SAN JUAN, PR – Every year approximately 800 seismic events occur in the Puerto Rico region. While some of them are imperceptible, others remind us of the urgency to prepare ourselves better to survive no notice emergencies, such as earthquakes and tsunamis. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) emphasizes the role of prepared communities that become stronger and smarter by planning and practicing what to do to survive and recover faster from this type of events.
This week FEMA joins efforts with the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency, the Puerto Rico Seismic Network, the Puerto Rico Broadcasters Association and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) through LANTEX 2013, an exercise that will take place this Wednesday, March 20, 2013. This drill will test the Emergency Alert System (EAS) during an earthquake/tsunami event and the communications and response processes of local, state and federal governments, as well as the private sector during an activation of this kind.
“A destructive earthquake can occur anytime and once it happens, it's too late to prepare ourselves. We encourage everyone in our communities to be ready NOW as you might not be with your family, your children might be at school or you could be at work,” said FEMA’s Caribbean Area Division Director Alejandro De La Campa. “This exercise provides everyone with a great opportunity to practice their emergency plans and become involved in their emergency preparedness.”
A great first step to include in your emergency plan is to look for information about emergency plans in places where you and your family spend time: work, daycare and school. If no plan exists, the following simple steps can help you begin developing your family emergency communications plan:
- Identify an out-of town contact. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
- Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins, or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Make sure to tell your family and friends that you’ve listed them as emergency contacts.
- Teach family members how to use text messaging (also known as SMS or Short Message Service). Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
In addition to being aware of your risks, learn what to do during diverse emergency situations. Here are a few tips to remember:
When an earthquake hits:
- DROP to the ground;
- Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk, table or other piece of furniture. If there is none around to get under, get down near an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands; and
- HOLD ON to the furniture or to your head and neck until the shaking stops.
Pay attention to some of these tsunami warning signs:
- A strong earthquake, or one that lasts for 20 seconds or longer
- The ocean withdraws or rises rapidly
- A loud, roaring sound (like an airplane or a train) coming from the ocean
- Tsunami warnings broadcast over television and radio, by beach lifeguards, community sirens, text message alerts, National Weather Service tsunami warning center Web sites and on NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards
When a tsunami hits:
- Keep calm;
- Immediately move to the local tsunami shelter using defined tsunami evacuation routes.
- If there are no evacuation routes defined, move to higher ground that is at least 100 feet in elevation, a mile inland, or to the highest floor of a sturdy building and STAY there.
- If you are already in a safe location, STAY there.
- Move by foot when possible - do not drive - this keeps the roads unobstructed for emergency vehicles.
- Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio or news broadcasts for changes in tsunami alerts.
- Stay away from the coast and low-lying areas until local officials say it's safe to return.
For more information on earthquake safety, including what to do before, during, and after an earthquake and how to check for earthquake hazards, visit http://www.fema.gov/hazard/earthquake/. Further information regarding tsunami safety, evacuation, safe relocation and the tsunami ready program is available at www.tsunami.gov and http://prsn.upr.edu. For emergency planning information and how to put together an emergency kit and other preparedness initiatives to be ready for disasters, visit www.ready.gov.
FEMA News Desk (787) 296-3554, 3560
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.