Mail Online again with some essential tips: How to avoid the ‘death mask’ in an avalanche, how to run around a forest fire and why a radio could save you in the middle of a hurricane
- Lloyd Figgins and Ed Stafford talk through ways to beat forces of nature
- They explain how to survive earthquakes, tornadoes and tsunamis
- Stafford was the first person to ever walk the length of the Amazon
- Figgins has written Looking for Lemons – A Travel Survival Guide
Mother Nature doesn’t always play nice. From earthquakes to forest fires, there are plenty of potentially lethal events she throws at us. But listen to the advice of survival experts such as Lloyd Figgins and Ed Stafford, and you will stand a chance.
Here they impart their wisdom on making it out of natural disasters alive.
There are thousands of earthquakes around the world every day. However, most are not sizeable enough to cause damage and some won’t even be felt.
According to the US Geological survey, around 275 of these will be large enough to be felt by humans.
In April last year, over 8,000 people were killed when an earthquake measuring 7.8 magnitude rocked Nepal causing mass devastation and the region is still recovering.
While earthquakes on this scale are almost impossible to predict, there are ways in which we can give ourselves the best possible chance of survival.
Lloyd Figgins, author and international expert on risk and crisis management, points out that most earthquake-related deaths and injuries result from being hit by falling debris and collapsing structures.
In his book Looking For Lemons: A Travel Survival Guide, he writes: ‘Identify safe places in the area where you are staying. Look for things like sturdy tables to an interior wall.
‘Stay well away from windows that could shatter and cause injury and from tall furniture that could fall on you.’
English Explorer Ed Stafford believes planning is essential if visiting an area where earthquakes could happen.
HOW TO SURVIVE AN EARTHQUAKE
- Stay where you are until the shaking stops.
- Drop down onto your hands and knees so the earthquake doesn’t knock you down.
- Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from falling debris.
- Hold on to any sturdy covering so you can move with it until the shaking stops.
UK Government advice
In his book How To Survive Anything: A Visual Guide To Laughing In The Face Of Adversity, he writes: ‘Channel your inner Boy Scout and stock up on non-perishable food, water, a battery-operated radio and fire extinguishers.
‘Pack a bag with a first-aid kit, a pair of work gloves, a torch, some cash and a whistle.’
Both experts emphasise that you should stay away from doors and windows to avoid being injured.
In the aftermath of an earthquake, usually there are further aftershocks, or at worst, another sizeable quake.
Stafford says the next step is to get to higher ground as soon as it is safe to do so, as there is even the risk of a tsunami if near the coast.
Figgins highlights the importance of being aware – look out for potential hazards, check for any injuries and get first aid if necessary, and use stairs and not elevators.
Hurricanes and tornadoes
A hurricane, also referred to as a cyclone or typhoon, is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, strong winds and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain.
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. They are often referred to as twisters or cyclones.
Modern-day warning systems greatly improve the chance of survival from these type of natural disaster, although not everybody will clear the danger zone effectively.
‘Get indoors, preferably in a cellar or a shelter below the ground,’ says Figgins.
‘If you can’t get to such a place, you should secure yourself in a middle room of the house, where there are no windows. Get under a sturdy piece of furniture that will protect you if the roof gets blown off.’
Figgins again highlights the importance of being prepared and stocking up on food and water, as well as objects that will aid escape such as a torch, a radio to listen for meteorological updates and information about safe zones and a first-aid kit.
It is also important to turn off all electricity before the storm hits.
Chillingly, Figgins says that a lull in the hurricane ‘could indicate that the eye of the storm is directly above you,’ so stresses the importance of not being tempted to leave a place of safety until instructed to do so.
IF A HURRICANE IS IN YOUR AREA…
- Stay informed by monitoring the store via radio, TV, and internet.
- Secure your home, close storm shutters, and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
- Turn off utilities if instructed to do so.
- Turn off propane tanks.
- Keep your vehicles fully fueled.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac
A tsunami is a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a large lake.
Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions, landslides, glacier calvings, meteorite impacts and other disturbances above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami.
It’s when these waves reach shallow waters that devastation can be caused, as shown in 2011 in Japan when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake was followed by a tsunami that left almost 20,000 dead.
In 2004, an earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day left 230,000 people dead in 14 countries.
Again, recent technology means early warnings can be given to try and move people away from areas that will be affected.
Stafford writes: ‘If there’s danger you’ll hear sirens, emergency instructions on the radio and television, and possibly even receive a text.’
It is important to get to as high ground as possible, as a tsunami ‘travels as fast as a plane’.
Figgins adds: ‘If you are in an “at risk” coastal region, plan your evacuation route in advance and actually travel the route to make sure you are familiar with it.’
But what should you do if caught in the terror of a tsunami?
HOW TO SURVIVE A TSUNAMI
- If you hear an official tsunami warning or detect signs of a tsunami, evacuate at once
- Take your emergency preparedness kit. Having supplies will make you more comfortable during the evacuation
- Take your pets with you. If it is not safe for you, it’s not safe for them
- Get to higher ground as far inland as possible
As well as moving to higher ground, possessions should be left behind as they can slow down your progress.
If there is no higher ground Figgins says you should look to climb onto a roof or an upper floor of a strong building, or even a tree.
The absolute final resort sounds desperate, but Figgins highlights that by grabbing onto ‘something that floats’ you have more chance of survival.
‘There are frequently stories of people who survive tsunamis by clinging to floating objects,’ he adds.
If you live in a community near an active volcano, there will be warning signs and this coupled with news and radio broadcasts are the best bets for survival.
However, volcanoes don’t often give much warning about an eruption.
In 2014, a volcano erupted without warning in Japan. More than 50 people died when Mount Ontake, a popular hiking destination in central Japan, erupted in the country’s deadliest volcanic eruption since the Second World War.
If you are unlucky enough to get caught in an eruption, it’s the falling debris and inhalation of volcanic ash that could lead to illness, injury and even death.
‘Place a wet cloth over your nose and mouth so you do not inhale volcanic ash,’ advises Figgins.
‘Find shelter as quickly as you can and seal all doors, windows, chimneys and vents. Place wet towels beneath the doors.’
In the terrifying predicament of being met by a lava flow, Figgins says you should never run across active flows, but assess the speed and likelihood of outrunning it.’
Advice on Wikihow adds: Lava flows, laggards, mudflows, and flooding are common in a major eruption. All of these can be deadly, and all of them tend to travel in valleys and low-lying areas.
‘Climb to higher ground, and stay there until you can confirm that the danger has passed.’
HOW TO SURVIVE A VOLCANIC ERUPTION
- Protect yourself from breathing in volcanic ash by placing a wet cloth over your mouth and nose.
- Find shelter quickly indoors, but be wary of falling debris.
- If unlucky to be caught in lava flows, assess the speed and likelihood of outrunning it.
- Never jump across lava flows as you could get caught in the middle with nowhere to go.
An avalanche is a sudden downhill movement of snow. It is a significant hazard to people living in, or visiting, glacial areas. A slab avalanche is the most dangerous form of movement and will often lead to serious injury and death.
Again, preparation and information is key – there is an avalanche forecast that skiers and snow-lovers should tune into before heading out. It’s also a good idea to wear an avalanche beacon that can send signals to rescuers if you are buried.
‘If there’s no time to get out of the way, make your body as big as possible and swim for your life’ writes Stafford in his book.
He says that 30 per cent of avalanche deaths are as a result of being crushed by huge blocks of snow or being thrown off rocks or into trees.
But if you can survive this gauntlet, try and keep on top of the snow and make space above your head. He even has advice if you find yourself buried.
‘Resist the urge to dig yourself out of the snow,’ he says, ‘as avalanche debris settles like cement.’
He believes it’s important to remain calm and preserve your oxygen with steady breathing.
If you have taken a beacon out with you, or managed to lay a marker down during the snow-fall, then rescuers could be on their way.
HOW TO SURVIVE AN AVALANCHE
- Be a Beacon. You can take one huge step toward survival before you ever set foot on a mountain by taking a radio transmitter with you.
- Stay On Top. ‘Swimming’ to the top of the avalanche will help avoid being trapped under debris.
- Reach for the sky and remain calm.
However, time isn’t on your side.
‘You only have about 15 to 20 minutes of air. Even though snow is full of oxygen, ice will form around your warm breath and form a ‘death mask’, he adds.
This makes the beacon an absolute necessity if travelling in areas where an avalanche might occur.
A wildfire differs from other fires by its extensive size, the speed at which it can spread out from its original source, its potential to change direction unexpectedly, and its ability to jump gaps such as roads, rivers and fire breaks.
Wildfires are characterized in terms of the cause of ignition, their physical properties such as speed of propagation, the combustible material present and the effect of weather on the fire.
Though Stafford says wildfires are ‘nearly impossible to outrun and extremely dangerous to cross’, he does have some advice for anyone unlucky enough to end up near one.
‘If you cannot see for smoke, do not attempt to run in the general direction of the wind,’ he advises.
‘Hot air rising above the fire causes a powerful updraft sucking air towards the front. These can even create vortices, small tornadoes that spread the fire in finger-like patterns.’
Avoiding large numbers of trees and vegetation goes without saying, but how to run past a fire isn’t necessarily common knowledge.
‘On hills, attempt to cross diagonally in front of the advancing flames, uphill and to one side,’ says Stafford.
‘This may bring you around the side of the wildfire and let the leading edge of the blaze go past as it rages upwards.’
The aim is then to reach a low point, where you should lie down and “breathe into your clothes” so that you don’t suck in hot gases.
Once enough energy has been restored, it’s time to run and find shelter.
Your best bet, says Stafford, is to find a house surrounded by a 30ft vegetation-free buffer zone.
Once inside, move everything flammable into the middle of the rooms.
Lloyd Figgins is an International Expert in Travel Safety and author of Looking for Lemons – A Travel Survival Guide £9.99, available from Amazon or www.lloydfiggins.com
Ed Stafford is the Guinness World Record-holding first man to walk the Amazon. He was European Adventurer of the Year 2011 and is the author of How To Survive Anything: A Visual Guide To Laughing In The Face Of Adversity.