How to Stay Safe During an Earthquake
Minor earthquakes are occurring thousands of times a day beneath the earth’s surface. Major earthquakes are not so common but when they do strike, they can be deadly. People are unprepared as unlike hurricanes and tornadoes, earthquakes strike without warning. These have the possibility of causing further destruction by triggering tsunamis and landslides.
In 1990, a 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck northern Turkey which only lasted for 3.7 seconds but caused a lot of damage. The city of Izmit was very badly damaged and had a death toll of 17,127 and left a further 43,959 people injured. It also destroyed 120,000 poorly-engineered houses, heavily damaged 50,000 houses; caused 2,000 buildings to collapse while 4,000 other buildings were left severely damaged, making more than 300,000 people homeless.
In 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake shook the seas near the coast of Sumatra. Over the days that followed, shockwaves caused by the quake slammed into shorelines as far afield as South Africa, some 5,300 miles away. Waves as high as 100 feet overhead came rushing toward the coastlines, turning cities into swamps full of corpses and sodden debris. More than 227,000 people were declared dead or missing in the weeks after the tragedy that affected 14 countries across two continents.
The above are just two examples to show you how deadly earthquakes can be. During this guide we are going to be covering two areas:
- Getting your earthquake preparedness kit ready, and
- Making your home ready
Earthquake Preparedness Kit
An earthquake preparedness kit will allow you and your family to recover from the effects of an earthquake safely and more comfortable. You never know when the next one will strike or how strong it will be so it is important that you get your earthquake preparedness kit ready now.
The following list covers items that you MUST include in your earthquake preparedness kit. You may think that stocking for two weeks is a bit much but when quakes like those mentioned above strike, help will be far from immediate.
- Water – one gallon per person per day. Try to stock up enough water to provide for a two-week period for you and your family.
- Food – non-perishable items such as canned food or dry camping food that can be reconstituted with water are a good choice for your kit. Be sure to have a can opener as well.
- Gas/Water Shutoff Tool – these little tools can be purchased at home improvement stores and will come in handy should the utilities need to be switched off.
- Flashlight – ideally you should choose a crank flashlight but if you choose a battery-powered one, be sure to also stock up on extra batteries.
- Radio – again, purchase a hand-crank radio if possible. This will help you to keep up-to-date with the situation.
- Medications – these are essential daily prescription items that are needed to maintain regular health. Don’t forget about your pets here too if they require any regular medication.
- First-Aid Kit – have a well-stocked first aid kit and take the time to learn how to use everything properly.
- Tool Kit – either keep a small toolkit or a multi-tool.
- Eyewear – extra glasses, contact lenses, and solution.
- Personal Documents – keep a folder with all prescription slips, home and car titles, birth certificates, passports, and all insurance policies, including homeowner’s insurance policy.
- Contact List – keep a list of phone numbers and addresses of relatives, close associates, local hospitals, and police and fire stations.
- Cash – have a quantity of small bills in your kit. If all electricity goes down, you won’t be able to use an ATM or make card payments. Check out our guide on “How to Start an Emergency Fund” for more information.
- Thick Blankets
- Paper Maps – you may know your location inside-out but if the earthquake does enough damage, your area will look very different so keep detailed maps of your local area.
- Baby Supplies – bottles, formula, diapers, food.
- Pet Supplies – food, ID, collar, carrier.
- Entertainment – books, cards, board games.
- Signal Devices – whistle, air horn, flares.
- Feminine Sanitary Items
- Camping Stove – stove with extra propane canisters and waterproof matches.
- Duct Tape – many wonderful uses
- Water Purification – tablets or bleach.
Make Your Home Safer
Now that you have your earthquake preparedness kit ready, it is time to start looking at making your home safer in case of a big quake.
- Secure water heater – use metal straps to secure heaters to walls.
- Secure furniture – any furniture that could topple over such as bookcases, display cases, and tall cabinets, should be secured to a wall stud using a metal L-brace or a nylon strap.
- Secure gas appliances – use flexible connections to allow appliances to shift without breaking their lines. As with the water heater, attach large gas appliances to the nearest wall.
- Safety film – Install clear or shaded safety film on windows. This will prevent glass from scattering across the floor.
- Secure chimney – attach reinforcing bars or metal straps to the chimney to prevent it from snapping and breaking off in the event of an earthquake.
What to do When a Quake Strikes
Make sure that you learn and make sure that the rest of your family understand what they should and should not do in the event of an earthquake.
I am sure you have heard of the “stop, drop, and hold on” saying. It may seem simple but it is your best chance of getting out without injury.
Drop down and get underneath a strong piece of furniture such as a solid table. It may be safer to be outside in an open area but you could get hurt from falling objects trying to get there and with the ground shaking beneath you, it won’t be as easy as you think.
In you are in your vehicle, safely pull over and stop away from buildings and stay put in your vehicle.
It used to be said that you should stand under a door frame during an earthquake but unless you live in an old house, your door frames won’t be stronger than other parts of the house. Along with this, you should never:
- Stand next to buildings, trees, or power lines, which could collapse and injure you.
- Go to a window, as glass may break and hurt you.
- Stand next to book cases, high pantry cabinets, refrigerators, or other top-heavy items that may fall.
What you choose to do after the earthquake is just as important as what you do before, and during the quake. Learn, practice, and do the following:
- Check yourself and your family for injuries.
- Check for fires and extinguish where possible.
- Shut off your gas and water supplies.
- Move yourself and your family to the nearest open area.
- Open windows to ventilate your home.
- Check your house over for any structural damage.
- Begin gathering water from the water heater release valve, ice cube trays, and toilet tanks (tank behind the toilet, not the bowl.)
- Check sewer lines for damage before flushing the toilet.
- Inspect the chimney for cracks that may indicate potential collapse.
- Keep the freezer closed for as long as possible to retain the cold.
- Check your emergency radio for information.
Although, earthquakes can be devastating events, by following the safety advice above, you and your family can remain safe.