Category Archives: Safety and Security

Lessons Learned from Mexico’s Recent Earthquakes

Although I have repeatedly stated I’m not a bonafide Prepper, every now and then I go into Prepper mode.  Recent events activated that dormant Prepper switch and out pops posts like this.

In any given day there are several hundred earthquakes around the world.  Earthquakes with a magnitude of 7 or greater occur on average once a month. (How Often Do Earthquakes Occur?)

Not all earthquakes are related to plate tectonics.  Research has proven that fracking, wastewater disposal, and fluid injection can also cause earthquakes. According to the Official website of the Department of Homeland Security, all 50 U.S. state, and 5 U.S. territories are at some risk for earthquakes.  Earthquakes can happen any day of the year and can not be predicted. Thus, it’s in your best interest to learn a little bit about earthquake survival.

In September, Mexico experienced a series of devastating earthquakes.  Being close enough to know people affected made me realize that there are a few things you and I can do to be better prepared in the event of an earthquake.

Find out about the structural integrity of your home and buildings you frequent.

After the deadly earthquake in Mexico City in 1985, the city began to require that all buildings be earthquake proof, holding builders to a high quality of material and construction. (MEXICO CITY’S CODE OF BUILDING REGULATIONS) There is no doubt that these higher standards saved thousands of lives last month. (In Mexico Quake, Geography and Building Codes Played Important Roles) However, 3,000 buildings in the city collapsed or were severely damaged.  People were trapped in those buildings and not everyone was rescued.  Investigators have since discovered that corners were cut and documents falsified for some of these buildings.  The substandard material that was used in many of those newer buildings was not able to withstand the earthquake and aftershocks. (His Mexico City Apartment Block Was Built Only Months Ago. So Why Did It Collapse So Easily?, Mexico City Probes Corruption Allegations Arising From Earthquake Building Damage, Collapsed School in Mexico Earthquake Is Checked for ‘Hidden Defects’)

Therefore, it’s in your best interest to have your own home assessed by a professional. It wouldn’t exactly be a good thing for all your carefully amassed survival supplies to be buried beneath a ton of rubble after an earthquake. (Earthquake Publications: Building Codes and Seismic Rehabilitation).  It’s also a good idea to check Public Records and find out some basic building information about your office building, workplace, your children’s schools, and even your grocery store.

Learn what to do in the event of an earthquake.

Since the 1985 earthquake, Mexico City requires a city-wide earthquake drill every year on September 19, the anniversary of the 1985 quake and ironically the same day as the latest earthquake. (Hours after an earthquake drill in Mexico City, the real thing struck) During this drill, alarms sound over loudspeakers, alerts are broadcasted over the radio and TV stations, and messages are even sent to cellphones. The residents of Mexico City are encouraged to leave stores, workplaces and schools and head to designated safe areas. 

I’ve seen a lot of conflicting advice about what the best thing to do during an earthquake. The Official website of the Department of Homeland Security suggests getting under a desk or table and remaining in the building. The Mexico City drills reinforce getting out of the building as quickly as possible while the Victoria State Emergency Service tells you to stay inside until the shaking stops. Undoubtedly the best thing to do is be in an area that does not have buildings, bridges, light posts, electric wires, or trees that may fall on you. Barring that, may I suggest hightailing it to an area without buildings, bridges, light posts, electric wires or trees as soon as possible?

Learn basic first aid.

In Mexico, governmental organizations were slow or ineffectual in dealing with the thousands of people injured or trapped after the earthquake.  (Mexico earthquake: Victims complain of slow response, Aftershock: Mexicans frustrated by slow government response to earthquake disaster) The same can be true in the area in which you live. It may take some time for official organizations to gather information and arrive on scene after an earthquake.

Thus, it’s a mighty fine idea for you to learn basic first aid in the likelihood that you, your family or the people near you are injured during an earthquake. In the chaos after an earthquake, you might be the only person in a position to provide care to injured individuals or yourself. The Red Cross offers a variety of first aid courses. Take one. Remember, the life that you save may be your own.

Do what you can to help as soon as you can.

The first 48 hours after an earthquake is crucial for search and rescue efforts. Having experienced a major earthquake in living memory, Mexican City residents wasted no time in creating bucket brigades to remove debris and search for survivors. (Civilian volunteers rise to the challenge of deadly Mexico earthquake, Army Of Volunteers Helps In Mexico Search And Rescue, Mexico City Volunteers Venture Out in Force to Aid Quake Victims) Ordinary citizens brought water and food to those continuing the search and recovery efforts and opened their homes to the displaced victims. Nearly all of the rescue workers that dug through the rubble at a collapsed factory and saved 14 lives were volunteers.  (Volunteers Dig Through Rubble of Collapsed Factory After Mexico Earthquake)

Now that the focus has turned from rescue to recovery, with little or no help from large organizations especially in outlying areas, the Mexican people have come together to do what must be done to aid earthquake survivors. (Mexicans show the world how to work together when an earthquake hitsTime stands still for town in Xochimilco)

I’m sure you’ve encountered the “Lone Wolf” survivalist mentality from time to time. But, did you know that humans are biologically wired for compassion? (The Compassionate Instinct) And that we are cooperative rather than competitive beings? (Are People Naturally Inclined to Cooperate or Be Selfish?)  You can be sure that the community around you will remember your actions (or lack of activity) in a crisis situation like an earthquake.Therefore, the best chance you have for survival in the next SHTF situation is making yourself an essential part of a cooperative assistance group in the current one, not hoarding your supplies and brandishing your shotgun.  With that in mind, after you have checked that you and yours are fine, go out and do what you can to help.

At the moment, Mexico needs rebuilding assistance. Here’s how you can help.

Architects and structural engineers are needed to help inspect homes damaged during the earthquakes in Mexico last month. Salva Tu Casa, Mancera Miguel MX, YonoFui

Therapists are needed to provide counseling to affected survivors. APM Online,  TerrapiMX  and Terapify

Habitat for Humanity in Mexico. Volunteer to rebuild homes!

Not able to volunteer at the moment?  Donations are appreciated.

Global Giving  

Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal, Ambulante and Omaze are joining forces to help the victims of the earthquake in Mexico.

Reconstruyamos México: Viviendas en Oaxaca

Zapatistas (EZLN) Solidarity bank deposits for indigenous reconstruction

Donate with Google

Donation matching at Kichink

Relief 4 Marginalized Zones in MX

Studio de Baile International is accepting donations for the town of Atzala, Puebla.


Or contact me and I can send you contact information for individuals who could use help rebuilding or repairing their homes.




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What can you do to help?

Earthquake rebuilding is just beginning. Here’s how you can help Oaxaca!

View From Casita Colibrí

In Oaxaca city, while nerves remain on edge, life is going on as usual with only a few signs of the recent earthquakes:  Buildings years ago labeled “inmueble en mal estado” (property in a bad state) now sport yellow caution tape, as does Templo De La Virgen De Las Nieves, which has a huge crack along one of the bell towers.  And, on my block, a plywood retaining wall has been erected to contain a wall that collapsed back in 2012.

IMG_0702 (1)

Those atrapada (trapped) by the September 7th and September 19th earthquakes have mostly been rescued, though réplicas (aftershocks) continue daily, especially in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region — still in the 4 to 4.5 on the Richter Scale (though not felt in Oaxaca city).   Damnificados (victims) and escombros (debris) are all that remain in the hardest hit areas but tens of thousands of people are being forced…

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Earthquake rescue, relief and rebuilding–It’s up to me!

In the days since two strong earthquakes shook Mexico, I’ve seen a lot of conflicting advice, suggestions, and commentary.  What I’ve come to realize that it comes down to personal responsibility and that the only person who can decide if you are personally responsible or not, is, well you.

Let’s talk about Jorge.  He wasn’t a trained first responder.  He wasn’t a building expert.  He was quite ordinary in fact. But what Jorge did was assess the situation, said to himself “It’s up to me.” and crawled through rubble to rescue 4 children trapped inside. (Jorge Houston: el desconocido que ayudó a rescatar niños del Rébsamen)

This was not an isolated occurrence. Thousands upon thousands of residents took up the call for aid just minutes after the earthquake. Instead of saying “Well, the military will get here soon and they can take charge.” they said “It’s up to me.” and formed human chains to remove rubble and search for more survivors. (Rescuers save 16 trapped inside factory, These Photos Of Mexicans Helping Each Other After The Quake Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity

Here in Mexico, there is a decided lack of confidence in the government and with good reason. As the days passed and the government was predictably slow to respond, the search for survivors has become victim body recovery and the main efforts have been refocused towards relief for those most affected.  

Another shining example of humanity at its best is Doña Rosita. Doña Rosita carried her donation on her back across town in her rebozo.  She could have said, “I’m old.  I don’t have anything to give.” but she said, “It’s up to me.”


But again, the government tried to impede these efforts.  Here in Moroleon, various “centros de acopio” (donation sites) sprung up.  Police officers arrived at several to demand the organizers shut down.  Some did, but others decided “It’s up to me.” and continued their collections and deliveries.

moroleon aid blocked

Even with donations pouring in, the government put up obstacles to relief, requiring IFE (voter registration cards) before survivors were given much-needed supplies.  It’s a shame that many of those most in need didn’t grab their ID before their house crumbled to the ground. (DIF MUNICIPAL DE JUCHITAN) In addition, several political parties have been accused of diverting supplies in order to claim credit, angering many citizens.

Shannon delivery

Let’s talk about Shannon. Shannon saw that most of the aid was headed to Mexico City although the metropolis was not the only severely damaged area. She could have said “Well, I have a business to run and my own family to take care of.  The Red Cross will eventually get to these other towns.”  but instead she said “It’s up to me.” and drove a truck full of supplies to Atzala, Puebla, Mexico distributing them without asking for any ID.  Shannon is accepting PayPal donations for her next truckload of supplies.


With the immediate needs of survivors now taken care of, it’s time to shift the focus again, this time towards rebuilding.  There has been no word from the Mexican government on this topic and I very much doubt there will be any effort to help those who have had homes damaged or destroyed. In fact, at least one government employee has been fired when he petitioned the government for earthquake aid. (Topo de Coahuila es despedido por trasladarse a brindar apoyo en la CDMX)

It would be easy to say “Well, I don’t know anything about building. I can’t help there.” But I said to myself “It’s up to me.”  So here I am to present one worthy recipient.


Let’s talk about Florence. Florence lives near the town of Tlalnepantla de Baz, just outside Mexico City, with her husband and two young children. Immediately after the earthquake, she invited anyone who had lost their home in the earthquake to stay with her.  With the second earthquake, Florence’s home became structurally unsound.  Two entire walls will need to be torn down and rebuilt. Internet unreliability these past few weeks caused Florence to lose her job teaching online and now she isn’t sure how she will be able to pay for these repairs.  If you would like to help Florence rebuild, contact me here.

.The devastation from these earthquakes and the hurricanes that hit Mexico earlier in the month may seem overwhelming and it is.  Perhaps you think that there isn’t anything you can do, that these official organizations will sort this out. Maybe they will.  I’ve listed below organizations at the actively involved in relief and rebuilding efforts.

Whether you decide to donate or not, well, that’s up to you.

Relief 4 Marginalized Zones in MX

Unicef Mexico

Global Giving Relief Fund

Fondo Unido Disaster Relief and Reconstruction Fund


Save the Children

Direct Relief

Project Paz

Impact Your World Assist Earthquake Victims in Mexico

Gael Garcia and Diego Luna’s Relief and Reconstruction Campaign


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Disasters in Mexico September 2017

Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month?  The motto is “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.”  I’m a little underwhelmed with that statement.  In general, the idea is that you, as an American (because only Americans are prepared), should take the month of September and review your overall preparedness for a variety of disaster scenarios.  The government has even so kindly provided a calendar to help you freak out all year round–oh I mean think constructively about your action plan during a disaster throughout the year, not freak out.

Hysterical Prepping aside, I do believe there are some simple safety precautions everyone (not just Americans) should take when faced with the threat of a disaster.  I’ve mentioned a number in my A to Z Surviving the Apocalypse series published earlier this year. (See Surviving a Windstorm, Surviving global Climate Change, Surviving a Quake)

Be that as it may, there are some situations that are totally unexpected or the severity of the disaster is woefully underestimated.  Mexico was hit by several of these this month and the month isn’t even over yet.

Beginning with Tropical Storm Lidia on September 1 which resulted in 7 deaths when it made landfall in Baja California Sur.  Two of the deaths were a result of electrocution from downed power lines.  Two deaths were drownings, one a woman who was swept down a flooded street and a baby who was wrenched from its mother’s arms while crossing a flooded area. Rains from the tropical storm caused havoc as far inland as Mexico City where flooding caused a 33 ft wide, 23 ft deep sinkhole and the collapse of El Angulo dam.

Then on September 8, Mexico and Guatemala experienced the most powerful earthquake in a century, measured at a magnitude of 8.2.  To date, there are at least 90 reported deaths as a result of the earthquake in Mexico.  In Tabasco, two children were killed, one when a wall collapsed and the other after the hospital lost power and the child’s respirator stopped.  Oaxaca, specifically the area of Juchitán, was the hardest hit. 

“It is a nightmare we weren’t prepared for,” said a member of the City Council, Pamela Teran, in an interview with a local radio station. She estimated that 20 to 30 percent of the houses in the city were destroyed.“A lot of people have lost everything, and it just breaks your heart,” she added, bursting into tears. (Mexico Earthquake, Strongest in a Century, Kills Dozens)

As a result of the earthquake, a tsunami warning was issued for the coasts of Oaxaca and Chiapas.

Over the next several days, the already devastated area was hit was multiple aftershocks, with at least 6 measuring above a 5.0 in magnitude.

Also on September 8, Hurricane Katia made landfall near Tecolutla, Veracruz. A state of emergency was declared in 40 municipalities in the area due to heavy flooding and mudslides.

On September 14, Hurricane Max made landfall in Guerrero, near Acapulco, sinking 6 ships off the coast, destroying more than 1,500 homes and causing major flooding and deadly mudslides.

On September 18, Tropical Storm Norma caused dangerous ocean conditions off the coast of Cabo San Lucas.  Meanwhile, the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center Washington (VAAC) has issued an ash advisory indicating current volcanic activity in the volcano Popocatepetl, near Mexico City.  Later, one explosion and 256 “low-intensity exhalations” between Tuesday and Wednesday were registered. A church in Atzitzihuacan at the foot of the mountain collapsed during the quake and eruption, killing 15 worshippers as they celebrated Mass inside.

On September 19, on the anniversary of the deadly 1985 earthquake, Mexico City experienced an earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale.  More than 200 confirmed deaths as of September 21 with desperate rescue attempts ongoing.  One of the hundreds of buildings that collapsed was an elementary school. Thirty children are still missing and hope is dwindling.

On September 23, an aftershock measuring 6.1 was registered in Lázaro CárdenasOaxacaMexico while another measuring 5.8 occurred in San LuqueñoChiapasMexico.  Rescue attempts were suspended as already damaged buildings collapsed in Mexico City.

Thousands and thousands of families have lost everything this month in Mexico.  Reportedly 300,000 homes were damaged or completely destroyed as a result of the earthquake on September 8.  No definite number of homes destroyed by hurricanes or subsequent earthquakes.

Map of damaged and destroyed buildings in Mexico City after the September 19, 2017 earthquake.

How can you help?  Fabiola Blogger at My Heart of Mexico lists the following donation sites:

Donate to Oxfam Mexico

Donate to Unicef Mexico Earthquake Victims

Donate to Save the Children Mexico

Donate to Global Giving Mexico Earthquake and Hurricane Relief Fund

If you know of any others, let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

There is every indication that this sort of climatic devastation will not only continue but get worse. (See also 100 million will die by 2030 if world fails to act on climate: report, Climate change and health, NASA Releases Detailed Global Climate Change Projections) I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but maybe, just maybe it’s time to build your ark or head for the hills.




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