Earthquake Preparation

Steps you can take to make your home and family safer in the event of an earthquake.

Earthquakes, which occur along unstable land faults, can often cause a fair amount of damage. And although not all earthquakes are severe, it helps to be aware of the proper way to prepare for such an event. Your level of preparation can directly affect your chance of survival.

The most important thing you can do to prepare for an earthquake is educate yourself on the proper steps to take during one. Know that if you are indoors, you must protect yourself from falling objects by finding a safe place in your home and protecting your body as much as possible. If you are in bed when the shaking starts, shelter your head with a pillow. If you are outdoors, find an open area free of trees and power lines and guard yourself on the ground. If you are driving when an earthquake hits, slow down and stop in a clear place and stay in your car. Do not park near buildings or under bridges or overpasses.

One of the most common ways that people are injured during an earthquake is by falling objects. In a house, this could be anything from a bookshelf to dishes in a cupboard. To eliminate these hazards, you should secure all possible objects to a wall, paying special attention to tall furniture (freestanding cabinets, bookshelves, etc.). This will reduce the chance of the objects falling on top of someone and causing injury. It is also wise to use strong latches for all cupboards, or store dishes and other heavy objects in lower cabinets or cupboards. Ensure additional safety by checking throughout your house for hazards which can be eliminated by repair. Listen for elevated items that rattle or squeak when you walk by them. This is a good indicator of an unstable object that may become dangerous during an earthquake. This is also an appropriate time to locate and repair cracks in areas such as the foundation or chimney.

A good way to protect yourself from possible falling debris during an earthquake is to hide underneath something. In preparation for this, locate all the low sturdy furniture in your home. This most often means a heavy table or desk which is large enough to fit underneath and sturdy enough to withstand a blow. If sturdy furniture is not available, locate an interior wall or hallway which is far from windows and any unsecured tall furniture. It is essential to your safety to locate these areas before you are in an actual earthquake. Ensure that all family members know the best place to shelter themselves in each area of the house.

It is also important to become familiar with the technicalities of your home. Depending on the severity of the earthquake, you may need to disable your gas, water, or electric, so it is important that all family members are aware of the location of their shutoffs in your home. Write the locations of the shutoffs in a central place in the event that a non-family member needs to access them after an earthquake.

If you live in an area where earthquakes are possible, make sure you have an out-of-state contact who you can call after the quake has passed to inform them of your family's condition. All family members and friends should know that in an event of an earthquake, they should call this contact (instead of yourself) for an update on your condition. This eliminates many people worrying about your situation and trying to get through to you in an area which may have faulty communication after such a disaster.

It is especially important for families with young children to practice what to do in the event of an earthquake. Make sure your family has a well thought out plan of action, and decide upon a meeting area to go to after the earthquake has ended. If you have young children and are unsure of the proper plan of action to take for your family, contact your local school or childcare center to get ideas on how to develop an appropriate strategy for staying safe.

In the event that an earthquake causes a fair amount of damage (generally seen in earthquakes above a 5.0 on the Richter scale), it is important to have items on hand needed to help with survival, such as extra water and food, medications, a flashlight, portable radio and extra batteries, and a first aid kit. Keep these items handy and packed tightly in a small tote or other container that can be easily accessed if needed. It is also wise to be prepared by taking a First Aid class, in the event that you or someone else in your family would become injured and need medical attention.

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