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close this bookCommunity Emergency Preparedness: A Manual for Managers and Policy-Makers (WHO, 1999, 141 p.)
close this folderAnnexes
View the documentAnnex 1 - Project management
View the documentAnnex 2 - Hazard description tables
View the documentAnnex 3 - Emergency preparedness checklists
View the documentAnnex 4 - Personal protection in different types of emergencies

Annex 4 - Personal protection in different types of emergencies


In addition to considering action by rescuers, thought must be given to personal protection measures in different types of emergencies. While such measures may not directly contribute to saving casualties, they help to reduce their number. By taking precautions, the individual assists the collective effort to reduce the effects of an emergency. The types of emergency considered here are:

- floods;
- storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes;
- earthquakes;
- clouds of toxic fumes.

A number of measures must be observed by all persons in all types of emergency:

· Do not use the telephone, except to call for help, so as to leave telephone lines free for the organization of response.

· Listen to the messages broadcast by radio and the various media so as to be informed of development.

· Carry out the official instructions given over the radio or by loudspeaker.

· Keep a family emergency kit ready.

In all the different types of emergency, it is better:

- to be prepared than to get hurt;
- to get information so as to get organized;
- to wait rather than act too hastily.


What to do beforehand

While town planning is a government responsibility, individuals should find out about risks in the area where they live. For example, people who live in areas downstream from a dam should know the special signals (such as foghorns) used when a dam threatens to break. Small floods can be foreseen by watching the water level after heavy rains and regularly listening to the weather forecasts.

Forecasting of floods or tidal waves is very difficult, but hurricanes and cyclones often occur at the same time of year, when particular vigilance must be exercised. They are often announced several hours or days before they arrive.

During a flood

· Turn off the electricity to reduce the risk of electrocution.

· Protect people and property:

- as soon as the flood begins, take any vulnerable people (children, the old, the sick, and the disabled) to an upper floor;

- whenever possible, move personal belongings upstairs or go to raised shelters provided for use in floods.

· Beware of water contamination - if the taste, colour, or smell of the water is suspicious, it is vital to use some means of purification.

· Evacuate danger zones as ordered by the local authorities - it is essential to comply strictly with the evacuation advice given. Authorities will recommend that families take with them the emergency supplies they have prepared.

After a flood

When a flood is over, it is important that people do not return home until told to do so by the local authorities, who will have ensured that buildings have not been undermined by water. From then on it is essential to:

- wait until the water is declared safe before drinking any that is untreated;

- clean and disinfect any room that has been flooded;

- sterilize or wash with boiling water all dishes and kitchen utensils;

- get rid of any food that has been in or near the water, including canned foods and any food kept in refrigerators and freezers;

- get rid of all consumables (drinks, medicines, cosmetics, etc.).

Storms, hurricanes and tornadoes

What to do beforehand

Above all, it is vital that people find out about the kinds of storm liable to strike their region so that they can take optimum preventive measures, and:

- choose a shelter in advance, before the emergency occurs - a cellar, a basement, or an alcove may be perfectly suitable;

- minimize the effects of the storm - fell dead trees, prune tree branches, regularly check the state of roofs, the state of the ground, and the drainage around houses;

- take measures against flooding;

- prepare a family emergency kit.

During an emergency

· Listen to the information and advice provided by the authorities.

· Do not go out in a car or a boat once the storm has been announced.

· Evacuate houses if the authorities request this, taking the family emergency package.

· If possible, tie down any object liable to be blown away by the wind; if there is time, nail planks to the doors and shutters, open the windows and doors slightly on the side opposite to the direction from which the wind is coming so as to reduce wind pressure on the house.

· If caught outside in a storm, take refuge as quickly as possible in a shelter; if there is no shelter, lie down flat in a ditch.

· In a thunderstorm keep away from doors, windows, and electrical conductors, unplug electrical appliances and television aerials. Do not use any electrical appliances or the telephone.

· Anyone who is outside should:

- look for shelter in a building (never under a tree);
- if out in a boat, get back to the shore;
- keep away from fences and electric cables;
- kneel down rather than remain standing.

After an emergency

After the storm has subsided:

- follow the instructions given by the authorities;

- stay indoors and do not go to the stricken areas;

- give the alert as quickly as possible;

- give first aid to the injured;

- make sure the water is safe to drink and check the contents of refrigerators and freezers;

- check the exterior of dwellings and call for assistance if there is a risk of falling objects (tiles, guttering, etc.).


What to do beforehand

The movement of the ground in an earthquake is rarely the direct cause of injuries; most are caused by falling objects or collapsing buildings. Many earthquakes are followed (several hours or even days later) by further tremors, usually of progressively decreasing intensity. To reduce the destructive effects of earthquakes a number of precautions are essential for people living in risk areas:

· Build in accordance with urban planning regulations for risk areas.

· Ensure that all electrical and gas appliances in houses, together with all pipes connected to them, are firmly fixed.

· Avoid storing heavy objects and materials in high positions.

· Hold family evacuation drills and ensure that the whole family knows what to do in case of an earthquake.

· Prepare a family emergency kit.

During an earthquake

· Keep calm, do not panic.

· People who are indoors should stay there but move to the central part of the building.

· Keep away from the stairs, which might collapse suddenly.

· People who are outside should stay there, keeping away from buildings to avoid collapsing walls and away from electric cables.

· Anyone in a vehicle should park it, keeping away from bridges and buildings.

After an earthquake

· Obey the authorities’ instructions.

· Do not go back into damaged buildings since tremors may start again at any moment.

· Give first aid to the injured and alert the emergency services in case of fire, burst pipes, etc.

· Do not go simply to look at the stricken areas: this will hamper rescue work.

· Keep emergency packages and a radio near at hand.

· Make sure that water is safe to drink and food stored at home is fit to eat (in case of electricity cuts affecting refrigerators and freezers).

Clouds of toxic fumes

What to do beforehand

People in a risk area should:

- find out about evacuation plans and facilities;
- familiarize themselves with the alarm signals used in case of emergency;
- equip doors and windows with the tightest possible fastenings;
- prepare family emergency kits.

During an emergency

· Do not use the telephone; leave lines free for rescue services.
· Listen to the messages given by radio and other media.
· Carry out the instructions transmitted by radio or loudspeaker.
· Close doors and windows.
· Stop up air intakes.
· Seal any cracks or gaps around windows and doors with adhesive tape.
· Organize a reserve of water (by filling wash basins, baths, etc.).
· Turn off ventilators and air conditioners.

After an emergency

· Comply with the authorities’ instructions and do not go out until there is no longer any risk.
· Carry out necessary decontamination measures.