An earthquake can be a harrowing experience, presenting many potential dangers from falling debris and building collapses. Knowing the risk of an earthquake in your region and how to react in case of an emergency is essential. Here’s how to recognize whether you’re at risk of experiencing an earthquake and what to do if one occurs.
Are You At Risk?
To assess whether you live in an area prone to potentially dangerous seismic activity, you can consult the USGS’ National Seismic Hazard Maps used by engineers and the insurance industry in building construction.
Over 80% of earthquakes occur around the pacific ocean in a region called the Ring of Fire, the most seismically active area globally. Earthquakes most commonly occur due to volcanic eruptions, tectonic movement, or geological faults. People who reside near active volcanoes or on a fault line are at an increased risk of experiencing seismic activity.
How to React During an Earthquake
Knowing what to do in an earthquake is especially critical if you reside near a fault line where seismic activity regularly occurs. If you experience an earthquake, these are the safety measures you should take.
If you’re indoors, stay there
If you are inside when the earthquake begins, do not exit the building. Execute the Drop, Cover, and Hold safety plan by crouching next to a heavy dining table and holding onto it. If this is not possible, move out of the room and into a hallway where items cannot fall on you or stand against a wall.
Avoid windows and heavy appliances
Stay away from windows that can shatter and heavy appliances that may tip over on you. Exit rooms with potential for falling items, like a kitchen.
If you’re outdoors, find an open area
If you’re already outside when the earthquake occurs, get to an open area if you can. Ideally, you want to be away from buildings, power lines, chimneys, and anything else with the potential to fall and hit you.
If you’re in your car, stop and stay inside
Carefully bring your car to stop and remain still for the duration of the earthquake. Do not exit the vehicle and don’t stop under a lamppost, bridge, overpass, tunnel, or power lines. When the tremors stop, watch for cracks in the road before continuing to drive.
If you’re near the ocean, prepare for a tsunami
If an earthquake occurs near the ocean, there is potential for a tsunami, a giant wave created by seismic activity under the ocean floor. Refer to tsunami safety guidelines from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to learn how to survive in these conditions.
Understanding Drop, Cover, and Hold
A critical part of an earthquake management plan is the Drop, Cover, and Hold drill.
Drop to the ground, resting on your hands and knees. When you’re low to the ground, you’re less likely to fall due to the earth shaking. If you use a wheelchair, lock your wheels and remain seated.
Protect your head and neck from falling debris or airborne objects with your arms. Seek cover under durably constructed, rigid furniture, if possible, such as a dining table.
Though a desk may seem like a good cover option, it often can’t support substantial weights. Hiding beside the desk provides you with enough space to survive if the ceiling collapses on the desk. You should also never get under the bed during a quake. The tiny space under your bed will become significantly smaller under the weight of falling debris, potentially crushing you underneath.
If you’re unable to seek shelter under furniture, find an interior wall that you can lean against. Do not stand under a door jamb. The door jamb may fall backward, leaving you vulnerable to injury from a roof collapse.
If you are positioned next to a table, hold onto the leg with one hand and be ready to hold it down if it starts to move. Cover your head and neck with your free hand.
How to Survive an Earthquake
Your priority in surviving an earthquake should be to create an emergency plan for the household. In this plan, you’ll establish a meeting point and where to find the emergency survival kit.
Your emergency kit should contain:
Include clean water for both drinking and sanitation. One gallon per person per day for three days to one week should suffice.
You should include enough non-perishable food to feed you and your family for at least three days. Some of the most durable and long-lasting options are canned foods, so pack a can opener too.
A battery-powered radio or one that you can operate using a hand crank allows you to keep yourself and your family apprised of the current situation. The radio should be able to receive NOAA Weather Radio stations.
A first-aid kit is an essential part of any survival kit. Your first-aid kit should include sterile medical exam gloves, adhesive bandages, gauze, medical tape, antibiotic and burn ointments, sterile saline solution for irrigating wounds, scissors, tweezers, and analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs.
It should also include an emergency tourniquet, as falling debris and shattering glass can cause severe cuts.
Natural disasters, including earthquakes, can cause power outages, leaving you in the dark. A flashlight allows you to safely navigate debris and locate family members that may have become separated during the disaster. A flashlight should also be part of your everyday carry (EDC) equipment. Include extra batteries.
If you or a member of your household becomes trapped under debris or an exit is blocked, having a way to signal first responders is crucial.
Sidearm or Rifle
Looting is a common problem in the aftermath of natural disasters. If you are remaining in place, ensure you have a means of protecting your family and your property until law and order are restored.
Preparing for the Aftermath
As part of the emergency preparedness plan, your family or housemates should establish a meeting point to head to after the earthquake ends. Depending on the level of devastation that occurs, it may take hours or days to reach this point.
After an earthquake ends, you should be prepared for potential aftershocks that may require you to shelter in place. Check your home for structural damage and potential hazards. Assess gas lines and water mains for leaks, damaged electrical wires, and cracks in the foundation. If you detect a gas leak, open all the windows and exit your home, then call the authorities.
Turn on the TV or radio where possible to listen to instructions from authorities and gauge the magnitude of the earthquake.
When leaving your home, wear sturdy shoes and protective clothing that shield you from harm if there is any residual debris, dust, or sharp pieces of glass on the streets surrounding your home.
Protect Yourself and Your Family
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