5 tips to keep your children safe during an earthquake
Here are some must-know tips on how parents can keep their children, their infants and other loved ones safe during an earthquake.
In June 2015, six Singaporean students and their teacher perished after an earthquake rocked Malaysia’s Mount Kinabalu where they were having a school excursion. A recent earthquake in the popular tourist destination of Lombok, Indonesia, has also affected many Singaporeans there, including Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam and his delegation.
Singapore is generally accepted to be safe from the danger of earthquakes. But many of the neighbouring countries that we love to travel to – especially Indonesia – are not as sheltered. Do you know how to keep children safe during an earthquake should one strike suddenly while you are travelling?
1. Teach your children how to “Drop! Cover! Hold on!”
Children must be taught that from the initial shaking of an earthquake, there is no way for you to know whether it will subside or intensify, so the first thing they must do is to drop to the ground. They must then take cover under a sturdy desk or table, and hold on to their shelter until the shaking stops.
Inform your children that an earthquake may be so violent that if they run or try to move around, they may get injured in the process. So best to “Drop! Cover! and Hold on!” until an adult comes to get them.
2. How to “Drop! Cover! and Hold on!” when with an infant
Taking care of yourself during an earthquake is nerve-wracking enough, but even more so when you have an infant with you. First and foremost, it is very important that you do not panic! The safety of your little one is completely dependent on you.
Follow the “Drop! Cover! and Hold on!” process while carefully holding the infant against your chest. If you are with a bigger child, crouch over the child’s body to protect them from any falling debris and to keep them in place.
3. How to “Drop! Cover! and Hold on!” with two or more children
Before an earthquake strikes, it is best to look around your home or school for secure furniture to hide under. Also take note of heavy objects that are prone to falling over during an earthquake – this includes potted plants, television sets, desktop monitors, bookshelves, drawers and more.
This is especially important for daycare centres or homes with cribs, as some parents or guardians may not be able to get to all children in time. The removal of furniture that may tip over decreases the possibility of anything falling onto the children.
To perform the “Drop! Cover! and Hold on!” with two or more children, you may either carry them or make sure that they are huddled close to you. Teach them to stay in a crawling position all throughout so that their vital organs are protected.
Once you get to a safe spot in the room (underneath a table, desk or in a corner), tell the children to remain in the crawling position and to keep their heads and neck covered with their hands and arms.
4. Boost your child’s confidence by helping them come up with a Go! bag
A Go! bag is a bag that your child can quickly put on during emergencies. When picking a Go! bag, it is important that you choose a pack that is light enough for your child but is sturdy enough to carry all that he needs.
Also, make sure that there is nothing on the bag that will get him snagged should he need to move quickly or climb under desks, tables or tight spaces for cover.
What should be in your child’s Go! bag:
- Extra clothes, socks, underwear, a coat and shoes
- Grooming kit: toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, hand towel, comb or brush, sanitary wipes, toilet paper, sunscreen a small mirror for grooming and signalling.
- First-aid kit
- Fork, spoon and small plate
- Flashlight with extra batteries and a whistle
- A laminated family photo with extended family members. On the back, label who’s who. Print out identification and contact information, including emails and cell phone numbers.
- Laminated documents that contain your child’s medical conditions (if any) and the medicines that he needs to take.
- Bottled water and non-perishable snacks.
- Comfort item: their blanket, stuffed animal or an activity book.
- Small packet of sanitary wipes to wash his or her body. Include a washcloth.
- A trash bag that can serve as a poncho or as a cover for the ground.
5. Practice makes perfect
Since an earthquake can strike at any time, it is best to assemble a Go! bag for you and your child as soon as possible and to practice “Drop! Cover! and Hold on!” According to shakeout.org, “Children need to develop muscle-memory so they will react quickly and correctly when the ground starts shaking. Parents and caregivers should model Drop, Cover, and Hold On behaviours and practice with their children so they too will react appropriately.”
We hope these tips on how to keep children safe during an earthquake are useful to all families.