General guidance when visiting an earthquake-prone country
The information provided below is general guidance that follows best international practice. It is also based on experience of Reynolds International Ltd (RIL) staff acquired over more than a decade of providing earthquake preparedness advice to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and other clients in places such as Iran, Nepal, and Romania, among others.
RIL, however, cannot accept any liability with respect to the information that is provided here, which is given in good faith.
The following guidance assumes that you will be staying in a hotel or guest house as independent travellers rather than with private individuals. All the following advice is available as a PDF (118 KB .pdf; click here to download) so that you can download it and copy it to your own computer and/or print it out to keep with your earthquake kit.
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Before you travel:
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Personal Earthquake Kit
1. Before you travel –
Prepare a small personal earthquake survival kit per person in a small backpack, comprising (as appropriate):
All of these items can be packed into a small space and do not take up much weight. Seal things like toilet paper in re-sealable plastic bag to keep it dry. Pack all these items in your check-in luggage, if flying. If travelling with children add items appropriate for their age, and especially for babies and infants.
The whistle and key-ring torch are essential and are probably the most important items in this list. Ensure that you keep these on your person throughout the day and within reach on your bedside table at night. If you become trapped after an earthquake either can be used to make your presence known; the whistle, even if weakly blown, is likely to be heard by rescuers/rescue dogs.
If you are staying with relatives or with private individuals, they should already have an earthquake kit for their residence, sufficient and suitable for the number of people staying, including guests. Check with them before you travel that they have such a kit and related supplies. Expect that it is unusual for people to be so well prepared, so when they tell you that they are, it will be a comforting surprise.
2. Once you are in country –
As soon as possible after arrival at your destination and on unpacking your suitcase:
The idea behind this personal earthquake kit is that, immediately after surviving a major earthquake, you can grab your earthquake bag, evacuate safely and without undue delay from the premises where you are staying, with enough personal supplies to survive for 24 hours without needing help from anyone else.
Earthquake preparedness is mostly common sense and there is no reason to be paranoid about the potential risks. However, in a seismically active region it is best to be aware of your surroundings and take some simple precautions, so you do not put yourself at unnecessary risk. Just as you need to be aware of traffic movements and regulations about crossing the road in a place with which you are not familiar, so you should also be sensible in relation not only to earthquakes but also to fire.
What to expect when a major earthquake occurs
If a major earthquake (e.g. magnitude 6 or greater) occurs, it is possible that the following might happen:
What to do during a major a major earthquake
If in a vehicle:
If in a crowded place:
If trapped under debris:
What to do immediately after a major earthquake
Your options will be dictated by your circumstances immediately after a major earthquake, the extent of damage to the local infrastructure, and the level of preparedness of the authorities. The severity of damage and the number of fatalities and casualties can be worse in poorly-prepared countries than in those where precautions have been long established, even for a moderate earthquake. Be prepared for a general state of chaos and confusion and do not be surprised if telephones (landline and/or mobile) do not function for many hours after a major earthquake.
Assuming that there has been a significant amount of damage and disruption to local infrastructure, you are advised to seek advice from your nearest British (or appropriate nationality) Embassy or Consulate, which should have an Earthquake Contingency Plan. When staff at a British diplomatic mission are able, they can provide assistance in communicating with your relations in the UK and will advise as to what they are able to provide in the way of further support. Do NOT assume that they will automatically provide you with food and shelter or emergency evacuation. In the most severe disasters, it may take several days to provide assistance. Furthermore, you may be a long way away from the nearest embassy/consulate making it impractical to try to reach the embassy/consulate in person.
You should check your insurance policy before you travel to ensure that you are aware of what support is available in the event of a natural disaster and what you should do and who you should contact should such an event occur.
Reynolds International Ltd (RIL) can provide training courses in earthquake preparedness to help you reduce your own vulnerability to becoming a casualty should a major earthquake occur where you are. We can also help you to develop your own Earthquake Emergency Response Plan (EERP). These courses can also be provided in the UK ahead of people travelling to earthquake-prone destinations overseas.