What do you do if you find yourself in the middle of an earthquake, and chances are that at some point in your life this is a real possibility? There are all sorts of potential dangers that you will have to face so it’s a good idea to think about what those will be and how you can survive.
If you find yourself indoors in an earthquake DROP, COVER AND HOLD ON. If you are not near a strong table or desk, drop to the floor against an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms. Ideally you want to have a strong desk or table to use as cover, this will help protect you from falling debris and hopefully is able to withstand any of the falling structure around you. These types of furniture will give you that small area of survivability if anything falls from above. If you’ve ever seen pictures of homes or offices after an earthquake you might have noticed when the walls fall in a lot of times there are small tri-angle shaped areas where the structure that has fallen in and is being supported by tables, desks and other pieces of furniture. These areas give you the best chance of survival and getting through the earthquake. Even if you become trapped you’re still alive and that’s what’s important. Do not use a doorway except if you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway and it is close to you. Many inside doorways are lightly constructed and do not offer protection.
You want to avoid being around windows, hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture or other large appliances and cabinets filled with heavy objects if at all possible. Do not try to run out of the structure during strong shaking, it’s almost impossible to avoid not being hit by one of these types of items and your balance won’t be all that good due to the floor moving around and you have a good chance of falling and hurting yourself. If you are in bed roll out on to the floor laying flat towards an inside wall, that way you won’t be crushed by falling debris and it gives you that tri-angle space we talked about earlier, the bed should support some structure. Due not go under the bed, you will be crushed. Many experts say to stay in bed and cover your head with a pillow but I disagree with this, I believe you have a better chance on the floor, but you can decide what’s best for you.
If after the earthquake you find yourself trapped in debris try to move as little as possible so that you don’t kick up a lot of dust. Cover your nose and mouth with a handkerchief or other piece of clothing to avoid breathing in any potential harmful dust. Stay put and only try to escape if there is a clear visible path out, trying to move any kind of debris or structure around you can cause it to fall in on top of you resulting in further injury or death. If trapped you can tap on a pipe or wall so that rescuers can hear where you are. Avoid shouting; this can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust. Do not light a match to avoid causing an explosion, gas and some dust is flammable.
If you find yourself outdoors when the shaking starts move to a clear area if you can safely walk there. Be on the lookout to avoid power lines, buildings and trees or any other things above you that may fall on top of you. If you are in a large metropolitan area or any other downtown type scenario, it is safer to remain inside a building during and after an earthquake unless there is a fire or gas leak. There are no open areas in downtown type scenarios far enough from glass or other falling debris to be considered safe refuge sites. Glass and other building materials from high-rise buildings do not always fall straight down; it can be caught up in a wind current and travel great distances. Any debris falling from any skyscraper no matter the size of that debris can potentially be lethal.
If you’re driving stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle, avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires. Once the earthquake has stopped avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake. There will most likely be damage to these types of structures so you will need to proceed with caution and the possibilities of downed power line are all likely.
If you are on the beach, move to higher ground immediately, do not wait! An earthquake can cause a tsunami and you may have limited time to move to higher ground. I’m sure most everybody has this still fresh in their mind after seeing what happened after the earthquake in Japan.
Once the earthquake has stopped check the people around you for injuries; provide first aid if qualified to do so. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger. Check around you for dangerous conditions, such as downed power lines, fires, and structure damage. If you have a fire extinguisher and are trained to use it then put out small fires immediately. Chances are there can be damaged gas lines and any fire is potentially dangerous with any leaking gas. Fires are one of the most devastating and common hazards after an earthquake. Inspect your home for damage and turn off the gas only if you smell gas. Also be prepared for aftershocks so avoid going back into heavily damaged buildings.
Stay away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or other relief organizations. Return home only when authorities say it is safe to do so. After it has been determined that its’ safe to return to your home, your safety should be your primary concern as you begin clean up and recovery.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas and areas to think about before such an event. Only with proper planning and preparedness will you be able to survive a major earthquake, so go get prepared.
Author: The Survival Guy
- You: 30 Earthquakes Strike SoCal (thedailybeast.com)
- Seismologists studying swarm of earthquakes in Southern California (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- 4.4-magnitude earthquake, 2.7 aftershock rattle Southern California (abclocal.go.com)
- (Major) Earthquakes list August 8, 2012 (earthquake-report.com)
- LA Earthquake Tuesday, August 7: 4.4 Magnitude Earthquake In Yorba Linda, Calif. Followed By 2.7 Aftershock (huffingtonpost.com)