A seasonal summer rainstorm dragged on for hours in Mexico City on Monday. Tropical Storm Frank was still hundreds of kilometers from Mexico’s Pacific coast, but pushed heavy rains into the center of the country. In the capital, commuters waited at Metro entrances before sprinting to catch their buses. Pedestrians were soaked by passing cars driving through massive puddles. Taco stands closed early instead of fighting the rain.
Beyond complicating the commute home for millions of city residents, the storm felled trees, caused dangerous flooding on major thoroughfares and knocked out power in parts of the Cuauhtémoc delegation.
Flooding is just one of the risks that comes with living in one of the largest cities in the hemisphere. Mexico City is also prone to earthquakes, which “chilangos” learned the hard way in September 1985, when an 8.1 magnitude earthquake killed thousands of people and left many more homeless.
While earthquake safety provisions have improved greatly since 1985, disaster could still strike again in Mexico City. What would you do if your home flooded? What if an earthquake knocked out power and celular service in your neighborhood?
Residents of Mexico City should make emergency plans with their families or roommates. The insurance company Zurich México has partnered with the Red Cross in Mexico to provide emergency planning and relief in some of Mexico’s most vulnerable states, such as Tabasco, which suffers from frequent flooding. Zurich and Desarollo en Protección Civil A.C. encouraged families to make their own emergency plans at a event in Zurich’s Mexico City offices on July 26th.
A good emergency plan has four elements: basic health and contact information for all family members, emergency contact information, an evacuation plan and clearly designated responsibilities for each family member. Families should also prepare an emergency kit to have on hand at all times. In a natural disaster, you may be without electricity, telephone service and other basic services for days. The Red Cross and Zurich recommend making a kit that has not just first aid supplies, but everything you would need to survive in your home for three days. This includes three liters of water per person per day, toiletries such as shampoo and toothpaste, non-perishable foods, flashlights, any necessary medicines and a whistle to alert rescue personnel to your location.
Families should establish two meeting points, one in the neighborhood and another outside the neighborhood, if they have to find each other during an emergency.
It is also important to reduce risks of accidents in the home. In Mexico, the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 14, are accidents.
While taking preventative steps greatly reduces the chance of accidents, residents should also know whom to contact in case of an emergency. In Mexico City the emergency number is 066, which can be called in to report medical emergencies, fires, gas leaks, flooding, traffic accidents and crimes. The Red Cross can be reached at 065. While emergency numbers have already been consolidated to some extent, starting in 2017, the emergency number nation-wide will be 911.
Residents of Mexico City and the rest of the country can consult the Zurich México and Protección Civil websites for more information. The National Disaster Prevention Center (Cenapred) has a guide in Spanish for creating a family emergency plan and the National Center for Accident Prevention (Cenapra) also has an extensive guide in Spanish for preventing accidents in the home.
By consulting these resources and making a plan, families can prevent the worse in case of emergency.