Depending on where you live, earthquakes can be a common occurrence and can happen without any warning. However, only severe earthquakes can cause catastrophic damage to homes and buildings and loss of lives. As earthquake happens without any signals or warnings, one must always be prepared for it and know what exactly to do when the grounds starts shaking.
For big agencies and cities, earthquake preparedness means to retrofit older structures and design new bridges, roads, and buildings to withstand an earthquake as best as possible. For families and individuals, it means to plan ahead of the time and be familiar with what to do before, after, and during an earthquake.
NOTE: Be sure to consult with national and local authorities on the best earthquake preparedness steps for your area.
Before an Earthquake
Create a disaster preparedness plan with your family members
Planning is the best thing you can do to prepare yourself and your family members for this catastrophic event. Once a solid plan is formed, and all of you are on the same page, there are high chances that you can survive even a major earthquake. You should:
- Practice a lot
Practicing the plan often can help you build instincts, and you will automatically know what to do when an earthquake happens because when it does, you only have a few seconds to make quick adjustments.
- Identify the best places in your home/building to take cover
This is the major thing in your plan, which is identifying the best places that are sturdy and provide you with a good cover when an earthquake strikes. Inside durable interior door frames and under robust desk and tables are some good spots to take cover. If there is no place to take cover, your best bet would be laying on the floor next to an interior wall and protecting your head and neck. Stay away from anything that is heavy or can fall on you.
Prepare your home
You can’t change the intensity of the earthquake, but what you can do is prepare your home to bear it. You should:
- Make it safer by removing loose items from walls, shelves, and tables that may fall on your head.
- Secure the items on walls and floors with fasteners.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in an easily accessible place.
- Make a note of safe places along with some evacuation routes within the home.
- Make a note of master electrical panel, so you and everyone in your home know what to switch off to prevent any electrical fires.
Have essential disaster supplies on hand
To execute a solid preparedness plan, you will also need to have all the essential disaster supplies on hand, such as:
- Cash and credit cards
- First aid kit (fully stocked)
- Can opener (non-electric)
- Flashlight with some extra batteries
- Portable radio with some spare batteries
- Emergency bottled water and food that does not need to be cooked
- Change of clothes and a tarp that can double as protection
Learn basic first aid and CPR
At least one person in the house should know the basic first aid and CPR. It is essential and can come in handy during emergencies. You can contact your local Red Cross for monthly classes – they can teach you all the necessary skills to deal with the most common situations and injuries. If you cannot attend regular classes, you can purchase a first aid manual to learn all the important steps at home.
First aid and CPR plays a vital role in saving lives when there are no emergency services available, read more about it in our article Reasons to Learn First Aid during an Emergency.
Do practice drills
It might sound like a school-thing but making sure you and your family know what to do instinctively is an excellent way to prepare for an earthquake. Do test runs and see if everyone knows where to hide or go if there is a muster point. Ensure that they can do this no matter if it is late night or early morning.
Learn and teach your family members how to turn off utilities such as power and gas line
A broken gas line can cause gas leakage, which can lead to a hazardous explosion if untended. You should first learn how to inspect gas leakage and turn it off and then teach your family members so whoever notices it first, can switch it off without any delay.
Store your essential documents in a safe place
For public grants and other aid after an earthquake has hit, you will need to show your important documents such as deed/title for home, certificates, passports, national ID, driver’s license etc. The best practice is scanning and storing them online (Google drive) or adding them to a waterproof file and storing it in a safe, easy-to-access place.
During an Earthquake
You should stay safe during an earthquake and learn what earthquakes basically are. Many people might not know this, but some earthquakes are just foreshocks, and a major earthquake might occur after them. During an earthquake, quickly leave every activity you are doing and take cover under a sturdy place such as a table.
If you are indoors:
- Stop doing all the activities, drop down, take cover and wait until the shaking ends.
- Stay inside until the shaking ends, and it is safe to leave.
- Stay away from heavy furniture that can fall on you, such as bookcases and shelves, etc.
- Stay away from light fixtures and glass windows.
- If you are in bed, stay there, don’t move, and cover your head to protect yourself against flying glass and any other debris.
- If you are on a roof or inside a high-rise, don’t use elevators. Just drop down, take cover, and hold on.
If you are outdoors:
- Drop down on the ground, away from any tall buildings, power lines and trees, and take cover.
- If you are driving, pullover, fasten your seat belt (if you haven’t already), put your head down and put your hands on it for cover. Avoid parking at bridges, overpasses, near tall buildings, trees, signboards, power lines or any other thing that may fall on your car.
After an earthquake
Once an earthquake is over, don’t go out too quickly, make sure to follow these steps:
- Look around to see if it is safe for you to move, as there might be broken pieces of glass or power lines.
- If you are inside a building, head towards the exit and go to an open space, far away from any damage.
- If you are injured, call out for help. If you see anyone injured or trapped, help them immediately by giving them appropriate first aid.
- Fire is the most common threat after an earthquake; you should inspect your surrounding for any small fires and extinguish them right away before they cause any damage.
- Switch to your local radio station on your battery-operated radio and listen for the most recent emergency information.
- If you live in a coastal-area, look out for tsunami warning – if it is issued, assume that the dangerous waves are on the way.
- Inspect your utilities, check if there is any possible gas leakage or power line breakdown. If so immediately call the authorities.