Exploring the great outdoors entail its own set of inherent risks. You are far from emergency care, often out of the cellular phone coverage, and at the mercy of the outdoor elements. The risk of hiking is undeniable, especially if you are going on advanced hiking trails with rough terrains, steep slopes, and a wide range of dangerous wildlife. But natural disasters are some of the most common risks that hikers face – although it is something that a lot of trekkers, even the most experienced ones, fail to account for during their preparation.
Natural disasters like earthquake are very common, and you should make an effort to avoid getting caught in them. The risk with earthquake is that, unlike storms and other types of natural disasters, there is no way to predict when it will hit. Make sure you know how to handle the unexpected such that when the next earthquake strikes in the middle of your hike, you can come out on the other side unscathed, or at least away from fatal injuries.
Tips When Hiking During an Earthquake
As already mentioned, there is no way to predict when an earthquake will occur. The best thing you can do is equip yourself with the right gear and information to ensure your safety (and that of your companions) when you are in the middle of a hike when this happens.
Take note of the following tips on what you need to do during an earthquake while hiking:
1. Get away from any bodies of water.
Not all earthquakes can trigger a tsunami – it would have to be a water-based earthquake in order to trigger those giant waves. But when you are out on the mountain and an earthquake strikes without notice, you have no way of knowing this (especially if you are away from sources of signal wherein you can listen to news updates). Your best bet is to stay away from any bodies of water such as when you are hiking in a coastal region.
You should also stay away from the trough of a ridge wherein water could flow easily. If you are hiking with kids, make sure to secure them to an area of higher altitude.
2. If tsunami isn’t a risk, find open spaces and lower altitudes.
When there is no threat of tsunami, such as when you are away from coastal areas, you should look to escape to areas with lower altitude and open spaces. Most injuries that happen during and after an earthquake result from falling debris. But when you are hiking out on the wild (such as the mountain), there are bigger risks as it can trigger huge rocks to get loose. Stay away from rocky formations to avoid being hit by large boulders. Always be on the lookout for any rocks that might have been dislodged during the earthquake.
Pacific Ring of Fire (Image by Wikipedia)
3. Proceed with caution.
Always observe safety precautions when you are hiking during an earthquake. Even when the earthquake has passed, you cannot let your guard down. Always be vigilant of your surroundings to ensure that there are no immediate risks. Large earthquakes can trigger landslides or avalanches (depending on where you hike and at what time of the year). It is also important to be aware of potential tsunami in coastal regions.
Aside from these obvious threats, there are other concerns you have to deal with on your hike. The first one is that of aftershocks. One large earthquake could be followed by several minor ones, which could loosen up the ground you are walking on or the surrounding formations. The second concern is the possibility of the trails being damaged. There is also no way to determine the severity of the aftershocks, or if they are as powerful as the first one that hit.
If you are already on your way back from the hike, it is best to continue with the trail until you make your way back to safety. But if you are still starting off the hike, you need to assess the damage that the earthquake has caused. If possible, try not to continue with the rest of the hike (especially since aftershocks are expected).
It is also not advisable to go on a hiking trip right after an earthquake. You can keep in touch with the local officials about the conditions of the hiking trails and get their approval first before proceeding with your hike.
4. Keep emergency contact on hand.
One of the best ways to protect yourself (and your group) during a hiking trip is to always be prepared. Make sure you let others know about your hiking destination, or the specific trail that you are embarking on a hike for. Always keep a copy of the local emergency hotline numbers. This will enable you to get in touch with the right personnel in the event of an emergency, such as earthquakes. You need to have emergency hotline numbers for the rescue team and for medical assistance (in case someone from your group has sustained injuries).
It is also advisable to let someone have a copy of your contact details. This will enable the authorities to reach you in case of emergencies (or if you are unable to get in touch with the emergency response team).
5. Bring your own first aid kit.
And of course, you should always pack your own first aid equipment. If you are hiking in Southeast Asia, for example, getting first aid response to your rescue is not as quick and efficient as in other parts of the world. Some countries in Southeast Asia have limited access to emergency supplies and tools (such as helicopters for rescue and other advanced emergency equipment). Therefore, you need to take it upon yourself to be prepared for the worst-case scenario when you go on a hike. Packing your own first aid kit will enable you to provide immediate medical care in case of injuries. If you can provide immediate medical care, this could significantly lower the risk of fatality or more serious injuries (while you wait for emergency medical assistance to arrive).
6. Do your research.
Your safety during earthquake while hiking begins even before you set out to begin your hike. It is difficult to predict the exact time and location of an earthquake. However, there are certain regions that are more prone to having this type of natural disaster. When looking for a new place to hike, make sure to check the history of earthquakes in that particular region. Has this region experienced a major earthquake in the last year or so? How common are earthquakes in this part of the world? If historical data shows that a region experiences an earthquake several times a year, then chances are it will happen again. A common example of this is Indonesia and Thailand, which has experienced earthquakes and tsunamis in the past decade. You should also look into specific regions within a country since some are more prone to earthquake than others.
It is best to avoid these hiking destinations if you are worried about earthquakes. If you really must hike, make sure to hire a hiking tour guide. With a tour guide, you can benefit from their expertise to help you plan the safest hiking route that is safe even in cases of earthquake. Plus, they will be able to provide you with an insight on tsunami escape routes (in the event that there is a threat for one). You can also use your guide’s expertise on the trail conditions.
7. Tips when climbing a volcano.
If you are hiking a volcano, dealing with earthquakes can be extra challenging. When you are scaling a volcano and an earthquake happened, make sure to avoid volcanic features such as a crater. If you really want to get on the hike, make sure to wait for a clearance from the proper authorities before you do. Earthquakes are sometimes a sign of an ongoing volcanic activity. Unless you can determine if the earthquake is volcanic or tectonic, you need to play it safe.
When it comes to natural disasters, it is truly unfortunate when you get caught in between them, especially during a hike. But this danger is real, and it could potentially be fatal if you are caught off-guard.
To avoid being caught in an earthquake during a hike, you need to plan your trail ahead of time. Is the area known to be historically plagued with earthquakes? What are other known natural disasters that are statistically common in that particular hiking trail or destination? If the hiking destination you chose has a known history with earthquakes, you need to prepare for it ahead of time. Make sure you pack the right items and take extra precaution. It is also recommended that you hike with a group – never solo – to ensure that you will have someone else to help you out in case of unforeseen events, such as injuries or if you get stranded in the mountain.
There are several hiking destinations in Southeast Asia that are known to have fault lines. Therefore, earthquakes are pretty common in this part of the world. While strong earthquakes are rare and earthquakes that happen in mountains during your hike can be rarer, it could still happen. When it does, make sure to keep the above information in mind to ensure that you are ready when disaster strikes.