Public knowledge of hazards and on what to do before, during and after they occur is one of the ways in which their risks to communities can be reduced. Knowledge of these hazards and their risks also help communities plan for such events and be better prepared to adapt to their effects.
In anticipation of the imminent threat of a disaster event, an alert (warning) is received by the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) from monitoring services and agencies such as the Solomon Islands Meteorological Services (SIMS), kicking off the Response phase of the Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Cycle. This phase continues throughout a disaster and immediately after to ensure its effects are minimised, and that people affected are given immediate relief and support.
The NDMO is usually supported in this phase by sub-national authorities such as Provincial Governments, communities, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO), Civil Society Organisations (CSO) as well as the private sector.
Below are information on recommended actions to be taken by members of the public just before and during a number of disaster events:
What you should do:
- Follow local building codes and zoning advice, if available
- Plan very carefully before you build.
- Learn what you can about your coastline.
- Elderly people who know the area are a good source of information.
- Many countries have some GIS and historical mapping facilities; ask if they can show you such maps.
- Always leave an adequate distance back from the shore.
What you should avoid:
- Avoid building barriers which prevent sand from moving along your beach, e.g. groyne, seawall, etc.
- Avoid building too close to an active beach.
- Avoid building seawalls unless absolutely necessary
- Seawalls must be correctly designed or they will fail and cause more erosion.
- Avoid dumping domestic waste and machinery on the beach to attempt to prevent erosion.
If you must build near or on an active beach:
- Consider the most extreme weather events in your area the structure should either be movable or be able to survive these events.
- Consider your neighbours - if your building stops sand movement you will cause erosion to neighbouring areas, you may be liable for damages.
- Expect the beach to move - build on stilts so that the beach can move without affecting your structure.
- Stilts also allow the natural movement of sand along the beach.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THE BEST PROTECTION AGAINST STORM WAVES IS A HEALTHY FUNCTIONING BEACH - IT COSTS NOTHING AND BUILDS AND REPAIRS ITSELF.
Preparing for an Earthquake
Always keep an emergency kit in your home. Include water, food, necessary medicines, a reliable torch with fresh batteries and spares, portable radio, first aid kit, emergency phone numbers.
During an Earthquake
If you are inside:
- Drop, cover and hold.
- Stay inside — do not attempt to run outside. However, be prepared for aftershocks and evacuate if necessary. Listen to your radio for information and advice.
- Take cover under strong support like an internal door frame, table, desk or bed. Stay away from windows, overhead fittings, shelves containing heavy objects etc.
- If in a high-rise building, stay away from windows and outer walls. Never use the elevator.
- If in a crowded public place, try not to panic. Do not attempt to barge at the door.
If you are outdoors:
- Keep well clear of buildings, power lines, trees etc. and stay in the open. Do not attempt to seek shelter in a building.
- If you are in a vehicle, pull off the road to a clear area and stop the car.
- Beware of fallen power lines, damaged roads and bridges.
After an Earthquake
- Check people for injuries and apply first aid. Call the ambulance and do not move the seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger.
- Do not use the telephone unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Do not use your vehicle unless there is an emergency.
- Do not enter damaged buildings.
- Turn off cooking stoves. Do not light matches until you have checked for gas or fuel leaks.
- Turn utility off at source if you have water leaks or damaged electrical wires or sewerage lines.
- Check food and water supplies.
- Stay calm and lend a hand to others if possible.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT EARTHQUAKES ARE SUDDEN, STRIKING WITH LITTLE OR NO WARNING. BE PREPARED IN CASE IT HAPPENS.
Preparing for a Flood:
- Learn all you can about previous floods in your area and about possible warning signs and systems.
- Keep an eye on the weather conditions, listen to the weather forecast and follow flood warnings.
- Keep to hand materials such as lumber, plywood, nails, rope, wires, plastic sheeting, sandbags, etc.
- Keep to hand a portable radio, spare batteries and an emergency kit.
- Store all chemicals away from the reach of flood waters.
- Store livestock feed and supplies above expected water levels. Ensure safety of pets.
Upon hearing a Flood Warning:
- Listen for emergency instructions.
- Ensure all your family members are present.
- Watch for rapidly rising water.
- Store drinking water in sealed plastic containers as water supply may be interrupted.
- Move livestock to higher ground.
- Move household items to higher levels. Secure objects that could fl oat and cause damage.
- Evacuate if necessary when it is safe to do so. If crossing flood waters, move slowly to avoid losing your footing.
- Turn off electricity at the main switch before evacuating.
During a Flood:
- Avoid areas prone to flash flooding.
- Don’t attempt to cross rivers or streams where water is above knee level.
- Beware of water-covered roads and bridges.
- Never allow children to play around high water or storm drains.
- Animals can swim well. Do not leave them in confined areas or pens. Open gates so that animals can escape.
After a Flood:
- Re-enter buildings with caution. Use flashlights, NOT lanterns with open flames in case of flammable gas inside.
- Be alert for fire hazards such as broken electrical wires.
- If the building has been under water, do not switch on the main, wait for professional assistance. Never touch electrical switches while wet or standing in water.
- Don’t use appliances or equipment until they have been cleaned, dried and thoroughly checked for damage.
- Report damaged utility lines (electricity, water, gas and telephone) to the appropriate authorities.
- Boil all water and don’t eat left-over food until it is checked for contamination.
- Keep away from disaster areas as your presence may
Preparing for a Landslide:
- Learn to recognise the landslide warning signs.
- Look for drainage patterns on slopes near your home noting where flow increases over soil-covered slopes. Check these slopes for signs of land movement, such as small slides or flows or even increasingly tilting trees — changes could alert you to a greater landslide threat.
- Minimize home hazards — plant ground cover on slopes and build retaining walls.
- Make evacuation plans — plan at least two evacuation routes since roads may become blocked or closed.
- Safe areas include slopes that have no movement history, flat-lying areas away from sudden changes in slope, and areas along ridges away from tops of slopes.
- BE ESPECIALLY ALERT WHEN DRIVING.
Embankments along roads are particularly susceptible to landslides.
During a Landslide:
- Quickly get out of the path of the landslide or mud flow, RUN UPHILL to the nearest high ground in a direction away from the path. If rocks and other debris are approaching, run for the nearest shelter such as a group of trees or a building.
- If escape is not possible, curl into a tight ball and protect your head.
After a Landslide:
- Stay away from the slide area, there may be danger of additional slides. Remember that flooding may occur after a landslide.
- Check for injured and trapped persons near the slide, without entering the direct slide area. Direct rescuers to their locations.
- Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest emergency information.
- Check building foundations, chimney, and surrounding land for damage. Check for damaged utility lines and report any damage to the utility company.
- Replant damaged ground as soon as possible since erosion caused by loss of ground cover can lead to flash flooding.
- Be aware of Cyclone Warning Systems.
- Check your house for structural weaknesses.
- Identify the safest room in your house.
- Clear your property of loose objects/material that could blow about during extreme winds. Trim tree branches away from windows and power lines.
- In case of a storm surge warning know the nearest safe high ground and the safest access route to it.
- Prepare an emergency kit for the family containing a portable radio with spare batteries, torch, fuel lamp, candles, matches, water containers, canned food with opener, spare clothes, masking tape for windows and plastic bags.
- Clear all drains and waterways on the property.
- Ensure houses have proper provision for earthing lightning.
Upon Hearing a Tropical Cyclone Warning:
- Listen to your radio for further information.
- Fill water containers and fuel car (if you have one).
- Store or tie down all loose objects in the house.
- Batten down roof. Fix any loose parts of the house.
- Close off shutters. If you live in a flood-prone area take flood precautions.
- Ensure all the members of your family are present; keep children away from swollen drains and waterways.
- If your house is not structurally safe, prepare to move to the nearest evacuation centre.
- Collect firewood and keep in a dry place.
During a Cyclone:
- Disconnect all electrical appliances but listen to your battery radio for further information.
- Open louvres on side away from wind to reduce the pull force of the wind on the roof.
- Remain calm, stay indoors but clear of doors and windows. Remain in the strongest part of the building.
- Only use the telephone for very urgent calls.
- If the building breaks up, protect yourself with rugs or mattresses under a strong table/bench or hold onto a solid fixture (e.g. a water pipe).
Beware of the Eye of the Storm:
If the cyclone eye passes over a sudden lull in winds occurs and may last up to 2 hours. The other side of the cyclone then hits and winds resume with equal strength but blowing from the other direction. It is vitally important to remain in shelter during and after the eye passes.
After the Cyclone storm has passed:
- Don’t go outside until officially advised it is safe.
- Do not attempt to drive and don’t allow children to roam around outside.
- Beware of fallen power lines, damaged buildings, trees or flooded waterways.
- Listen to your radio for advice and updates.
Preparing for a Tsunami:
- Since tsunamis often happen suddenly, everyone in the community must know the warning signs. An earthquake in your area is a natural tsunami warning sign, as is a noticeable rise or fall of coastal water and a roaring sound as the tsunami rushes towards shore.
- Coastal communities and schools should plan for tsunami — prepare a safe area and escape paths (more than one) so that people can reach the safe area quickly. The safe area should be on high ground or at least a few kilometers from the coast.
- Have disaster supplies on hand — torch and battery radio both with extra batteries, emergency food and water, can opener, basic medicines, money and sturdy shoes.
- Develop an emergency communication plan and post-disaster meeting place in case family members are separated during a tsunami.
During a Tsunami:
- Listen to your radio or television for emergency information – if you hear a tsunami warning or if you become aware of any of the warning signs, evacuate and seek higher ground immediately.
- Do not stay in low-lying coastal areas after an earthquake has been felt. If the earthquake occurs just offshore, there will be very little time for response so head for higher ground as quickly as possible.
- Never go to the shore to watch a tsunami. If you can see it you are too close to escape.
- If you are in a boat offshore, do not return to shore — the vessel is safe in the open ocean.
- During a tsunami emergency, police and other emergency organizations will try to save your life. Give them your fullest cooperation.
- A tsunami is not a single wave – it is a series of waves, so stay out of danger areas (coastal and low-lying regions) for at least 2-3 hours.
After a Tsunami:
- Listen to your radio for advice and updates.
- Help trapped or injured people.
- Stay out of damaged buildings. When returning to your home, enter it with caution – check for gas leaks, electrical shorts and live wires.
- A small tsunami at one point on the shore can be extremely large a few kilometers away. Don’t let the modest size of one make you lose respect for them all.
Key Points to Remember:
Tsunami can strike any coastline in the Pacific — warnings apply to YOU. For tsunami survival remember the following three warning signs:
- An earthquake
- Any unusual change in sea level
- A ROARING noise
Upon noticing the warning signs:
- RUN to a safe place
- Do not wait to be told
- Do not wait until you see the wave — that is too late because the wave travels faster than you can run.
YOU ARE SAFE FROM THE WAVE AS LONG AS YOU ARE SEVERAL KILOMETERS FROM THE WATER’S EDGE OR ARE ON HIGH GROUND.
Volcanic eruptions are preceded by signs, some of which are not detected by instruments, nor observed by a volcanologist. The following are some points that should be taken into account to effectively respond to a volcanic eruption.
Preparing for a Volcanic Eruption:
- Make evacuation plans. If you live in a known volcanic hazard area, plan a route out and have a backup route in mind.
- Always keep an emergency kit in your home. Include water, food, and necessary medicine, a reliable torch with fresh batteries and spares, portable radio, first aid kit, emergency phone numbers.
- Report any and all unusual physical changes around volcanoes e.g. the drying up of vegetation, rumbling sounds, earthquakes, landslides and other possible abnormalities.
During an Eruption:
- Listen to the radio for information and advice. Pay attention to warnings, which include evacuation notices.
- Escape from area as quickly as possible.
- Find shelter, but NOT in a building with low-pitched or flat roof, if heavy ash is falling.
- Avoid basements and closed spaces where gases may accumulate.
- Wear protective clothing over head and body if you have to move in an ash shower.
- Breathe through a handkerchief.
- Always carry a flashlight, even during the daytime.
- Establish permanent danger zones (4 to 6 km radius circle) around the summit of active volcanoes.
- Educate population about volcano risks.
- Improve warning and evacuation systems.