Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stupid Earthquake Tricks To Save Lives

The first disaster risk reduction that I remember reading about was so simple and cheap that it was almost ridiculous. I read about it a very long time ago and am not sure it is still being done.

Some relief agencies had discovered that adding dental floss to the adobe mix destined to become bricks for buildings saved lives. The dental floss did not keep the buildings together and save property loss. It simply held the buildings together long enough for people to have time to get out before they collapsed.

I had never realized how valuable dental floss could be before that. Since then I have discovered my own uses for this overlooked wonder. I reinforced packages that I made myself out of paper mache when I mailed them to a relative who was living far away, sometimes in another country. The packages needed to be very strong to make to their destination in one piece. I had brownies and cookies in the packages most of the time.

The cookies or brownies were completely demolished into tiny crumbs, but they were eaten with gusto by the recipient anyway. The package was intact so every crumb got there.

Another use for dental floss that was not commonly known was for repairs of shoes and luggage. I discovered that waxed dental floss makes an admirable substitute for waxed leather thread. Most of the items that broke were black and I usually had black shoe polish or dye with me, so I applied that to the finished repair with a q-tip and the repair became invisible, or close enough anyway.

I watched a video about building a survival shelter using zip ties to hold tree branches together and make a camp chair and shelves, etc. Somebody commented that it was not realistic to expect to have that many zip ties handy. 

It would be if you planned it that way. Between zip ties and dental floss we might eventually come up with shelters that will let more people survive all the nasty disasters in store for us in the future. :-)

A video on traditional Japanese buildings showed men straightening out a building that got knocked cockeyed by an earthquake. The men had a very large long and were all lined up along it. They pushed against the building until it went back into its normal position. 

The traditional buildings of Japan were planned that way, so they would not be lost in every earthquake. I was informed that traditional Japanese carpenters spent part of their apprenticeship carving little interlinking puzzles that taught them, in miniature, the carving skills they would later need to make a building. I was amazed and impressed by this information. 

Japan does have a lot of earthquakes and it is a very good idea to make buildings that can simply be pushed back into shape after an earthquake. They don't fall down and crush the occupants either. 

That is definitely an advantage to homeowners. Since I live in Alaska, this is quite relevant to the frequent earthquakes we experience here.

Where is a good traditional Japanese carpenter when you need one?

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