Emergency Preparedness: What to do in an Earthquake

What Are Earthquakes, and What Causes Them?

Earthquakes are a natural, sudden, and violent shaking of Earth's surface. They are caused by the shifting and breaking apart of rock deep beneath the Earth's surface. These rocks are moved by a force known as plate tectonics. Massive plates move, colliding, moving past, over and under one another to form Earth's surface. It's their movement we're feeling during an Earthquake. Earthquakes are most likely to occur in the areas that these giant plates meet, the boundaries, though to it possible for them to also occur in the middle of plates.

Awareness Information

In the event of an earthquake, it's vitally important that we are aware of and understand a few key risks. Understanding the implications of an earthquake will help you to prepare and ready you family in the event of an emergency. One of the biggest things to be aware of is that with an earthquake comes a rattling and shaking of structures, including bridges and roads. The movement may diminish their structural integrity. Power, gas, and electric services may also fail, as the nerve centers or parts thereof are damaged. For these reasons, it's important for your family to have their own emergency preparedness supplies. Those living in coastal communities should also be aware of an earthquake's ability to trigger tsunamis, damaging waves that may cause additional damage and flooding.

Aside from the initial earthquake, it's important to be aware of resulting aftershocks. Within the hours, days, and months following the event, aftershocks, smaller quakes that may further damage structures. Thankfully, many of these movements are predictable, enabling communities to be proactive and manage any risk as effectively as possible. Whether you're dealing with foreshocks (before the earthquake), a confirmed earthquake, or aftershocks, be aware that flying glass, weakened walls and foundations, and falling debris may cause injury or death. Be on high alert and stay aware of your surroundings.

Part of disaster awareness is also being aware of the resources available to us in the event of natural disasters. The American Red Cross, as well as FEMA, may be able to provide your family and community with much needed assistance in times of crisis. These and similar world organizations may provide basic necessities like food, shelter, water, and clothing.

Plan for an Earthquake

Planning for an earthquake is essential in order to keep safe. Having a plan, emergency essentials, and emergency preparedness supplied, including a well-kept food storage system is important for people living in high risk areas spanning more than 40 U.S. states and territories. Create a plan for you and your family that includes the following:

  • Identify safe places in your home. These places are away from windows, tall furniture, or anything that could fall and hurt you. Under a solid piece of furniture, like a desk or table might be effective.
  • Just like you learned to "stop, drop, and roll" in the event of a fire, practice "stop, drop, cover, and hold". Practicing this, rather than just memorizing the phrases, may help you to move quicker if you do experience an earthquake.
  • Share your safe places by telling friends, neighbors, and guests where your safe places are. This will help them to stay safe while visiting your home and inspire them to take similar precautions in their own home.
  • Discuss your home insurance coverage and options with your insurance agents and make sure your property is properly insured against earthquake damage.
  • Preparedness and crisis training opportunities may be available in your community. Take a first aid class, a preparedness seminar, and anything else you think might help you to be better informed and prepared in the event of an earthquake. Your local chapter of the Red Cross may be a great resource in helping you find these local opportunities.
  • Get your family involved in your earthquake preparedness plans. By starting a dialog, you may ease some fears and equip them with important knowledge and tools needed to stay safe.

What to Tell Children

Talking to children about earthquakes, how and why they happen, and the dangers they impose may also help to ease their fears and best prepare them for these natural disasters.

  • Help children to identify safe places outside of the home, in places like school or the grocery store, park, or playground.
  • Teach and practice "stop, drop, cover, and hold" in these different safe places.
  • Remind everyone how important it is to avoid stairways and elevators until after the shaking has subsided.
  • If outside when an earthquake occurs, stay outside and away from buildings that might become unstable. Trees, power lines, and lampposts should also be avoided. Crouch and cover is important and may help avoid injury.

How to Protect Your Property

Protecting your property starts with making sure you're properly insured, but it doesn't stop there. There are precautions you can take to minimize damage and the risks associated with earthquakes.

  • Bolt heavy furniture to the walls.
  • Anchor high or heavy items.
  • Properly secure items with the potential to fall, like TVs.
  • Store breakable items as low to the floor as possible.
  • Properly maintain your properties foundation and structural integrity; don't put off much needed renovations.
  • Have structures evaluated by professionals for safety and stability.
  • Do not position hanging items, like pictures of mirrors over seating areas.

What to Do During an Earthquake

  • Stay in Place - During an earthquake, it's important to stay where you are; whether that's outside or inside.
  • Avoid Glass - Always cover your head and stay away from windows.
  • If You're Driving - If you're driving when an earthquake starts, pull over immediately. Stay in your car with your safety belt on. Do not stop on ramps or bridges.
  • Move to Higher Ground - People along the coast should move to higher-ground if it is safe to do so.
  • And Above All - If where you are is safe, stay there. Limiting your movements may limit your risk of injury.

What to Do After an Earthquake

After the shaking has subsided, assess yourself for injuries and seek medical attention if necessary. Once you're taken care of, you may be in a position to help others, including the young, elderly, or disabled. Assist others as needed with basic first aid and call emergency services as needed. It is also important to assess your surroundings after an earthquake. Look for small fires, broken glass, spilled liquids, or anything else that might result in further injury.

At this point, you may be able to collect your emergency preparedness supplied and retrieve your battery-operated radio use to receive emergency broadcasts with important information pertinent to your safety and any notice of evacuation.

Other Earthquake Resources

By: Steven Moore