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Surviving an earthquake, what the Italian experience proves once again

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From CNN: Thousands of survivors huddled in tents or in their cars under rainy skies early Monday following a weekend earthquake that killed seven people across northern Italy.

Having analyzed the recent Italian earthquake (May 20, 6.0 magnitude) we felt it important to help remind our readers as to the most serious danger, and yet the one for which victims are least prepared.

If an earthquake strikes trapping a victim deep beneath rubble, or if the victim is crushed or burned by subsequent fire, options are few and survival unlikely. But in most earthquakes, death tolls from immediate causes are not astronomical, meaning that many more survived than were killed by the event. We therefore remind our readers of the main killers, and have noted them as follows with advice on how to survive. Wise persons prepare so they will have options. 

1) infrastructure damaged and inoperative:

  • electrical lines are often downed or shorted out (danger when moving around)
  • power plants may go off line even if lines are not down (no electricity therefore home refrigeration faile)
  • nuclear plants may go off line and become a secondary hazard due to cooling system disruption (Fukushima)
  • water mains may be ruptured and flood houses or low areas (do you have drinking water?)
  • dams may break or cease to produce electricity
  • phone land lines may or may not be operable, and cell phones may or may not work. Remember that phone systems can be jammed by sheer volume (people calling and calling out increase greatly during an emergency).
  • even if you have a generator, how much fuel to you have on hand, and have you computerd how long it will last under your useage plan?

2) food supplies rapidly depleted:

  • even if damage is minor, panic buying will deplete supplies
  • rumors of shortages, looting, or contamination will increase fear and over-reaction
  • when food supplies are cleaned out of an area it may take weeks to bring them back to pre-disaster levels 
  • food rationing is not easy and has a significant emotional impact. Talk with your family about it and resolve to help one another not to fell bad even when they feel hungry

3) exposure to elements debilitates survivors:

  • when structures are damaged or collapsed, victims must often reside in make-shift shelters
  • exposure will show immediate effects on survivors (along with lack of sufficient food and water)
  • heat/cold injuries will often create secondary problems such as respiratory distress or physical weakness at a time when strength is needed the most
  • exposure is demoralizing to victims
  • children, elderly, and those with chronic illness are least able to survive exposure

4) emergency services are overwhelmed for an extended period

  • municipal/county emergency services have mutual aid agreements with surrounding areas, however if the disaster is wide spread, those agreements may not be viable
  • FEMA and other oversight agencies may be able to bring supplies into a disaster area, however distribution will remain a serious problem until roads can be cleared and normal communications restored 
  • If riots or significant disorder erupts, leave the area as quickly as possible. Most individuals are not equipped to prevail when threatened by mobs or an extended siege by hostile elements. Most fortified positions can eventually be overrun, usually with horrific consequences.


  1. include a good tent and several tarps in your shelter plan
  2. include heat and light sources that do not depend on electrical hook ups or batteries
  3. remain at home unless forced to leave by civil disorder or physical damage
  4. even if your home is badly damaged you may be much better off staying and picking through the ruins for useful items and food
  5. if you must go to a government shelter, stick close together and never allow children out of your sight
  6. organize games and productive work activities for children so they can help. Don't suppose that they are helpless and cannot contribute.
  7. a tent and tarps (also need paracord and tent stakes for additional shelter) for shade will help lessen the effects of exposure. Share your shelter when necessary, and help others to find shelter. Others will take heart as they see your confidence and positive action
  8. it is always relatively colder (or hotter) inside a tent, so accept that fact up front
  9. secure a supply of water and make all members of your group drink sufficient quantities. remember if water is not being passed out (as urine), you are not drinking enough
  10. link up with others whom you trust as soon as possible after the event - take inventory of your situation and decide how to best help one another an your neighbors. 
  11. maintaining morale is one of the most important factors to work on. True religious faith can bring great comfort and strength as time drags on

Think ahead and prepare logical supplies and your family will be able to improvise. If you have not prepared you will have nothing with which to  improvise.

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