Earthquake : The Trouble of Rubble

Living in a 15 year old house, Mr. Dhawan rarely paid attention to the cracks in the ceiling and loose shelves on the walls. His neighbour told him to repair the damaged walls countless number of times, but Mr. Dhawan, who lived alone, had already adjusted to the broken-ness of his house. On the morning of 26 January 2001, when Mr. Dhawan was leaving his house in Bhuj to attend the Republic Day Celebrations in his society’s park, a massive 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck. Luckily he had reached the park, dropped down and covered his head with his hand and stayed in the open space. While he was safe along with other people, he saw his house tumble down to pieces in front of his eyes. There was nothing left, only rubble.  

The sudden tremors, shaking or vibration of the earth’s surface is called an Earthquake. There are natural factors as well as some man made factors. Natural factors like disturbance in the earth’s crust (uppermost layer of the earth) or movement of earth’s plates shows up as an earthquake on the surface of the earth. Volcanic eruption, hitting of a meteor on the earth, or an underground explosion can also cause tremors. 

Prior disaster experience is one key driver of preparedness and the 2001 Bhuj earthquake is a lesson in hand. To reduce the potential for human, material, or environmental losses caused by earthquakes, modern disaster management goes beyond post-disaster assistance and includes pre-disaster planning and preparedness activities, organizational planning, training, information management etc. 

Preparing ahead!

Even after all the advancement in the technology sector, earthquakes still cannot be predicted,
but the impact can certainly be minimized with proper preparation. For this purpose, consulting structural engineers and designing the infrastructure of our cities to be as earthquake-resistant can help in long term prevention from earthquakes. Damage to buildings is a serious cause of human injury and death during an earthquake. For old homes, it is advised to know whether it complies with the National Building Codes (NBC) to identify potential weaknesses. One should closely inspect their house and also their workplace to determine if there are structural dangers such as cracks on walls and ceilings and work towards repairing them. Fastening shelves securely to walls and placing heavy/large objects on lower shelves also helps in preventing damage during an earthquake.  

When an earthquake does strike, remember the Drop-Cover-Hold technique. Drop on your hands and knees, Cover your head and neck with your hand and seek shelter under a table or sidle up to the interior wall, away from tall objects that might topple. Hold onto the leg of a  table or if you’re outside continue to shield your head and neck with your arms.

Even after an earthquake subsides, one has to be careful of the aftermath including aftershocks. One shouldn’t enter damaged buildings, and if stuck in rubble, make sure to protect the nose, mouth and eyes from dust. Make noise by whistling or tapping on a surface to get attention. When outside, one should be careful from hazards like fallen electrical lines, ruptured gas pipes etc.  

Towards a quake-resilient future! 

Frequent earthquakes have increased the importance of mainstreaming earthquake resistant infrastructure in India. Several codes on earthquake engineering have been produced in construction of quake resistant structures and regarding tests & measurements therewith by the Bureau of Indian Standards. Various mechanisms have been adopted while designing buildings which make them more earthquake resistant, such as bracing, base isolation, dampers etc, to enhance building vibration control. Vibration control is the reduction of desired building structural response to earthquake or wind forces on the structure. 

One should also be aware of the necessary compliances and guidelines while making buildings. Awareness regarding prevention methods during an earthquake along with relief and reconstruction  is a must for people. Continuous inspection and care of buildings is also critical in minimizing damage from earthquakes. An earthquake can strike anytime but it's upon ourselves to be prepared for tomorrow which can help to save our present. Precaution is better than cure that is why, to be little cautious today can help us to tackle the danger tomorrow.

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