What to Do When an Earthquake Strikes

There is no way to predict when or where an earthquake will strike. It can happen any time of year, any time of day and in any kind of weather. For those of us who live in earthquake-prone areas of the country, it is a surreal and scary experience when it does happen.  To help ensure your survival and safety during an earthquake, the following are some suggestions if one should occur while you are at home:

  • Drop to the floor, crawl to take cover under a sturdy table or furniture and hold on.
  • Do not run outside – as you risk being struck by falling objects!
  • Doorways are no stronger than any other part of a structure based on typical construction practices. A swinging door from the momentum of the ground shaking can actually cause injury to a person.
  • Stay away from windows, glass, outside walls or anything that can fall on you such as light fixtures, tall furniture, bookcases, etc.
  • The kitchen and garage are the most dangerous rooms of the house.  Crawl out of those rooms as safely as possible.
  • If in bed, stay there and cover your head and neck with pillows until the shaking stops.

Once the shaking has passed, first things first…

  • Take an injury assessment of yourself, family members and pets. Apply first aid or call for medical assistance if needed.
  • Before inspecting the property for damage, wear heavy shoes and work gloves.
  • Assess the structural stability of the building. If any part of the structure appears to be unsafe, evacuate the building until a careful inspection can be made.
  • If there is an odor of natural gas, shut off the gas or propane to the home immediately and open doors and windows for fresh air.
  • If there is any flooding from a ruptured plumbing line, shut off the water at the water main to the home.
  • If there are electrical sparks, broken wires or a burning smell, turn off electricity at the main circuit breaker.
  • Access your household emergency kit for important supplies that will be needed over the next 24-72 hours such as flashlights, fire extinguishers, portable radio, food and drinking water.

Some other considerations that may be helpful…

  • Do not drink tap water as it may be contaminated from ruptured water lines.
  • Do not flush toilets as sewage lines are often damaged in major quakes.
  • Plug drains from sinks and bathtubs to prevent sewage backflow into the house.
  • Having drinking water available is very important. One gallon per person/per day is recommended. Ice cubes in a freezer can be melted or boiled for a source of drinking water.

From Risk Conversation by Geannie Brubaker