It’s June 17, 2000 (Iceland’s National Day) and we’re in Bónus supermarket in the town of Hveragerði, South Iceland. An earthquake of a magnitude 6.6 has just hit the area and the store has been turned upside town: shelves have fallen down, trapping people underneath. What do you do?
This was one of the scenarios put to me and my fellow students yesterday in a first aid course. We started with what may seem like the obvious: checking for a response, moving the items from on top of those who were trapped and monitoring their breathing. In the meantime, someone went to switch off the electricity in the building.
When, on day one, we had to explain our reasons for taking the course, several of the students said that they had recently witnessed some sort of accident and felt completely helpless.
Running through scenarios like the South Iceland earthquake really gets you thinking: would you know what to do in such a situation?
Large earthquakes in Iceland are in actual fact a rarity and people have come out relatively unscathed. Knowing what to do in such an event, however, is still important.
When I studied in California a couple of years ago, I received a detailed induction into the possible threats on campus and how to respond. This included—and apparently they weren’t joking—everything from snipers to earthquakes. When it came to earthquakes, we were given basic advice like ensuring that we had some extra food and water supplies at home and to consider the placement of bookshelves and other tall furniture.
The Civil Protection and Emergency Management Department in Iceland also provides some useful safety instructions on their website.
The thing to remember if you’re indoors during an earthquake is Duck-Cover-Hold. Avoid furniture that may move and objects which may fall from shelves and duck in an open doorway, corner of a supporting wall or under a table and cover the head and hold on to the doorway or table leg. If you’re outside, it’s best to find an open space away from buildings and electric poles. Otherwise, duck and cover.
But, remember: while seismic activity is constant in Iceland, with up to dozens of small earthquakes each day, it’s only the very few that we notice and even fewer still which cause any impact on daily life here.
Zoë Robert – email@example.com