Mexico City is no stranger to earthquakes. They are common in Mexico’s capital and in several regions of the country overall. This is due to Mexico’s west coast being located along the Ring of Fire, a region that surrounds the Pacific Ocean and where about 90 percent of the world’s seismic activity takes place.
It is important that anyone that inhabits Mexico City or plans to spend time there is well informed on how to act in case of an earthquake. What follows are general guidelines on what to do when an earthquake hits.
BEFORE THE EARTHQUAKE
It’s likely that emergency services will be busy at the time, so the best thing to do is assemble an emergency kit with the following items: water — one gallon (four liters) per person, a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, flashlights (with extra batteries), a portable radio, blankets, extra clothing, some money and a pipe wrench, in case you need to turn off gas or water. If there are babies and/or pets in the house, take food for them too; keep leashes and transport cages at hand for your pets. A portable electric stove could come in handy too.
Even though emergency services might be too tied up handling the catastrophe, keep the numbers of the police and fire departments, the Red Cross and Civil Protection close at hand.
Secure tall, heavy furniture and appliances to prevent them from toppling over. Do the same with containers that store flammable or hazardous material. Keep heavy objects away from high places.
Draw a general plan on what to do and where to meet. The plan should cover evacuation routes, safe spots, dangerous spots and emergency assembly points. Make sure everybody in your building knows it well.
You never know the extent of the damage caused by an earthquake, so discussing earthquake insurance with your insurance company might be worthwhile.
DURING THE EARTHQUAKE
There are radio sensors located all over Mexico City. This sensors detect the earthquake before it hits and activates an alarm that is projected from speakers attached to the city’s street cams. The alarm provides a 45-50 second window to act before the quake. Be attentive to the alarm.
If you hear the alarm, stay as calm as possible. Don’t panic, especially if you’re in a crowded place. Stay low and protect your head and neck with anything that’s close by. If there’s nothing close by, use your arms and hands for protection.
If you’re indoors when the alarm goes off, evacuate the building. Consider that you will have about 45-50 seconds to act. If you stay indoors, look for a safe spot and stay there. Getting under a desk or table is recommended or standing against an interior wall. Avoid exterior walls, glass, heavy furniture, fireplaces and appliances. The kitchen is a particularly dangerous spot, so stay clear.
Don’t use stairwells or elevators.
If you’re outdoors, stay in the open and clear of buildings, power lines or anything that could fall on you.
If the quake catches you while driving, move away from traffic and stop. Do not park under bridges or near tall buildings, lamp posts, power lines or trees. When you resume driving, beware of road hazards.
If you’re in a mountainous area, watch out for landslides.
AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE
Listen to the radio for instructions and important information. Be especially aware of any mentions of aftershock, which can also be devastating.
Check on the building’s electric wiring. If there’s any damage, shut off the power. If you smell gas, close the main valve.
Avoid driving if possible. Emergency vehicles will need clear roads.
If the phone’s working, call emergency services only when strictly necessary.
Civil Protection brigades will be out there helping people deal with the quake’s aftermath. Follow their instructions and recommendations. Police officers will be out there helping too.
Civil Protection brigades might ask you to evacuate the building after the earthquake to inspect for possible hazards. Get back in only when they tell you to.
If outdoors, look for open spaces and assembly points.
Contact friends and family to make sure everyone is safe.