Preparing for the big one

Bhutan, located in the young Himalayan mountains, sits on one of most seismically active zones in the world. As the Indian subcontinent collides against the Eurasian plate, the Himalayas are being pushed upwards at the rate of about a centimetre every year.

The pressure, that has been building between the locked plates for the last 300 years, could release a devastating shake of no less than 8 magnitude on the Richter scale. But fortunately, there is also another theory that the stress accumulated might be accommodated by the fault along the Kurichhu basin.

But even then, we cannot be complacent.

If a major earthquake were to hit us, the devastation could be unimaginable.

Destruction of homes, infrastructure and lives could be significant. The power and communications network could fail. Our roads could be blocked by numerous slides.

Bhutan is also a highly GLOF-prone country and a major earthquake could trigger floods.

We must prepare on two fronts. We must be ready for when a major earthquake strikes and for the recovery.

We have a National Action Plan for School Earthquake Safety to protect school children and teachers from earthquakes and other natural hazards, to make buildings safer and more earthquake-resistant, to enhance earthquake and emergency preparedness in schools, and to build overall capacity and awareness about earthquakes and other natural hazards.

But this is not enough.

We must, as individuals, think beyond all these to prepare ourselves. We can educate ourselves on earthquakes and know the science behind it so that rumors about “impending” earthquakes carry less weight, and fear and panic don’t ensue.

We can ensure that our homes are safer by securing your furniture, for instance, bolting tall cupboards and shelves to the walls, not hanging large frames above your bed, or leaving large items loose in high places.

We can practice earthquake drills as individuals, families, communities, organisations, among others. We can prepare emergency kits that include medical, food, and other supplies so that if we’re cut off, we can help ourselves, and each other, if the relief effort is delayed or overwhelmed.

We can also insure our smallest and largest properties so that the financial loss is not as severe if we were to lose our homes and property. It would also help us in being a step ahead as we begin to rebuild.

Earthquakes cannot be predicted. It is out of our control. But the chances of our survivability can be increased by being prepared.

As the days roll by, we can ill afford to delay our preparedness.

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