Preparing for an earthquake

August 25th, 2010

Peru held a nationwide earthquake drill this past week. Taking part were public sector and most private sector employees, as well as schools and hospitals. Tom Filipowicz describes the events in the northern city of Chiclayo.

Article brought to you by Mochica Hostess Tours

For the first time in Peru’s history a national disaster earthquake drill was held today all across the country. And for good reason…Peru has a long history of destructive quakes. The last major quake – 8.0 on the moment magnitude scale occurred on August 15, 2007 south of Lima. So far this year through July Peru has averaged 13 detectable quakes per month, and August has already seen 11 tremors.

Minor quakes are taken in stride by Peruvians and anyone else who has been here for some time, but it was a new experience for me when I experienced my first one two nights ago, after having lived here over two years. I was seated at the computer when I felt the chair I was sitting in begin to shake. I thought Maribel had snuck up on me and was joking around until I noticed the glass of Coke on the desk was moving. About the same time I realized what was happening, it stopped. It was a minor quake, centered 150 miles north of us. My impression was that of sitting in a gently rocking boat rather than the violent shaking I’d expected. Maribel had once told me that dogs would bark shortly before and during a quake; something I dismissed as folklore. It turns out she knew what she was talking about! During that quake it sounded like every dog in the world was barking outside our apartment.

Chiclayo at a standstill

Chiclayanos took this disaster drill seriously. At 10:00am when sirens began sounding the entire commercial district came to a standstill. People left the buildings, commercial and private to gather in the center of the streets or other designated ‘safe areas.’ Traffic came to a halt…the cars simply stopping wherever they were when the sirens started.

The only people who maintained their posts were the police and private security personnel. I had expected to see an increase in security, especially at places like this bank but that didn’t seem to be the case.


Schools also participated in the drill. These students from Jorge Basadre assembled in the principal park along with many other people from adjacent businesses and government offices.

Injury and rescue simulations were part of the drill. Here a ‘victim’ has been treated and is being taken to a local hospital. At left a member of the police investigations unit can be seen filming the activity…perhaps for a later critique.

CSI Chiclayo

As I took this photo the thought of CSI – Chiclayo crossed my mind.


When the ‘all clear’ sounded people returned to their normal activity. These Ripley employees actually participated in a roll call with the store’s security personnel before returning to the store, which makes me think they may have a very thorough disaster plan of their own.

Maribel, Brian and I have a plan for what we will do in the event of a major earthquake, which includes having all of our important documents and money in a small bag that any of us can quickly reach. We think we have a good plan…I just hope we never have to use it.

If you’d like to experience events like this and get a taste of real daily life in northern provincial Peru, speak to Tom & Maribel via Mochica Hostess Tours

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