It Took an Earthquake to Teach Me Preparedness and Priorities

We don’t have earthquakes here. Tremors, yes. Earthquakes, not that I knew of.

Yet, what we experienced today was the worst in over 8 decades (so has been reported). I guess the common feeling around here is more of panic and unpreparedness than anything else.

Kathmandu has sustained a lot of damage both in terms of life and property. Since a lot of Northern India is in the same seismic zone, we have had our share of it as well. I don’t yet know about the scenario in the other states but parts of Bihar and Bengal have had a day.

How it all began:

It started like any other saturday morning in summer. My sister and I were lazing around, dilly-dallying with our chores, chuckling gladly at the overcast, windy atmosphere.

I decided it was a day for a long, pamper session in the shower complete with hair mask, face mask, pedicure and all. I couldn’t have been more wrong in accumulating a lot of tasks for any particular time frame. I had been over worked for the past few days and I actually felt I was getting dizzy in the shower. But when I saw the bottles vibrating on the shelf and the loofah swinging from its holder, I knew there was about be some trouble. I decided to wait it out, dismissing it as tremors that would subside in a matter of seconds. It was then the fire alarm went off and the sprinklers came to life. I could hear an immediate ruckus and alarmed voices.It was like a pandemonium. I could hear my mother panicking, asking my sister to warn me about the earthquake.

That was the cue I needed that it wasn’t going to subside anytime soon. I had never experienced an earthquake and that too in a highrise, I was just calculating how much time we had on our hands before the tower turned into rubble. I grabbed a bottle of water, my “earthquake bag” that had all my papers and cards and a bit of loose cash, ushered my mother and sister out of the apartment and sprinted down the stairs barefoot, wrapped in a bathrobe, my face and hair plastered in masks.

earthquake bag
Earthquake bag

 

I can’t recall how many thoughts went through my head around that time. I could feel my earthquake bag weighing me down as I had dumped all of my papers into it over the years and not just the important ones along with the soft copies. I was in half a mind to drop it right there and run 15 flights of stairs up the adjacent tower to the apartment where my grandparents lived. I wasn’t sure if they would be able to make it if it turned worse.

I handed over the earthquake bag to my sister and ran up to their apartment only to find my grandparents having used another emergency staircase and my heart beginning to burst.

We all waited out for around half an hour. I can’t be sure of the time. I could see no one was prepared. They had no earthquake bags with them. The ladies with babies had diapers and baby food. That was about it. It was then I went back upstairs to get the medical kit , some food, and blankets. The second one struck.

The first one measured 7.4 and the second one measured 6 on the Richter scale.

 

Lesson 1. 

Organise your life and spread out tasks:

Now I know what is important and what is not!

The earthquake taught me not to assume anything. Just because we never had an earthquake before, we can’t be sure and problems can strike from the most unexpected corner. It taught me to spread out tasks over the course of time and not try to do a lot at any given period.

Lesson 2.

Cut out Excess Baggage:

It was primarily my paranoia that led me make an “Earthquake bag” in the first place. It started with all my certificates and bank documents. Then it spread out to a lot more unnecessary stuff,so much so, that it almost made me dump the whole thing and run off.

Lesson 3.

Water, food, umbrella, warm clothes, medical kit  (and of course, car keys and documents, if you can manage), that’s all you need to survive.

These things seem obvious to anyone who has kits ready. I had to come back a second time to get the medical supplies and blankets for my grandparents.

Lesson 4.

Keeping a communication channel open.

I don’t charge my devices till they are almost discharged. Bad bad habit. You need to save your phone. You need to have some carrier balance. Since I make calls over the internet, my balance from the service provider was negligible. I could not make any calls. I was almost carrying my laptop out too, but then I realised it would slow me down and it was useless since I would not have the internet.

Lesson 5.

Climbing up 15 flights of stairs in a state of panic is the worst thing you can do to your heart.

I am never, ever going to buy an apartment anywhere north of second floor!

I probably would have put it in a better way but this is all I can think of at the moment. I have re-organised my stuff and repacked everything. Not changing in to night-clothes or even shutting my eyes.

It took an earthquake to make me more alert and aware. I am still feeling jittery and dizzy and pulling an all-nighter just to be sure that we are not caught unprepared at 3 am.

Any tips or ideas for handling such situations?

 

 

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11 Comments

            1. There were tremors till last evening. Don’t know if it might re-occur. The Indian plate is constantly moving northward and that’s what caused it. There are thundershower and landslide alerts in Nepal and some adjoining areas.

              Here the metro rails are back up in Delhi and Kolkata…

              Like

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