Dealing with Earthquakes In Taiwan

The following information has been edited from information supplied by the Taipei British School and the Community Services Centre, Taipei, and is included here with their kind permission. Please refer to the Community Services Centre publication "Taipei Living"

HOW TO PREPARE FOR AN EARTHQUAKE

Questions you should ask about your home

  • How old is it? If it is in an apartment building or a cement structure, is it made with reinforced cement (steel beams or cables inside the cement)? Reinforced or steel-framed construction, which is typical in most larger buildings today, possesses the strength and flexibility to withstand earthquake movement.
  • Do the gas lines shut off automatically in a strong earthquake or must they be shut off by hand. If so, where are they located? Ask your landlord.

Preparing your home

During an earthquake tall furniture and bookcases may tip over and cause damage or injury or block doorways and exits. Cabinet doors may burst open, emptying dishes and other objects onto the floor. Lamps, TV sets, hanging plants, suspended light fixtures and other household items may fall. Toxic and flammable materials in the kitchen or workshop may spill. Appliances may "walk."

To prepare your home for an earthquake consider the following:

  • Secure chests, cabinets, bookcases by bolting/screwing them to the wall. They must be secured into a "stud" slat inside the wall. If not, an extreme earthquake jolt may tear the furniture away from the thin plasterboard that makes up most of the wall. If you cannot find the stud of the wall, then you can make a kind of exterior stud with metal L-brackets and/or lag screws
  • Cabinets containing breakable objects can be secured with childproof locks or even thick rubber bands. Safety latches will not open in a quake. Keep heavy objects on low shelves
  • Where are the glass covered pictures/art works hanging? Above beds? Near important passageways like the hallway to your children's rooms? If they fell and the glass broke would it be dangerous?
  • Secure hanging fixtures well.
  • Store toxic and flammable materials in spill-proof, crush-proof containers on low shelves, preferably in locked cabinets.
  • Remove any lock wheels or casters from the refrigerator and other heavy appliances or block them so they will not move. Brace your water heater by fastening it to a wall with metal straps.
  • Make sure your home is equipped with a fire extinguisher, that it is in good working order and that you know how to use it.

Preparing your family

VERY IMPORTANT- Have a family meeting
  • Do a pretend drill with your children.
  • Agree with all members of your family where you will meet, that is where is your designated evacuation site and how you get to it.
  • Decide which neighbours you will contact.
  • Have your housekeeper or nanny well informed of all these decisions.

If inside/at home when an earthquake occurs

  • Stay where you are! If you are inside, stay inside unless fire breaks out and you know you can get to a safe location. Stay inside until you are advised otherwise. Most earthquake injuries occur as people enter or leave buildings. The greatest danger is from falling objects just outside exterior doorways and walls.
  • Open a doorway and secure an exit path. Strong movement can cause door frames to distort and doors to jam
  • Move to a safe location, get under a sturdy table or desk, stand or crouch in a strong doorway in a load-bearing wall, not a partition wall or brace yourself in an inside corner of the room. Take the best available cover and make sure children are protected. If possible, shield your head with a coat, cushion or blanket.
  • Stay away from windows, mirrors or other glass that might shatter
  • Avoid chandeliers and other heavy hanging objects that might fall.
  • Keep clear of bookcases, cabinets and other pieces of heavy furniture that might topple or spill their contents.
  • Stay away from stoves, heating units, fireplaces and any area where bricks might fall from the chimney
  • Stay away from brick walls (both interior and exterior) and vending machines.
  • When you feel an earthquake tremor, if possible, turn off all sources of electricity and gas to prevent fire (gas pipes, stoves, heaters, etc.)
  • If a fire occurs, extinguish it quickly. (Always make sure that your fire extinguisher is in working order and easily accessible. Learn how to use it.) If you are instructed to leave the building, protect your head with a chair or some other sturdy object and watch for falling objects such as windows, glass, walls, ceilings and other loose objects
  • If you are in a high-rise building, do not use the elevators at all or the stairs when the earthquake is taking place.
  • Do not just blindly rush outside, see what's ahead of you, objects may be falling or about to fall. If walking towards the evacuation site be aware of large store signs, big glass windows, and exterior walls falling - look up!
  • When you evacuate do not be concerned with what you are wearing or your belongings, you and your family's lives are at stake
  • Do not use your car

If outside when an earthquake occurs

  • If you are outside, find shelter outdoors, unless you are lucky enough to be in an open space where nothing can fall on you. Be sure to stay clear of power lines and poles, trees or branches, external stairs, building facade ornaments, chimneys or anything that might fall
  • If you are downtown, hazards increase, especially in areas of high-rise buildings. Windows and building facades can shower the streets with deadly litter. Get under a strong doorway or crawl under a parked vehicle, the bigger the better

If driving when an earthquake occurs

  • Do not suddenly stop, instead, slow down and pull over to the side of the road
  • If you have to leave your car, close the windows and doors but leave they key in the car. Do not lock the doors.

What you might need after a quake

You can prepare by having the following emergency kit ready and placed in the safest location in your house, that is close to the location where you would go for the best cover and best exit.

  1. Emergency medical kit (needs to be replenished/checked every 6 months)
    • bandages
    • Band Aids
    • disinfectant
    • cold pack
    • medication for burns
    • medication for shock
    • medication for diarrhoea/food allergies
    • vitamins
    • aspirin (Tylenol - children and adult dosages)
    • scissors
    • tweezers
    • any prescribed medication that your family is using
    • Note: Some people experience a slight feeling of nausea or unsteadiness immediately following an earthquake because the balance mechanism in the ear is disturbed.
  2. Swiss army knife
  3. Money in cash - small bills (approx. NT$50,000)
  4. Xerox copies of all important legal papers, including all passports, ID Card,
  5. Important phone numbers in Australia and abroad
  6. Flashlights and extra batteries, rechargeable lanterns and candles (including matches) - put in various places throughout your home especially in bedside drawers - please observe the usual precautions with storage of these items in homes with children
  7. Portable radio and extra batteries
  8. Hard hats or protective head covering eg bike helmets
  9. Water and food - approx. 5 days worth for each family member
    • spring water is better than mineral water
    • dried and canned goods
    • powdered milk
    • baby formula/bottles/foods
  10. Can opener, eating utensils and plastic dishware/cups
  11. Clothing
    • rain/cold weather gear
    • shoes (placed under or near beds - this is very important as people often run from buildings and cut their feet on glass and debris)
    • socks
    • diapers
  12. Portable gas stove
  13. Extra gas canisters
  14. Personal hygiene items
    • sanitary napkins/tampons
    • toothbrushes and toothpaste
    • soap and washcloths
  15. Crow bar (for opening jammed doors and passageways)
  16. Fire extinguisher(s) (important to learn how it works)
  17. Cellular telephone
  18. Backpack
  19. Blankets
  20. A whistle

Central Weather Bureau (CWB) Earthquake consulting hot line: +886-2-23491168

Useful Links:
Taiwan Central Weather Bureau (CWB) For Earthquake
National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering (NCREE)
Taiwan Geotechnical Society (TGS)
Taiwan Construction Research Institute
Chinese Taiwan Society for Earthquake Engineering (CTSEE)
Taiwan Residential Earthquake Insurance Program (TREIP)
The National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction (NCDR), Taipei, Taiwan
International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT) - English Language Radio Station