Preparing for Earthquakes in Costa Rica



Geographically, Costa Rica is home to volcanoes belonging to the Pacific Ring of Fire.

This belt of 452 volcanoes, which spreads throughout the Pacific coast, is the source of 90% of the world's earthquakes. In Costa Rica alone, 150 local faults can cause severe damage to natives and the growing expat community. Faults are fractures on the rock at the bottom of the earth's crust.

Hence, it is imperative for foreign nationals who are temporarily or permanently staying in Costa Rica to be prepared for any seismic activity in the country.

But there is no reason to be panic-stricken. Similar to all territories that lie along the Ring of Fire, earthquakes have become a regular occurrence. Costa Rica records 30 – 40 earthquakes daily and most are too light to be felt. The most recent notable earthquake was on January 2009, which recorded 6.1 magnitude. Prior to that, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in 2004 was reported.

Most foreign nationals in Costa Rica reside in Escazú and Santa Ana where many tectonic faults are located. But this should not be a reason to cross out these trendy suburbs as residences of choice as long as real estate developers follow the seismic code and environmental recommendations by the National Emergency Committee during construction.

Preparing for earthquakes should be on the top of every expat's to-do list.

First, take note of the emergency hotline: 911. The contact numbers of the Embassy and Consulate in Costa Rica should also come in handy. Developing a communication plan with authorities, family members and colleagues is important in preparing for any calamity.

Before moving in to a new home, inspect if the building is quake resistant. Check the strength of the concrete walls and the ground on which the structure is erected. Propane gas cylinders should be kept chained with utmost care against the wall. Other flammable materials should not be placed near stoves to avoid fire incidents during earthquakes. Having a fire extinguisher is a must in any closed area.

Secure furniture to walls and columns with the aid of lockdown devices. Identify safe places inside your own home in the event a disaster strikes. When indoors, stay under sturdy furniture or be in open areas when outdoors. Prepare an emergency bag with necessities such as a first-aid kit, a flashlight, portable radio, some clothing and food.

Most importantly, be updated with seismic reports from the Costa Rican local agencies. The US Geological Survey (USGS) also provides real-time seismic reports in various earthquake prone areas. Reports from the USGS can be accessed through mobile gadgets such as smartphones and portable computers.