What Are Landslides and What
Should You Do to Guard Your Personal Safety?
by Michael Griesmer
Some landslides are the result of soil loosening up because of
heavy rains. But landslides are not necessarily dependent on rainfall; they can
take place after a light rain, or even when there has been no rainfall at all.
Similar to earthquakes, the occurrence of landslides depends on the buildup of
instability of the land on a slope and once the forces of gravity overcome the
forces holding the land in place, a landslide starts.
Landslides consist of mud, rocks, and debris coming from a higher place and
tumbling down to a lower place.
Landslides are so dangerous because what they bring with them is heavy and hard.
It's water, soil, possibly uprooted trees, garbage, parts of houses, cars...
anything in its path can become part of the landslide.
A landslide in the mountains may only contain earth, water, rocks and some
trees. But a landslide taking place in a city may also include, cars, pieces of
houses, trees, bushes, even raw sewage, unfortunately. Regardless of the
composition, landslides have the power break to down houses that they encounter
along the way and to carry away vehicles (remember that when you're trying to
get out of the way).
Here are some tips to stay safe before and during landslides
Everyone should be aware of the following information, but people who house is
built on a slope or at the bottom of a hill are under constant threat of
landslides. If your home is so situated, make sure that you have your home
professionally inspected every 6 months to see that the structure is holding up
and also that the terrain above is not showing signs of an impending landslide.
An indication in your house that the earth is shifting and a landslide may be
immanent would be any new cracks in the foundation of your home. Such cracks are
evidence that the soils that your home is built on are shifting, are not staying
Whether it's your own home or someplace you're vacationing, if you notice that
the soil around your house feels softer than usual, that's a warning sign. If
the softness is not from rain, then it may be that the soil has started shifting
and a landslide is immanent.
Cracks in your houses foundation and softness of soil may be present as warning
signs, but landslides can also occur without any warning. Things could just
start falling down the hill.
During an actual landslide event, the first thing you want to think about is how
to get out of the path of the debris flow. If your home is in the path of a
large landslide it will probably destroy the house, but if you and your family
escape and survive, that's what really matters. There's nothing you can do to
prevent or stop and oncoming landslide, and your house may not protect you, so
the important thing to do is to flee.
If you are caught unawares and there is no time to leave, do the next best thing
which is to seek shelter in your home under a desk or a sturdy table.
If you do have time to make a run for it, don't go downhill. The landslide will
pick up speed as it tumbles down the mountain (or slope). So if possible, go
uphill where the landslide will be less intense. But don't drive directly toward
the landslide, drive away from it. In other words don't drive in the same
direction as the landslide is headed, downhill. Drive away from it: right, left
In a landslide situation, think quickly about whether you can get out or whether
you need to shelter in place. But maybe the best advice is to keep your head so
you can decide which option to take. Keep your head and don't panic.