Where is that first aid kit anyway?

The floor beneath your feet buckles and rolls. The walls around you groan. An earthquake tears the ground apart. You drop, cover, and hold on. You stay in that position until the last tremors pass. Perfect.

Then what?

First inspect yourself. If you have no injuries, put on sturdy shoes, a dust mask, and eye protection if these things are handy.

Get out your first aid kit and inspect the other people around you.

The simple fact is you may not be able to phone emergency services after an earthquake. You may not be able to phone anyone at all. If phones are still working, resources may be stretched thin and it could be a long time before help arrives.

Most earthquake-related injuries do not happen during the movement of the earth. They are a result of collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects. That means cuts, bruises and maybe even broken bones. 

If someone around you is injured, the Southern California earthquake site says to do the following:

  • If a person is bleeding, put direct pressure on the wound. Use clean gauze or cloth, if available.
  • If a person is not breathing, administer rescue breathing.
  • If a person has no pulse, begin CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
  • Do not move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
  • Cover injured persons with blankets or additional clothing to keep them warm.

The United States Department of Labor site says: Fire is the most common earthquake-related hazard, due to broken gas lines, damaged electrical lines or appliances, and previously contained fires or sparks being released.

  • Do you know the right first aid for a burn?

The Mayo Clinic offers information on first aid for burns here.

On top of these risks, you have to think about shock. Shock can divert blood and oxygen away from the body’s vital organs.

  • Do you know the physiological symptoms of shock?

Hint: the skin may be cold and clammy, the pulse may race and the eyes may seem faraway or fixed on a single spot.

  • Do you know how to treat a person for shock?

Hint: have the person lie down, elevate the feet, loosen the clothing and keep the person warm. 

Read more about recognizing and treating shock on the Mayo Clinic site.

All of this information should be in a booklet inside your first aid kit. Now is the time to check that you have what you need. If not, why not go to some of these sites that offer great first aid instructions and print a copy for your grab-and-go bag.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Polish First Aid by Łukasz Rychlik