone like main hall or corners or under arches, inside your house, stay there. Only, ensure you are not directly under electricity installations like chandeliers, etc. However, if you are in the kitchen, try to run out to the safe zones like under a heavy table or any other furniture.
  • Try to ensure that your face and jaws are always safe.
  • Do not stand near entrances and windows because the doors may slam on you (your fingers), causing bodily harm.
  • If you happen to be in the outdoor during a quake, do not stand at places where you run the risk of coming under falling structures like tall buildings, etc.
  • If you happen to be in a lift/elevator during a quake, press the buttons of all floors and try to get out of the lift immediately. In multi-storey buildings, the fire alarm system in the elevator stops functioning, while power supply stops, which itself is an indicator of a quake. Keep your eyes and ears open for such danger signals.
  • If you are in motion (in a vehicle), try to move the vehicle to the edge of the road. If you are inside a vehicle, stay in that vehicle, do not step out. If you are at an elevated place like bridges, flyovers, etc, try to move away to a safer place.
  • If you are in a crowded situation like a shopping complex, markets, bazaars or a store, ensure that all people move to the sides, not the centre. Do not stand under neon signboards, windows, any other heavy structures, etc.
  • As long as tremors are on, stay at the safe spot. Do not start moving about prematurely, thinking the quake has ended. There could be aftershocks.
  • Do not panic. Stay focused. Try to help others.

Guidelines / precautions / comments -- post-quake:

  • There could be aftershocks and fires. Buildings may collapse. So, get your buildings and nearby structures checked by engineeers. Try to help the injured. Try to hospitalise them.
  • If you wish to vacate the affected premises, carry along only things which you feel are essential.
  • If you suspect gas-leaks, do not operate electrical switches. If they are on, let them be. If they are off, let them be, do not switch them on. Do not light a match-stick.
  • Wear shoes, if possible, because debris may be full of mangled metal and broken glass.
  • First take care of your family, then try to help your neighbours as well. They also need your help.
  • If you have pets like dogs, etc, tie them with a leash; do not allow them to roam freely.
  • If you feel pipelines have been affected/damaged, do not use water at all, else water may just spill over, affecting rescue operations that would follow.
  • Ensure that thieves don't take advantage of the situation.
  • If you happen to be in a car/vehicle, and if it has a radio/music system, switch it on. Radio stations may air safety instructions and keep you informed.
  • Use the telephone only if you feel your life is in danger, only if you feel you are in an emergency situation. Else, do not use the telephone.
  • Use vehicles only if absolutely necessary. Else, let them be where they are.
  • If there are any stray electrical wires, stay off. Maintain at least a distance of ten metres.
  • Do not stand near the sea (on the beach) because there is a possibility of huge waves during an earthquake.

If necessary, you may contact the Disaster Control Room of Brihanmumbai Mahanagarpalika (or Bombay Municipal Corporation -- BMC) at 0091+22+1916; 0091+22+2694727 ; and 0091+22+2694725.

What is an earthquake? Click here for a ready-reckoner

The Complete Coverage | List of earthquake sites

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