Monday, November 30, 2009

Trapped Under Rubble

An earthquake, tornado, hurricane, landslide, explosion, or a structural failure in an old building (or even a poorly built new building) can all result in your being trapped beneath a pile of rubble. If you are fortunate enough to survive the collapse of building materials, your next priority is to survive long enough to be rescued.

Self rescue might be possible — digging yourself out from beneath the pile. But there are risks involved in that strategy, and you need to weigh the options.

  • Are you in a place where a rescue effort is likely to begin soon, or are you in some remote place where nobody will even know that the collapse has taken place? 
  • Are you injured to the point that your self rescue attempt might make the injuries more serious?
  • Is the pile of material loose enough to crawl through?
  • Is the material unstable and likely to come crashing down even more if you disturb it?
You must analyze the situation and use your best judgement. But here are some things to keep in mind.
  • Don't light a match to see in the darkness. There might be a gas leak that could turn the place into your own crematorium.
  • Don't kick up a lot of dust, or you might end up inhaling toxic materials. Then, even if you survive, you might end up with lingering illness. 
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief or other bit of cloth to help filter out some of the airborne debris. 
  • Signal for help, but try to find some other method besides shouting. Yelling for help causes you to inhale deeply when you are trying to keep from sucking up the dust. And hearing your own desperate cry for help can cause you to panic. The best way to signal for help is to use a signal whistle (a good reason to always have a small one hanging around your neck like a piece of cheap jewelry). Banging on pipes or making some other kind of racket is good, too, but those sounds might be lost in the ruckus being made by rescuers trying to dig though the rubble. The shrill pitch of a whistle, on the other hand, carries well and is totally unlike other sounds so it will be noticed. 
Being trapped requires patience on your part. Don't needlessly exhaust yourself and become dehydrated. Survivors are pulled from wreckage days after the collapse, so you want to conserve your energy so you can survive as long as possible. 

1 comment:

  1. Good info. Live in NZ and this kind of stuff is now a very real threat.