How To Survive An Earthquake

by | Mar 25, 2024

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While earthquakes can be terrifying, being prepared and knowing what to do can make a significant difference in your safety and the safety of your loved ones. Remember that while we cannot control natural disasters, we can control our responses to them. Equip yourself with knowledge, prepare your home and family, and always prioritize safety.

Prepare For Earthquake

Secure your home:  Begin by anchoring heavy furniture, like bookcases and cabinets, to walls to prevent tipping. Install latches on cabinets to prevent contents from spilling out, and place large or heavy objects on lower shelves. Additionally, ensure your home’s structural integrity by checking for and repairing any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations.

Create An Emergency Plan:  Having an emergency plan is essential for a swift and effective response during unforeseen events. Ensure that all family members are aware of safe spots in the house, evacuation routes, and designated meeting points outside the home. Regularly review and practice this plan to keep everyone informed and prepared.

Know the safe spots:  In any room, identify areas away from windows, exterior walls, and tall furniture, like under sturdy tables or against inside walls. Always prioritize spaces that offer protection from falling objects and potential structural damage.

When the Ground Shakes: Immediate Actions

Drop, Cover, and Hold On: This mantra can save lives. As soon as you feel the quake: Drop to the ground to prevent being knocked over. Take Cover under a piece of sturdy furniture or against an inside wall.Hold On until the shaking stops.

Stay indoors and keep away from windows:   Staying indoors during an earthquake minimizes the risk of injury from falling debris or shattered glass. Venturing outside can expose you to dangers like collapsing structures or falling objects. Within your indoor environment, it’s vital to steer clear of windows, as the shaking can easily shatter the glass, turning it into hazardous projectiles. Seeking shelter away from these vulnerable areas, such as in an interior hallway or under sturdy furniture, is recommended for optimum safety.

If outdoors: If caught outdoors during an earthquake, move to a clear spot away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and utility wires, as these can collapse or become projectiles. Drop to the ground to prevent being knocked over and protect your head and neck with your arms. If you’re near the coastline, be aware of potential tsunamis and move to higher ground immediately after the shaking stops. Always stay alert for aftershocks, which can follow the main quake and cause further harm.

If in a vehicle: If you’re in a vehicle during an earthquake, pull over to a safe location away from overpasses, bridges, power lines, and large trees. Remain inside the vehicle until the shaking stops, as the car can provide some protection from falling debris. Once the tremors have ceased, avoid driving on damaged roads or bridges and be cautious of potential aftershocks.

If You Survive The Earthquake

Be Ready for Aftershocks: Aftershocks are smaller tremors that can follow the main earthquake, sometimes occurring days or even weeks later. While they are generally less severe than the primary quake, they can still cause additional damage to already weakened structures or infrastructure. It’s essential to stay vigilant, remain in safe areas, and avoid re-entering damaged buildings until they have been declared safe by professionals.

Check for Injuries:After the shaking stops, promptly assess yourself and those around you for any injuries. Administer first aid as necessary and seek medical attention for serious injuries, ensuring to move injured individuals only if they are in immediate danger.

Listen to the Radio:In the aftermath of an earthquake, tuning in to a battery-operated or hand-crank radio can be crucial. Local stations will broadcast vital updates, emergency instructions, and information about the extent of the quake’s impact. Relying on radio ensures that you remain informed, even if power outages or disrupted cellular networks limit other means of communication.

Be Cautious of Gas Leaks: If you detect the smell of gas or hear a hissing sound after an earthquake, it may indicate a gas leak in your home or surroundings. Immediately shut off the gas valve, open windows for ventilation, and evacuate the premises while avoiding any ignition sources.

Is It Safe To Hide Under A Doorway During An Earthquake?

The idea of standing in a doorway during an earthquake is based on old building practices where doorways were sometimes the most reinforced part of a house. However, in modern construction, doorways are not necessarily stronger than other parts of the house, and they don’t always provide protection from falling or flying objects. Therefore, it’s recommended to “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” under sturdy furniture, like a table, rather than relying on a doorway for safety.

Should I Run Outside During An Earthquake?

No, running outside during an earthquake is not recommended. It’s safer to “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” wherever you are to protect yourself from falling objects and debris. If you’re indoors, stay there until the shaking stops, then evacuate cautiously, avoiding damaged areas.

What Items Should Be In My Emergency Kit For Earthquakes?

An earthquake emergency kit should contain the following essential items:

Water and Non-perishable Food: Store at least a three-day supply of drinking water and ready-to-eat food, like canned goods, granola bars, and energy snacks.

First-Aid Supplies: Include bandages, antiseptics, scissors, tweezers, pain relievers, and any essential prescription medications.

Light and Communication Tools: Pack flashlights with extra batteries, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, and a whistle to signal for help.

Personal Documents and Cash: Store copies of important documents such as IDs, insurance policies, and bank account records in a waterproof container, along with some cash in small denominations.

Shelter and Warmth Items: This category encompasses space blankets, ponchos, hand warmers, and a tent or tarp for protection against the elements.

How Do I Know If My Home Is Safe To Re-Enter After An Earthquake?

After an earthquake, assessing the safety of your home is crucial. First, look for visible signs of structural damage, such as cracks in the walls, foundation, or buckling floors. Check for hazards like broken gas lines by smelling for gas odors or listening for hissing sounds. Ensure there’s no damage to electrical wires, which can pose a fire risk. Inspect water lines for leaks, as they can weaken structural integrity. If you identify any of these dangers or are uncertain about the safety of your home, consult a structural engineer or local building official before re-entering.

What Are The Signs Of Structural Damage I Should Look For Post-Quake?

Foundation:

  • Visible cracks or fractures.
  • Separation from the rest of the house.
  • Sinking or uprooting of the foundation.

Exterior Walls:

  • Cracks or bulges.
  • Gaps between walls and the foundation or roof.
  • Crumbling or dislodged bricks or stones.

Interior Walls:

  • Cracks, especially around doorframes and windows.
  • Buckling or bowed walls.
  • Wallpaper or paint that is cracked or peeling in a spider-web pattern.

Floors:

  • Uneven or sloping floors.
  • Cracks or breaks in the floor.
  • Buckling or warped floorboards.

Ceilings:

  • Sagging or drooping.
  • Cracks or visible strains.
  • Water stains or leakage.

Doors & Windows:

  • Doors or windows that jam or don’t close properly.
  • Cracks radiating from the corners of door frames or windows.
  • Shattered glass or damaged window frames.

Roof:

  • Sagging or distortions.
  • Missing or broken shingles or tiles.
  • Separation from the main structure.

Chimney or Vents:

  • Cracks or leaning.
  • Loose bricks or materials.
  • Damage or blockage in the flue.

Utility Lines:

  • Broken, frayed, or sparking electrical lines.
  • Gas leaks (often detected by a rotten egg smell).
  • Damaged water pipes causing leaks or poor water flow.

Basement or Crawl Spaces:

  • Water pooling or leaks.
  • Shifted piers or supports.
  • Cracks in the walls or floor.

Staircases and Railings:

  • Loosened or broken steps.
  • Unstable or leaning railings.
  • Cracks or shifts in the staircase structure.

Garages and Outbuildings:

  • Misaligned doors or frames.
  • Cracks in the floors or walls.
  • Roof damage or instability.

Landscaping:

  • Ground displacement or large cracks.
  • Landslides or soil movement on slopes.
  • Uprooted trees or destabilized large plants near the home.

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