Earthquakes are unfortunately a common occurrence, especially in places with high seismicity such as California, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii, and many other Western states. However, it is not just Pacific Coast states that are vulnerable to earthquakes. Oklahoma experienced a 4,000% increase in earthquake activity within the past decade, showing that no matter where in the US you are, seismic activity is possible. All natural disasters are frightening, but what makes earthquakes unique is that they give no warning. Therefore it is important to know how to prepare for an earthquake, what to do during an earthquake, and what to do after an earthquake hits. Here are some earthquake safety tips for before, during, and after an earthquake.
Safety Tips for Before an Earthquake
- Create an earthquake readiness plan with your household. Everyone in your household or family should be prepared. Make sure each person knows what to do and where to go as soon as they feel the vibrations of an earthquake.
- Come up with a meeting point for your friends and family. You may have no means of communication in the days following an earthquake. It is important to set a meeting point so that you can reunite with your loved ones.
- Practice dropping down and taking cover so that it comes naturally to you when an earthquake strikes.
- Be prepared with an earthquake kit. During the aftermath of an earthquake, you could be stuck in one place without food or power for days. Whether you make your own kit or buy by a professional kit, an earthquake survival kit will bring security during that time. The kit should be comprised of water, food, medications, a first-aid kit, bandages for injuries, a flashlight, batteries, a radio, thermal blankets, and other personal items.
- Make sure you have a fire extinguisher in your home, and that you know where it is stored and how to use it.
- Be sure you know how to turn off the water, gas, and electricity in your home. A multi-function tool may be needed.
- Secure heavy items, such as shelves, bookcases, mirrors, and light fixtures to the wall. Anything that could fall over during an earthquake and land on a person is a hazard. Do not leave any heavy items on shelves, because they will fall off the shelves during an earthquake.
- Choose earthquake safe locations in every room of your house, office, school, or any place that you go to on a regular basis. Earthquake safe locations are the places you are going to take cover in when an earthquake strikes. This place should be away from windows and any furniture that could fall on you. It is best if there is something sturdy you can hold on to.
What to Do During an Earthquake
- Drop down to your knees. This way the earthquake cannot knock you over.
- Take cover. This is one of the most important safety measures to be taken during an earthquake. Cover your head and neck with your arms or an object so that you are protected from any debris or furniture falling during the earthquake. For example, if you are in a bed, protect your head with a pillow.
- Hold on. If you have anything sturdy near your safe spot, hold on to it tight until the shaking stops.
- Stay away from furniture that can fall on you, such as book cases and televisions.
- Stay away from windows.
- If possible, go to a wall near the center of the building or house you are in, take cover in a doorway, or crawl under a heavy piece of furniture, such as a desk or table.
- If you are outside, get away from anything that could fall on you, such as trees, power lines, buildings, and houses.
- If you are in a car, pull over to a spot that is away from trees, power lines, and buildings. Wait in the car until the shaking stops.
- In general, stay where you are until the earthquake is over. Do not run away or go outside, that will only create a bigger risk for getting hit by a flying object, crushed by debris, or falling over.
- If you are in a wheelchair, you should lock your wheels and bend over while covering your head.
After an Earthquake
- Once the shaking has stopped, leave the building or house you are in and retreat to an open space away from damaged areas.
- Check for injuries that you or others have obtained from the earthquake. Provide first aid for yourself and others if necessary.
- Check your water, gas, and electric lines for any damage. If they are damaged, shut off the valves. If you can smell gas, open all your doors and windows and leave your home immediately. Report a broken gas line to the authorities when possible.
- Do not use candles, matches, or any open flames as a source of light. Earthquakes often result in broken gas lines, which should not be mixed with open flames. That is why it is critical to be prepared with battery powered flashlights in your home or work.
- If you are trapped, use whatever communication you have in order to get the attention of rescuers. Whether that is a cell phone that still has service, a whistle, or tapping on a wall.
- Only use your phone for emergencies. You will want to save your battery for as long as possible.
- If you are near an ocean, find out about the tsunami evacuation plans in your area.
- Be prepared to repeat everything in the likely event of aftershocks, which usually happen within the first few days following an earthquake.