haiti quake stretcher 190.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
On Tuesday, the tropical country of Haiti
experienced an earthquake with a magnitude of 7 on the Richter scale.
Statistically speaking, Israel is likely to experience an earthquake of
similar magnitude, sometime in the next 50 years. "We know for certain
that it will happen in Israel and we know that as time goes on, the
chances of it taking place in our lifetimes is greater," said Dr. Avi
Shapira, the head of the government steering committee for earthquake
last major earthquake to occur in the region was a 6.2 magnitude quake,
which took place 100 kilometers south of Eilat in 1995. The last fatal
earthquake took place in 1927 and was also measured at 6.2 in the
Richter scale. Nearly 500 people were killed.
Israel's eastern border runs along one of the world's seismic
hotspots, the Syrian-African rift fault line. With the average
time-span between earthquakes on the same scale in the regions standing
at 80 years, geology experts agree that Israel is long overdue for the
next major earthquake and that it can happen at any time. Even with the
best available equipment notice will be short.
This poses a significant threat to population centers in the
country, since many buildings in Israel were erected prior to the
formulation of earthquake-resistant construction codes. The
government's response to the danger, approved in 2005, is a national
readiness program called Tama 38.
Tama 38 authorizes renovation permits to buildings
whose plans were approved prior to 1980, the time when strict building
codes were established. The idea behind the program is that by giving
building owners incentives in terms of tax breaks on renovations or
adding apartments, the owners will improve the building's resistance to
earthquakes, the assumption being that it is the crumbling buildings
and not the earthquakes themselves that lead to fatalities.
One of the ways in which a building can be strengthened is by
enclosing its first floor. Many older buildings in Israel are built on
columns, which geologists say are an obvious hazard. Another is by
installing an elevator shaft, which adds strength and stability to
from Tama 38, which is meant to reduce the damage caused by
earthquakes, emergency services are all trained to respond in a case of
a major earthquake. If such a quake takes place primary responsibility
will be granted to the Home Front Command. The following is the Home
Front Command's list of recommended instructions on how to prepare for
and act in the case of an earthquake:
Locate a safe place in your home, far from exterior walls. If your home has a MAMAD, it is preferable than any other room.
Show all members of the household where the main electrical breakers and main water and gas valves are, and how to close them.
Familiarize yourself with the emergency exits, if there are any.
Establish a meeting point for family members in case the earthquake takes place when you are in different locations.
Any object which can move, fall or break, is a source of danger. Make sure you perform thorough home preparations.
Earthquakes damage infrastructure - roads are demolished,
electrical and telephone cables tear and water pipes burst. Rescue and
relief units will have difficulty accessing every area, and certainly
every house. Preparing an emergency bag will allow you to survive for
24 to 72 hours, until help arrives.
Most casualties in an earthquake are caused by collapse of
shelves and heavy objects or by fire and gas leaks. Therefore, it is
advisable to take the trouble today and do the following home
Attach bookshelves, cupboards and television sets to walls.
Reinforce supports of water boilers, heater tanks, gas bottles, air conditioners and their compressor units.
Store hazardous and flammable materials under lock and key and far from heat sources; place heavy objects as low as possible.
Household emergency equipment: Prepare in advance some
emergency gear and store it in an accessible place, such as the
protected space. It should include: Food and water - a stock of
drinking water (at least 4 liters per person) and preserved
ready-to-use food (of the kind routinely stored in homes). Refresh the
stock from time to time before it reaches expiry.
Essential equipment: A first aid kit, battery-operated
light source and radio, essential medicines, spare eyeglasses, baby
Important documents: Hard or electronic copies of
medical documents, identification papers, personal and financial
documents, to be stored outside the house, as backup.
Aftershocks: Be prepared for secondary tremors
(aftershocks). They can appear within minutes, days or even months
following an earthquake and may collapse structures weakened by the