Planning for Safety during an Earthquake

Planning for Safety during an Earthquake

Natural disasters are in the news all year, but of the most devastating ones, we often don’t hear about earthquakes very often (thank goodness).  Unlike the other types of natural disasters, earthquakes can happen at any time, without any notice.  Just like the recent event near Los Angeles this month. 

According to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), all fifty states and five US territories are susceptible to an earthquake. But there are regions that have a higher likelihood of hazard risk.  Regardless of where you live, you should prepare yourself and your family.

FEMA recommends at least three key items to cover in your earthquake readiness plan:

Your home

Your family

Your community

As it relates to your family, spend time on evacuation plans by sketching a floor plan of your home.  Walk through each room and discuss the primary and secondary exit strategy for you and your pets. 

Note if any special equipment is needed and mark locations of flashlights, emergency food, water, first aid kits and fire extinguishers.  Also make sure your family knows where the utility switches are and how to turn off gas, water and electricity if needed.  Also, note the indoor locations that can be considered safe zones, away from windows and large falling items.  Finally, indicate the location of your family’s outdoor meeting place.

When it comes to protecting and preparing your home, some of the following items should be covered. 

Make your home more resistant to damage by having the structure and contents assessed. 

Questions like, is the home firmly anchored onto the foundation, are there weak crawl space walls, is the masonry or foundation not reinforced, etc?  Place larger, heavier objects on lower shelves or the floor and store breakable items like china in closed cabinets with latches. 

Store chemicals and flammable items in closed and latched lower cabinets. 

Securely fasten heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors and keep them away from exit areas, beds and seating.  Finally, having a disaster kit on hand will help in the event basic services are out and you cannot leave. 

Your community should be a place of earthquake preparedness too.  Knowing if you live, go to school or work in a flood plain or near a dam, landslide or tsunami zone should register the need to know your community safety options for evacuation. 

You should also know where you would go for shelter and safety upon evacuation of your home area.  Contact the local Red Cross for a list of locations and services in the event of an emergency (don’t forget your pets).  While at the Red Cross, look into CPR and first aid training. 

Finally, look to participate in the Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills, which occur a few times each year.

This provides an organized opportunity for families, schools, organizations, and individuals to practice how to respond during an earthquake and be better prepared.

Despite preparedness, earthquakes will happen.  You also need to know what to do while in one and after one.  View the following tips in the event you experience an earthquake disaster:

**Do not panic

**If indoors, stay inside and take cover.  If outdoors, stay outside

**Stay away from items that can fall or shatter and injure you

**If you are in a wheelchair, go to somewhere safe and lock the wheels.

**If you are driving, pull over and set the parking break but avoid bridges, trees, signs that may fall

**Do not run or move during the shaking

**Do not stand in doorways but rather get underneath a table or desk, if possible

**Most importantly, practice the Drop, Cover and Hold On! technique:

  • Drop: Drop where you are, onto your hands and knees.
  • Cover: Cover your head and neck with your arms. If a sturdy table or desk is nearby, crawl underneath it for shelter. If no shelter is nearby, crawl next to an interior wall (away from windows). Crawl only if you can reach better cover without going through an area with more debris.
  • Hold On. If you are under a table or desk, hold onto with one hand and be ready to move with it if it moves. If you can’t find a table or desk: hold on to your head and neck with both arms and hands. If seated and unable to drop to the floor: bend forward, cover your head with your arms, and hold on to your neck with both hands.

After the earthquake, know that aftershocks are common, so be careful on next steps and evacuation:

**Look around to be sure it is safe to move

**If indoors, try to get out into an open space away from damage and buildings

**If you have your cell phone, call or text for help.

**Use good first aid and CPR training

**Look to extinguish small fires and listen to a battery operated radio for information

**Return home only when authorities have deemed it safe

**Work with authorities to inspect your home’s damage and how to repair

Luckily for us in America, severely damaging earthquakes are a rarity.  But being sure that you and your family know what to do in the event of one will go far towards your safety. 

Practice drills, have your emergency kit ready and contact your insurance company for policy information—start today! 

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