On Exits and Emergencies

May 24, 2015 |


This winter marks the rst wedding season I am attending after a gap of five years. While I have been away pursuing higher education, the roads in Kathmandu have gotten wider. I was amused to see that developmental projects which previously seemed quite impossible can actually be executed if someone takes the initiative. I am even amused to see boards mentioning the road expansion project

Anyway, the point is, there has been an upsurge of weddings among relatives and friends this winter. Many are getting married, and for most of them the preferred venues are party palaces and banquet halls which have mushroomed in the Valley. For some, it’s a taste for luxury that takes them to such banquets and party palaces for celebrations; for most, it is a compulsion driven by the lack of space around homes in this city.

Most of these banquets and party palaces are located on the terraces of high-rise buildings. Among the many weddings I have been attending, there was one at a banquet located in a trade centre which spans a huge area. The banquet was located on the ? fth floor, and wedding receptions are crowded functions. It took me quite a while to ? gure out where the entrance was. As I mentioned earlier, it was a building with a wide span but it had an entrance so tiny meant for the whole structure that I had to search for it.

Well, I managed to get to the fivth floor on an elevator which stopped twice because of power fluctuations, but I got there anyway. On the way to the ? fth floor I made a startling discovery: That there was a convention and exhibition centre housed in the same building. A question struck me like cold wind does on a snowy night: How do they manage to run a banquet, a convention and exhibition centre and so many shops without enough power? I got carried away by the merrymaking of the wedding reception as I entered the banquet, though.

The reality hit me real hard when it was time to return. There was no way I would take a lift that stopped twice on the way to fivth floor. I chose to take the stairs instead and convinced a group of relatives that we need to walk a bit to digest better. However, as soon as we reached the fourth floor, we were asked to use the lift as the lights on the stairs have been put out because of the power shortage. A nasty surprise was waiting for us when we reached the lift. Among the two, only one escalator was working. We waited for almost 30 minutes but the lift wouldn’t stop. It only went upstairs or downstairs. I was losing my patience and the guard in the most polite manner possible in such a situation to let us go down the stairs that went down that floor. Finally after lingering for about 45 minutes, we managed to get out of the building

We certainly cannot prevent earthquakes and we cannot predict them either. Whats in our power is the ability to keep ourselves prepared.


What a waste! Getting out of a ve storied building took 45 minutes! All that time wasted to get out of the building wasn't even the most important of issues. All throughout that time I was wondering what might happen if an earthquake hit when the convention hall had a programme ongoing and the banquet was hosting a ceremony. How would people exit from the building that covers such a huge span through just one set of staircase? Moreover, to add to the misery, the stairs weren't easy to end. There were no Exit signs which were clearly visible either. It felt like the shopping complex was a disaster in making, should an earthquake occur.

I am not even remotely related to engineering and structural design as far as my vocation is concerned, but it doesn't take a genius to anticipate the loss a natural disaster like an earthquake could bring to a place where the presence of people is heavy. Through my line of academics I do know that logical thinking and reasoning in humans snap at those times when threat is perceived or panic strikes. A person either freezes or acts on impulse. The whole point is, if the building starts shaking when a programme is going on in the convention hall or the banquet, the rst thing people will do is to look for an exit. If they do manage to and the stairs for the exit, there is going to be a stampede since the instinct of all the people would lead them to the only stairs that they can find.


Those stairs in the trade centre being discussed cannot more than 4 people on one step with enough space to move freely at a time. If people do not find an exit, the most likely action they will take is through their impulse. They will likely jump off the veranda or through the windows. Not everyone would act this way in an emergency, but the situation itself certainly invites a big loss of lives.

If geologists and scientists are to be believed, we should be expecting an earthquake in Kathmandu Valley anytime now. The history of earthquakes in the region suggests that a major earthquake has shaken the Valley once every 75-100 years. It is high time that we prepare for a disaster. We certainly cannot prevent earthquakes and we cannot predict them either. What’s in our power is the ability to keep ourselves prepared. One of the ways in which we can do so is by training ourselves not to panic on the face of disaster. We can do this by taking mental pictures of ourselves in a situation of disaster and planning our actions.


A Household Emergency Kit (HH Kit) is a box/container that contains Tools, Equipment and Accessories (TEA). Recommended TEA in this kit are only for Light Search and Rescue (LSAR) purposes on a household level. All family members should be aware of it, and adults, at least, should know how to operate the TEAs.

Where should we keep it?

It should be kept in a safe location within ones building compound.

What should it contain?

Prioritise the items. Typical articles include mask, whistle, working gloves, helmet, safety boots, protective eye glasses, headlamp and extra batteries, nails, screwdriver, adjustable wrench, big knife, flathead axe, mallet, rope, pry bar, thread and needle and blanket.


It is important that we remind ourselves that we are living in a country highly prone to earthquakes. After a major earthquake has occurred, it is highly likely that the usual services that we take for granted drinking water, electricity and telephones, among others, will become unavailable.

Even daily household supplies that individuals and families manage for themselves-things as basic as food, clothes and beds will not be manageable any longer.

It is therefore recommended that you be prepared to be self-suffcient for at least three days after a quake. Put your most-need items together in a backpack or another easy-to- carry container to take with you in case you must evacuate quickly. This bag should include all basic elements for survival. Such a bag of essentials, which you can escape from potential danger quickly, is called a "GO BAG".

You should be sure your bag is easy to carry and that it has an ID tag on it. Every member of your family should have a GO BAG at home, at the office and in a vehicle.

What kind of bag/container is good as GO BAG?

A backpack is highly recommended a backpack, as nothing fancy is needed for suited for this purpose. A backpack, as opposed to a hand bag or a suit case, is easier to carry around because it goes on your back, allowing you to carry more weight than you would if the arms and hands had to bear it. Additionally, a backpack keeps your hands free and makes you more balanced.

Where should it be kept?

The best location is at home, near the bedroom, otherwise nearby the evacuation route within your home or office (if it is pre-identified). If something happens while you are at home/office, you should be able to get to it pretty quickly.

What should it contain?

You can't carry everything, and everyone has a different opinion about what is important. Intelligence and skill must be used in selecting what articles go into your “GO BAG”. The most basic items would be bottles of water, food,rst aid kit, water puri cation tablets; safety boots, gloves and helmets; extra keys, photocopies of important documents, whistle, pocket knife; addresses, phone numbers and family emergency plans, raincoat, portable battery-operated radio with extra batteries, matches and quick- reference emergency books. These are all common-sense items that should be gathered prior to catastrophic events.

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