How to survive an earthquake in New York City

Top five tips for coping with earthquakes as New York City gears up for a major temblor

We welcome the new film New York City Holds Your Breath in celebration of America’s great city. New York is a fantastic cultural centre, but the future, as it always has been, is unpredictable. We have to plan for the worst, and hope for the best.

During an earthquake, it’s important to keep walking. That can be dangerous for a couple of reasons: 1) often there are no signals to tell you to stay where you are and 2) the ground is made of rock, so with every step you create new fragments of rock that could bust the big rocks. Remember, that’s going to keep crumbling down for some time.

When planning what to do in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake, take note of those who need help most, and those who can help. Many community organisations provide shelter and water to people during emergencies. Some offer to help rebuild your home, or maybe to remove some damaged vegetation from your lawn. But please, please, please don’t do this on your own – there’s nothing you can do for you, so don’t do it, no matter how desperate. In a time of emergency, your priority should be getting yourself and your loved ones out of harm’s way.

Finally, go and enjoy a movie or a Broadway show at a safe location. It’s important to evacuate if your building is on the ground floor or lower. Only at the top floors do you have a chance to get out, so don’t be tempted to get upstairs.

Last time I lived in New York City, we all stayed in our homes. The whole thing went off at 3:41am. The whole country trembled, but nobody even learned the position of the ground. It was weird. The water had already come in and my neighbours were treating their garden with bleach. What was that?

• The film New York City Holds Your Breath will be shown at the O’Hare film festival (“Nigeria’s Rowdy City”) on Friday

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