We are all very much aware by now of how the frequency and scale of the impact of natural disasters on populated areas has been increasing in recent years. Thus, and regardless of whether we live in a disaster-prone region or not, it is important that we gain the necessary knowledge to boost our chances of surviving them.

disasterpic1 Tsunami disasterpic2 Erupting Volcano disasterpic4 Earthquake
Nowadays, thanks to the advancement of technology we have satellites sending real time images for the forecasting of weather conditions, and coastal GPS systems can effectively be used to predict the size of tsunamis.

Infrared and ultraviolet sensing techniques allow volcanologists and geologists to measure the composition of gases.

Algorithms have been created to model underground streams for the prediction of earthquakes and the perfilation of their frequencies.

But not only technology aids us in the prediction of a natural disaster. It is widely known that many animals perceive imminent catastrophes.

Pay attention when dogs and cats start barking or whining for no apparent reason, or showing signs of nervousness and restlessness.

Normally placid horses stomp, neigh incessantly, buck, and roll on the ground with approaching inclement weather and earthquakes. The larger the herd, the more the horses restlessly circle and group in fear, in forewarning of these weather and geological activities.

Before the magnitude 9 earthquake in Japan, cows showed lowered milk production six days before it occurred. The decrease in milk yield continued for another four days.

Scientists say that serpents can sense earthquakes from 120 km away, up to five days before it happens. By observing erratic behaviour in snakes, scientists are developing ways to predict earthquakes. They respond erratically, even smashing into walls to escape. Even in the cold of winter, they will move out of their nests before a natural disaster occurs.

Many times, however, people are either caught unaware or unable to escape the area. Hence, we have prepared a list of survival tips, organised by type of emergency, to help you survive most of them. You can also download it as a .pdf document, which we recommend to keep handy at all times > (Download ‘NATURAL DISASTER SURVIVAL TIPS’)

Practice drills with your family members, explaining everything clearly to your children and training them to identify the signs of imminent disaster.

In the event of an emergency it is very easy to panic, but try to remain as clear-headed and calm as possible, and you’ll have greater chances to survive and help others.

FIRE

INDOORS

Kitchen Safety

  • Pay attention when you cook.
  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food.
  • If you must leave the room even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • When you have finished cooking, turn off all burners and ovens.

Microwaves

  • Never use an extension cord for a microwave since it can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
  • Never use aluminum foil or metal objects in the microwave.
  • Remember that even if containers feel warm, the contents themselves may be very hot and can cause severe burns.

Extinguishing Grease Fires

  • Cover your pan with a lid.
  • Turn off the burner.
  • NEVER pour water on a grease fire.

Extinguish the fire if the fire is minor. It can be put out fast with a household A-B-C-type fire extinguisher or a fire blanket. Ensure you have these easily to hand and that all family members know where they are and how to use them.

Shut off any and all fuel lines, including propane, natural gas, and oil.

Turn on all your cold taps.

Ensure your family is aware of the safest escape route out of the home, and that it’s never obstructed.

Stay low. Smoke rises. To maximise your chances of surviving a fire, remember it’s always best to crawl out of the building.

Feel if the door handle is hot, before exiting.

Close the door behind you to keep the fire from spreading.

If smoke is present in a stairwell, avoid it, and choose another route. Thick smoke can make it impossible to see and toxic chemicals from smoke can be deadly in MINUTES.

If your clothes catch fire: Stop, Drop, and Roll!

OUTDOORS

Stay low to the ground.

Cover your nose and mouth with a wet cloth, and hold it there until you get to safer grounds. If you are hiking, you should have water and some type of cloth with you, like a bandana. Pour water over the bandana and use it as a makeshift “respirator” until you escape.

The most dangerous places to be in relation to the fire are uphill from the flames and downwind from the fire. Try to stay upwind of the fire at all times.

Use the wind as a guide. If the wind is blowing past you and toward the fire, then run into the wind. If the wind is behind the fire and blowing toward you, run perpendicular to the fire so that you are escaping both the actual flames and the course they will blow towards.

Remember that winds can carry sparks and start new mini-fires up to one mile ahead of the existing flames. Do not allow yourself to become surrounded by fire.

Look for nearby areas that are free of trees and brush. If you can put a water body between you and the fire, do so.

Places which have already burned are sometimes the safest place to go, if you do not have any other options. However, you should ensure that the area is completely extinguished before proceeding, as lingering fires could cause burns and breathing problems.

Low-lying areas are generally considered safer, if there is not a lot of vegetation there.

Stay away from canyons, natural “chimneys,” and saddle-like ridges. These areas leave very few options if the fire suddenly spreads around you, and a canyon could leave you trapped in a dead end.

IF TRAPPED

If at all possible, take refuge in a building. Remove any combustible objects from the yard, especially gas grills and fuel cans, and discard them as far from your structure and any nearby structures as possible.

Move curtains and fabric-covered furniture away from windows and sliding doors. If the glass breaks, you do not want anything flammable near the window/door.

– If the building has hoses and running water, saturate the roof of the building, the walls, and the ground immediately surrounding the building. Fill any large containers present with water (if possible), and surround the perimeter of the building with them.

Close all the doors, windows, and vents in the building to prevent a draft from spreading the fire inside.

Do not lock the doors to the building.

Stay away from exterior walls.

Stay inside. If the fire surrounds the building, you’re more likely to survive inside than out.

If there is not a building close by, take refuge in a vehicle if possible. Drive if you can, but not through heavy smoke. If you cannot drive, roll up the windows and close the air vents. Lie down on the floor of the vehicle and cover yourself with a blanket or coat, if possible.

If you are near a body of water, like a river or pond, seek safety in the water or use it to keep some distance between you and the fire.

If you are near a road or ditch but cannot follow the road to safety due to the width of the fire, you may be safest using the road as a barrier. If you become trapped, lie face-down on the pavement as far from the fire as you can get. If there is a ditch on the far side of the road, lie in the ditch face-down.

When you hunker down, try to cover your body with anything that will protect you from the fire. Wet clothing or a wet blanket are useful, but in a pinch even covering the back of your body with soil or mud may help keep you cool in the intense heat.

Stay down until the fire passes

BLIZZARD

INDOORS

In a building:

Stay inside.

Close off unneeded rooms to save heat.

Stuff towels or rags in cracks underneath doors to conserve heat.

Cover the windows at night.

Eat and drink to prevent dehydration.

– Wear layers of loose-fitting, light-weight and warm clothing.

Stranded in a vehicle:

Tie a coloured cloth to your antenna or door.

Stay inside your vehicle.

Run the motor for ten minutes each hour. Crack the windows to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked.

Raise the hood after the snow stops falling.

Exercise to keep warm and keep your blood flowing.

OUTDOORS

Prepare a lean-to, wind break, or snow-cave for protection against the wind.

Ideally, you dig a snow cave into a drift, bank, or slope that’s at least six feet deep. Pack the snow down before you dig the cave to make the structure stronger.

Dig a tunnel, sloping upward, then, hollow out the cave itself. If you are sure that the temperature is below freezing, you can pour water onto the outside to strengthen the cave. The doorway and the ceiling should be arch-shaped to take advantage of the arch’s natural structural integrity.

Add air vents by using a stick or ski pole to poke holes through the top of the cave. Cover the entrance with rocks or a tarp, but make sure that fresh air can still get through. Plenty of fresh air is important!

If you don’t have the right conditions for building a snow cave, you can also dig a trench in the snow and cover it with a tarp.

Use pebbles to mark your path. Make a SOS with rocks in the snow, or put a bright article of clothing tied to a tree. Once you’ve left some clues, stay where you are if you can. You’ll be easier to find if you’re not a moving target.

Build a fire, for heat and attention purposes, by clearing a spot in the snow, all the way down to the wet earth below. Use branches to create a platform, then place any dry wood (from dead tree limbs or a dead tree that’s still standing) you can find on top of that.

You should learn how to start a fire without matches or lighters. You can find out how to do it in a myriad of ways on this wiki: wikihow.com/Make-Fire-Without-Matches-or-a-Lighter

Place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect the heat.

Do not eat snow straight off the ground, melt it first.

SNOWSLIDE or AVALANCHE

– Don’t hesitate: move as quickly as possible to the side of the avalanche slope.

Let go of your heavy equipment but not survival equipment, such as a transceiver and probe or snow shovel; you’ll need these if you get buried.

Hold on to something. If you’re unable to escape the avalanche, try to grab on to a boulder or sturdy tree.

– If there’s no object to hold on to or hide behind, crouch low, turn away from the avalanche, and brace for impact. 

IF CAUGHT IN

Start ‘swimming’ uphill. This is essential to helping you stay near the surface of the snow. The human body is much denser than snow, so you’ll tend to sink as you get carried downhill. Try to stay afloat by kicking your feet and thrashing your arms in a swimming motion on your back. This way your face is turned toward the surface, giving you a better chance of getting oxygen more quickly if you get buried.

Hold one arm straight above your head. It should be pointed in the direction of the snow’s surface. Spitting out a small amount of your saliva can help with figuring out which way is up because the fluid will run down.

Take a deep breath before the snow settles. Right before the snow settles, inhale deeply and hold your breath for a few seconds. This causes your chest to expand, which will give you some breathing room when the snow hardens around you.

Dig a pocket around your face. Once the avalanche stops, the snow settles in as heavily as concrete. If you’re buried deeper than a foot or so when it sets, it will be impossible to get out on your own. Your only hope then is to ward off asphyxiation long enough for people to dig you out.

Conserve air and energy. Try to move once the snow settles, but don’t jeopardize your air pocket. If you’re very near the surface, you may be able to dig your way out, but otherwise you aren’t going anywhere.

Stay calm and wait. Panicking will quickly deplete your limited oxygen supply so remain calm and try to conserve your oxygen use. If you can hear the voices of rescuers close, you can shout, but keep in mind that you will be able to hear them better than they can hear you.

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