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Earthquakes

Earthquakes and other catastrophic events can strike with little or no warning. Health facilities must be built to survive the impact of a sudden or slow-moving disaster and continue to serve their communities. Health workers need the training and resources required to treat the health issues and injuries that result from such brutal events.

Patient being transported for medical help

Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanoes…

Earthquakes and other catastrophic events can strike suddenly on a massive scale over a wide area with a death toll in the tens of thousands. While the tsunami threat after an earthquake (Indonesia 2018 Japan 2011Southeast Asia 2004) does allow a brief time to post a warning, often it is too little to save lives. In the case of earthquakes and volcanoes, the series of aftershocks or continued volcanic activity poses an ongoing threat in the midst of the chaos after the initial event.  And in countries like Haiti which has endured the devastation and death associated with major earthquakes in 2010 and again in 2021, the recovery process take years and exposes communities to the effects of other disasters. In 2020, while Puerto Rico was still recovering from Hurricane Maria, a major earthquake struck. Learn more about our earthquake response in Puerto Rico.

Although we can identify earthquake/volcano risk regions, such as the “Ring of Fire” in the South Pacific or the San Andreas fault in Southern California, we have little warning when a sudden event devastates a country or entire region. The latest deadly earthquake in Afghanistan struck suddenly in a vulnerable region of a country struggling with many challenges and especially vulnerable to such disasters.

Sometimes the event starts a cascade of catastrophe as in the Japan Earthquake of 2011 that added a monstrous tsunami and then a nuclear disaster with reactor damage and radioactive contamination of air, soil and water. Volcanic eruptions can bury entire communities or inundate whole areas with lava flows and fill the air with deadly toxic gases or ash. The readiness challenges for effective disaster response and recovery after a catastrophic event are formidable.  In 2020 we responded to the eruption of the Taal Volcano in Talisay, Philippines and we are currently monitoring a 7.1 earthquake that occurred on July 26 in the Philippines. See the latest earthquake activity via the USGS map.

Threats During Catastrophic Events

From the experience of Americares Emergency Response Team and our health partners, what are some of the specifics of local readiness and response for catastrophic events? 

Abstract graphic of an earthquake

Threat:

Major structural damage to or complete destruction of health facilities (e.g. Nepal Earthquake) including the surrounding infrastructure.

Response:

Temporary structures to provide immediate care for the injured, followed by rebuilding stronger, using materials, structural techniques and location based on best practices to better withstand future seismic events.

Abstract graphic of an power outage

Threat:

Cascading connected disasters (e.g. Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, Nuclear Disaster) destroying much of a community or rendering it uninhabitable.

Response:

Identifying and serving the specific health needs of the most vulnerable and least mobile (i.e. the elderly, small children, expectant mothers, people with disabilities)

Abstract graphic of a map

Threat:

Loss of access to health care for those injured in disaster or with ongoing care needs due to infrastructure damage that cuts off  remote locations and limits services. 

Response:

Support Emergency Medical Teams equipped to handle or refer impact or crush injuries and provide primary care for those with ongoing treatment needs (e.g. chronic disease).

Are You Prepared for an Earthquake?

  • Be prepared for no electrical or water service for days or weeks.
  • Have a combination weather radio, flashlight and hand crank charger for cellphones at the ready.
  • Have a cash reserve.
  • Know where the shutoff valve and tool are for your natural gas line.
  • Secure bookshelves to walls or any other heavy objects that could fall and injure.
  • Create an earthquake kit with food, water and gear for 72 hours.
Abstract graphic of a relocation

Threat:

Relocation to temporary camps or housing.

Response:

Family emergency kits, water purification, emergency medical care, medicine and supplies for those who lost their homes and who had to flee quickly without their personal belongings or medications.

Abstract graphic of a hug

Threat:

Mental trauma from severe injury or surrounding loss of life and home from initial seismic disaster, subsequent events or aftershocks.

Response:

Training health workers to identify trauma and implementing longer-term mental health support programs for those most at risk.

Learn more about preparing for an earthquake

Abstract graphic of an earthquake
The Ready Cycle Plans for the Worst

Help Communities Build Back Better.

Consider what your ongoing support could do for communities recovering from a major earthquake or other catastrophe, a recovery that may take months …or years.

Abstract graphic of our Ready, Respond, Recover cycle

The Ready Cycle Plans for the Worst

Emergency programs at Americares represent a continuous cycle of ReadyRespondRecover and then get Ready again, only better. Each disaster presents a new set of challenges to lay the foundation for a better response the next time around.  It is a dynamic process, ever changing as more extreme weather, new disease outbreaks, earth-shaking catastrophes and unforeseen manmade crises arise – always demanding that we increase our knowledge and capabilities. In that work, we are ever mindful and incredibly grateful for the ongoing support of our donors and the presence of local partners who have the ground sense and skill necessary to meet the challenges and often only lack resources to prepare for them.

Our Work:
Responding to Earthquakes, Volcanoes & Tsunamis

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