An earth tremor measuring 3.9 close to Fethiye lit up social media platforms this evening (February 11).

Just 8km deep with an epicentre out to sea but not far from Fethiye Bay, it was preceded by a dull thud and rattled buildings across the district.

But there have been quite a few more over recent weeks too, enough to prompt some to worry about whether we ought to be preparing for the next Big One.

But earthquakes are actually pretty common and happen pretty much every day all over the world.

Although feeling your first one can be disconcerting, a small tremor is actually a good thing; it releases underground pressure, making a much more significant event less likely.

Nevertheless, despite modern technology and extensive research, the bigger quakes still remain entirely unpredictable so it’s always best to be prepared.

Here are a few hints on action you can take yourself if you’re worried right now, what to do should it be necessary during an event and a few suggestions on things to consider afterwards.

Preparation

  • If you buy large pieces of furniture such as wardrobes or bookcases, they probably come with wall studs to stop them toppling over. Use them. If you’re buying second hand furniture, attaching some hooks to the wall behind the furniture and using flexible nylon ties will secure it, allowing a little movement but reducing the risk of any furniture falling over.
  • Even a minor tremor can be enough to rattle kitchen cupboards but a more significant one may even open doors, allowing anything inside to fall out; smashed glass on the floor then presents an additional risk. Latches on the cupboard doors will prevent them from being jolted open.
  • Try not to store anything heavy above head height. A big flat-screen TV is likely to fall over in a severe tremor while a heavy casserole dish or kitchen appliance in a top cupboard can be rattled out; it might be an idea to keep them in a unit closer to the floor.
  • Have you given any thought to where you would take refuge if you were in any given room in the house when a big quake struck? It’s not a bad idea to plan ahead or even do a quick rehearsal. Most who have no experience of earthquakes would probably want to try to get outside but expert advice is to get down on the floor, get underneath a sturdy piece of furniture such as a table or chair and hang on until the shaking is over. Why not choose a place of safety and see if you can fit in it comfortably?
  • Keep some canned food, water, a torch, a whistle, a charged power pack for your phone and a first aid kit somewhere handy and preferably near where you intend to take cover – plus a store of medication if you need it. Don’t forget some food for pets too as it may be hard to acquire afterwards. It’s also not a bad idea to have some cash available as ATMs may not work either.
  • Documents such as your home insurance policy, your passport, or your residents’ permit could be really important in the first few days after a significant event. It might be useful to have copies stored somewhere. You might also want to include photographs of any valuables.
  • It’s probably not wise to concern children too much but you might want to speak to them about a plan of action so you all know what you would do if a bigger tremor occurred when you’re apart. How would you meet up or communicate in the immediate aftermath? Remember, a mobile phone may not work so it may be an idea to have alterative in mind.

During The Event

  • As already indicated, experts’ advice is to not to try to leave a building during an earthquake. First of all, the movement of the earth can throw you off balance if you’re trying to run. Also, there is a chance you could move into the path of falling buildings or furniture or slip on broken glass, causing a significant injury. If you’re inside and the ground continues to shake after the initial jolt, get down on the floor, get under cover and hang on. If you happen to be in bed, use a pillow to cover your head and stay where you are. Don’t try to move or leave the house.
  • If you’re outside when the tremor strikes move away from buildings, tall trees or power lines.
  • If you’re driving, slow down and stop in a clear space away from buildings, trees or power lines. Apply the handbrake and stay in the car until the movement stops.
Fethiye was last hit by a major earthquake in 1957. The death toll would have been much higher than 19 if not for the precautions taken by the authorities at the time. Picture by Steve Parsley.

In The Aftermath

  • Although a tremor may only last a minute at most, it can still be enough to damage the local infrastructure which will then be more vulnerable to aftershocks. Although not as powerful as the original tremor, aftershocks could be enough to bring down weakened structures. Re-entering a damaged building is therefore extremely risky as an aftershock can occur at any time, sometimes days after the first one.
  • If the worst does happen and you are trapped or need assistance and you have access to a working mobile phone, use text rather than make calls to preserve as much of the battery power as possible. Alternatively, make as much noise as you can by tapping on masonry or pipes or by blowing a whistle if you have one. Shouting increases the risk of inhaling dust and so will excessive movement. Remain as still as possible to conserve energy and air.
  • Avoid using lighters, matches or light switches until you can be sure there are no gas leaks in the building or the immediate area. If you still have running water, it may be wise to fill a bath or a large container as the supply could be cut off at any time. Remember, your hot water tank may also still be full.
  • If you have a home phone, check to see if it is still on its cradle as it may have been dislodged and family may be trying to contact you. If access to social media is still possible, post that you are safe and where you can be found. If you need any assistance, it might be an idea to leave a sign in your window for emergency teams to read so they’re aware of what you need, even if you’re not there at the time. Stay tuned to local media for guidance and advice being offered by the recovery agencies.

Although reading advice can be concerning, it’s important to remember major earthquakes are not frequent and, although they do happen in countries around the Mediterranean including Turkey, several generations may live their lives without ever experiencing one.

Building regulations in affected countries have also been amended to incorporate the risks while homes, offices and apartments are now designed to withstand even a major incident.

But, just the same, it’s still not a bad idea to have a plan and we hope the tips above help. The following links should take you to other online resources which may be able to offer further assistance:

http://www.fethiyetimes.com/magazine/general/19541-earthquakes-are-you-prepared.html

https://www.keyholdersinternational.com/living-life-tremor-zone/?fbclid=IwAR0Qs6Yx6fMGdouMXC_ZFQsSj7TOW4aw2OUne4WF8hkrsleNoFMJbc9rCZ4

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/earthquake-safety-tips/

 

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