How to be ready for an earthquake

How to be ready for an earthquake

Marzena Romanowska
January 11, 2017

Istanbul is located on the axis of a great fault line, making it a city exposed to a greater chance of an earthquake. If you haven’t had the chance to participate in a professional training preparing you for such emergency, this article covers preparation basics. 

Turkish AFAD

Preparing in advance is a crucial step in crisis prevention. Gathering information, setting up an emergency plan with your family, and packing an emergency bag will help you conveniently get through the first 72 hours after a major earthquake.

Step 1: Know your immediate environment by heart.

-Where is the nearest open, safe area, away from tall buildings? This should be the place you head to once the initial quake is over. This should also be the designated meeting point in case the quake occurs when your family members are not together. Some neighborhoods have earthquake designated meeting areas (deprem parkı) - make sure to know their location. Otherwise do the research on your own;

-Are there any dangerous points in the area (gas station, chemical plant, factory)? Make sure you know the shortest way to leave their location, or to avoid them on your way to the safe area.

-Know the type of the building you live in. Although the newest construction is conducted according to earthquake safety measures, there are still many unsafe buildings in Istanbul - especially those constructed before 1997. In case of a severe quake, a post-earthquake check should be conducted to ensure your building is fit to live in again. When renting a house, make sure the owner provides you with a copy of a DASK policy (mandatory earthquake insurance).

Step 2: House retrofitting

The majority of harm during an earthquake is caused by unstable objects and furniture. Permanently attaching heavier pieces to walls and floors is highly recommended, not only if there are little kids at home, but for all households.

Make sure to know the most stable piece of furniture in each room to be able to hide next to when an earthquake occurs. Whether it's the bed, couch or a table, in case of emergency get on your knees right next to it, covering your head with your hands, and remain in this position until the initial quake stops.

Step 3: Family plan

Every family member should know by heart what to do in case an earthquake occurs. In the actual moment of emergency, there is no time to check safety of all family members in their rooms, so they should be able to take secure positions and wait patiently until the quake stops. Immediately afterwards, everyone should head outside through emergency exits of the building (in no case you should use the elevator), picking up their emergency bags (which should be prepared in advance, see Step 4).


Make sure all family members are well aware of the emergency plan in case an earthquake occurs when not together. Inform them about the meeting point in a designated safe spot away from the tall buildings, where you can meet in case means of communication are cut off.

Step 4: Packing an emergency bag

As everyone is expected to leave the building immediately after the initial quake stops, there is no time to think about the most important items to take with you when everyone is in shock. Therefore an emergency bag should be packed in advance, stored near the exit, and should include the following items to help you get through the first 72 hours after the earthquake:

-Bottled water
-Non-perishable food (nutrition bars, nuts, chocolate)-Comfortable shoes and warm change of clothes  (jacket, sweater
-Flashlight and spare batteries
-Blanket/tent/sleeping bag,
-Medicine (prescribed medication, but also painkillers, bandages, oxidized water)
-Tissues, antibacterial wipes, tampons/sanitary pads
-Glasses or extra pair of contact lenses and solution
-Pocket knife
-Paper and pen
-If you have kids: baby food, diapers, change of clothes, toys.
-If you have pets: pet food and water.

Turkish AFAD

During the earthquake:

When the earthquake starts, first and foremost don't panic. As practiced during the prep part, get on the floor next to the most stable piece of furniture in the room you're in, cover your head with your arms, and wait for the quake to finish.

Do not run around the house in search for other family members. If the space is small enough for them to hear your voice, tell them to get on the floor as practiced, and to stay calm.

When the quake is over, gather all tenants making sure no one is left behind, grab the emergency bag and head outside using the building's emergency exists. While leaving make sure to shut down electricity and gas supply in your house. Then, proceed directly to the safe open area.

If the earthquake happens while you're driving, stop the engine and get out of the car immediately. Get on your knees next to the car, cover your head with your arms and wait for the quake to stop.

In the areas surrounded by water there is a high chance of a post-quake tsunami. If you live in close proximity to the coastline, make sure to proceed inland and stay there until the danger is over. Keep in mind that tsunami waves can be also caused by the aftershock. If the earthquake happens while you're sailing, instead of steering your boat to the nearest port, stay in the open water and far from the coastline until coastal guard informs you via the radio that it is safe to return.

First 72 hours:

-If telecommunication has failed, wait patiently in the designated spot for your relatives or friends to gather. Note that it might take longer than usual to reach it if no means of transport operate at the time.

-Do not let the chaos make you change your mind about what you’ve learned during the prep part. There will be plenty of mixed signals coming from different people. Stick to the plan you discussed with your family unless a serious obstacle occurred (e.g. you were hurt and are taken to the hospital, the designated area has been destroyed)

-People in need of rescue will signal their presence through various sounds (screaming, knocking etc). If you're safe, remain silent and be aware of the signals around you. If you hear anyone calling for help, immediately inform the nearest AFAD rescue team or call 122, if possible, or any operating emergency number.

Please note that this brief information should not be used in place of a proper training conducted by qualified organizations, such as Turkish AFAD.