International Rescue Corps has been asked on many occasions for advice to travellers or to those who may be considering living in an active earthquake zone.

There is no hard and fast advice that can be given, with this advice being provided as general guidance, based on our experience.

Local advice covering the area concerned can normally be obtained from official sources.

This information is designed to help you make an assessment of your needs and decide on the level of action YOU feel is required.

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Risk Assessment

When in a structure during an earthquake, you are in danger mostly from four main areas:

  • Injury from glass shards.
  • Injury or entrapment due to structural collapse.
  • Injury from falling fixtures and fittings.
  • Injury or entrapment due to fire or explosion.

To help you decide on any actions available to you, a general risk assessment must be carried out, which will try and identify the most serious risk.

Once you have identified the risk(s) that you consider the most likely to affect you, it is then possible to plan your actions.

Please note that this process must be carried out for each building or even room you will occupy. Such a detailed assessment may not be possible/practical, in which case, you must use a common sense approach.

When you move into an area, try and find out locally what the risks are: (Italics gives general ideas on what to look for and what its effects may be.)

Is the risk of a major earthquake high?

Information may be available from the Embassy, local authorities, and local population or on Internet. If risk is low, perhaps it is best to look at your place of residence only and not end up paranoid. If the risk is high, develop your assessment skill, into a daily routine as you move from building to building.

What is the building standard, (earthquake proof, normally suffer collapse during events, unknown)?

If earthquake resistant construction, look at internal hazards from fixtures and fittings. If the standard is low, consider if evacuation is best? Remember that in a large event, your ability to run, or even walk, may quickly be reduced to nil.

What are the buildings made from? Concrete, brick, stone etc.

In general concrete slabs produce the best chance of voids (spaces) during a collapse; bricks, blocks and stone crumble leaving only small, if any voids.

How high is the building and how far to open air?

This will simply affect the time taken if you decide to evacuate. Height will not affect the safety of the building; this is mostly governed by material, design and quality of construction.

How much glass has the building, both internal and external?

Glass is considered as one of the largest risks of injury, both inside and outside structures.

How close are other structures?

Evacuation from one structure may put you in danger from nearby risks.

What type of fixtures and fittings are in place?

All fixtures and fittings are potential hazards during an earthquake. They will move, topple, crush down or endanger you in other ways.
They can, however, also provide protection from glass and even collapse.

When will you be in the building, (working, sleeping etc)?

This indicates the time scale during which you will be at risk and also your possible physical and mental state should an event happen.

How large are the rooms inside the building?

A simple rule of thumb is that small rooms tend to survive better than larger rooms. This is a general rule, which is affected by materials and type of construction.

Does the building or locality have a gas supply? If yes, is it bottled or from a main?

Bottled gas tends to be in small quantities, although the hazard from the cylinder must be considered, especially if a fire starts. Gas from ruptured mains can leak for long periods, feeding the risk from fire, explosion or asphyxiation.

Based on your information from the above assessment, you must make a decision as follows:

  1. Can you very quickly and safely exit the building?
  2. If you exit the building will you be safe from glass shards?
  3. If you exit the building will you be safe from falling debris, either from your own or other structures?
  4. Can you protect yourself from glass shards if you remain in the building? This can be under tables, desks, moving into a room without windows, behind a fixture, etc.
  5. Can you protect yourself from falling fixtures and fittings if you remain in the building?
  6. Is there any large, substantial furniture within the building?
  7. Can you quickly access a small room?

If you can definitely answer YES to questions 1, 2 and 3 above, then probably your best action is to try and exit the building.

It would be hoped, that most modern buildings would have a degree of safety built into their design and construction.  This may indicate that the greatest danger is from glass, fixtures and fittings.  If this is assessed as the main danger, to reduce this, protect yourself by getting under a substantial table, desk, or by moving into a room with few or no windows.  Remember that the object you choose as your protection may move and if you have retired to a small windowless room, there is little space for any falling objects. At least try to get away from windows and overhead fixtures or fittings, possibly under a door lintel, which may give a degree of safety, with the doorframe also providing some protection from moving objects.

If the danger is from building collapse, then sheltering under a table or desk is not the best option.  The legs will probably flatten and you could be compressed under it.  If it is substantial, it possibly will not flatten completely, leaving a safe area beside it.  Such an object, will often support a concrete slab, creating a void, (space), in which rescue teams can locate persons many days after the event.  If you lie beside this object, you may be safe within such a void.  Lying on the side furthest away from the windows, will also give some protection from glass shards.

Designated Safe Area

Moving to a small room, toilet or store, means that you have the maximum support and safety from the walls dependant on their construction.
If such a room is designated as a safe area within your residence, then consider the provision of basic items to keep you alive if trapped.
WATER, food, a torch, whistle, blankets, mobile phone and even a transistor radio for information, could be considered.
Remember spare batteries or consider the wind up type.  Some of these may incorporate a torch, radio and mobile phone charger in a single hand power generator unit.


Remember, as you move further into the building, the harder it is to locate you, but you may survive when if you had remained at a window, you may have been killed or injured.

The last major danger, from fire or explosion, is generally out of your control. Some safety systems may be in place to reduce such a risk, but you will probably be unable to check or influence these.

Please remember that the chances of you being involved in such an event are generally low.  This guidance is given to help you carry out an assessment and take reasonable steps to try and ensure your safety.  It does appear to be giving contradictory information. Following the assessment process, the application of good old common sense can normally clear this up.


Highway Code reminder: Icy and Snowy Weather

Highway Code reminder: Icy and Snowy Weather
In winter check the local weather forecast for warnings of icy or snowy weather.
DO NOT drive in these conditions unless your journey is essential.
If it is, take great care and allow more time for your journey.
Take an emergency kit of de-icer and ice scraper, torch, warm clothing and boots, first aid kit, jump leads and a shovel, together with a warm drink and emergency food in case you get stuck or your vehicle breaks down.

Before you set off

  • you MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows
  • you MUST ensure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible
  • make sure the mirrors are clear and the windows are demisted thoroughly
  • remove all snow that might fall off into the path of other road users
  • check your planned route is clear of delays and that no further snowfalls or severe weather are predicted

When driving in icy or snowy weather

  • drive with care, even if the roads have been treated
  • keep well back from the road user in front as stopping distances can be ten times greater than on dry roads
  • take care when overtaking vehicles spreading salt or other de-icer, particularly if you are riding a motorcycle or cycle
  • watch out for snowploughs which may throw out snow on either side. Do not overtake them unless the lane you intend to use has been cleared
  • be prepared for the road conditions to change over relatively short distances
  • listen to travel bulletins and take note of variable message signs that may provide information about weather, road and traffic conditions ahead

Drive extremely carefully when the roads are icy. Avoid sudden actions as these could cause loss of control. You should:

  • drive at a slow speed in as high a gear as possible; accelerate and brake very gently
  • drive particularly slowly on bends where loss of control is more likely. Brake progressively on the straight before you reach a bend. Having slowed down, steer smoothly round the bend, avoiding sudden actions
  • check your grip on the road surface when there is snow or ice by choosing a safe place to brake gently. If the steering feels unresponsive this may indicate ice and your vehicle losing its grip on the road. When travelling on ice, tyres make virtually no noise.


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Holiday Preparedness
Holiday Preparedness

Most people enjoy the experience of planning a holiday or trip abroad, but this does require planning ahead of time.
To make the most of a holiday you need to stay safe and secure on your travels.

The website can tell you everything you need to know before a trip, including in depth, country-specific travel advice.

  • check the FCO’s country travel advice
  • research your destination – know the local laws and customs
  • research the health risk on the NHS travel health information page as soon as possible before travelling, and if necessary visit your GP
  • check your passport is valid and you have all necessary visas
  • make copies of important travel documents and/or store them online using a secure data storage site
  • tell someone where you are going and leave emergency contact details with them
  • take enough money and have access to emergency funds

Every year thousands of British travellers seriously regret not taking these simple steps.

If you’re planning a trip you should read the travellers checklist – it’s full of practical tips for having a safe and enjoyable time.



Ben TV produced this short documentary on the FCO’s travel advice. Including interviews with Meg Munn, former minister for Consular Affairs and specialists from the FCO’s Know Before You Go Campaign.

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Flood Preparedness

The following suggestions are provided as general guidance, based on our experience attending floods.

Local advice covering your area can normally be obtained from official sources.

What To Do

Flood Warnings
If you are given a flood warning for your area then it is wise to plan ahead to try and protect your home’s contents as much as possible.

  • Move all of your valuables (electrical equipment, personal possessions, items of sentimental value) upstairs.
  • Move as much of your furniture upstairs as you can. Heavy items can be raised on to blocks.
  • Push your curtains to loop over their rail to keep them out of the way of the water.
  • Take up any carpets or rugs that you can and put them upstairs.
  • Drive your car to higher ground to get it out of the way of flood water.
  • Move anything outside that might float off – such as bins, plant pots and bikes.
  • Make sure that your pets are moved to a safer place.

What to do to stay safe in a flood.

  • In the event of a flood focus on the safety of you and your family
  • Cooperate with the emergency services if they tell you to evacuate during flooding.
  • Be prepared to act quickly and get yourself to safety.
  • Stay alert to localised flooding.
  • Localised flooding is also known as ‘surface water flooding’. This usually happens where drainage systems are unable to cope with heavy spells of rainfall. You can find out about the possibility of ‘surface water’ flooding in your area by checking local weather forecasts.

Flood water is dangerous

  • Six inches of fast-flowing water can knock over an adult and two feet of water can move a car.
  • Avoid walking or driving through it.
  • Take care as there may be hidden dangers in the flood water like sharp objects, raised manhole covers and pollution.
  • Flood water can contain sewage, chemicals and animal waste. Keep children and vulnerable people away from it.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly if you touch it.

Other Advice

There are some measures that you can take to protect your property against the effects of flooding again in the future. Some of these solutions will be permanent and some can be used if flooding becomes likely.

  • Buy barriers and/or sandbags that can be positioned outside a property to stop water getting in.
  • Buy air brick covers that can be clipped on if flooding occurs.
  • Buy flood boards that can be placed across doors and windows.
  • Have silicone sealants at hand to seal up windows, doors and brickwork.
  • Buy toilet/bathroom appliance covers/locks to stop water coming up through these appliances

If you live in an area where there has been flooding or you are at high risk then you can also look at having electrical outlets placed at a higher level on the ground floor to avoid problems if your ground floor does get flooded.

Driving through Floods

In cases of severe flooding most experts will recommend that you only drive if it is absolutely essential to do so.

It is actually far safer to simply move your car to higher ground and not to drive at all in these circumstances.

If you are, however, in a situation where you are driving through floods then you should follow these guidelines:

  • Do not drive through standing water if you are not sure how deep it is. This can cause damage to your vehicle and may endanger you if your vehicle starts to float or becomes immobile.
  • Try to find the highest area that you can in the flooded area and try to drive through that.
  • Do not be tempted to race through to get to the other side – it is safer to drive through slowly and steadily.
  • Do not drive through a flooded area if another vehicle is coming the other way.
  • Keep essential emergency equipment in your car (i.e. torch, mobile, dry clothing and something to eat and drink) in case you run into problems.

If your car takes in water when driving through floods have it checked for any damage that may have occurred.

The Environment Agency has a web site with pages dedicated to flood preparedness. To find out more please visit: Environment Agency

Salvage Guide

If you are given a flood warning for your area then it is wise to plan ahead to try and protect your home’s contents as much as possible.
But there are also other situations where your property may be damaged, and if the worst has happened then these tips may help.


Flood Reminder

  • Move all of your valuables (electrical equipment, personal possessions, items of sentimental value) upstairs.
  • Move as much of your furniture upstairs as you can. Heavy items can be raised on to blocks.
  • Push your curtains to loop over their rail to keep them out of the way of the water.
  • Take up any carpets or rugs that you can and put them upstairs.
  • Drive your car to higher ground to get it out of the way of flood water.
  • Move anything outside that might float off – such as bins, plant pots and bikes.
  • Make sure that your pets are moved to a safer place.


Coming soon! – The information for this page is currently being updated