Thousands of earthquakes occur around the world each day, but only a very small fraction of them are felt by people without the aid of electronic monitoring devices and sophisticated geological survey equipment. An even smaller fraction are dangerous, with strong enough tremors to cause damage and destruction. That minute number of damaging quakes may affect thousands of lives. Understanding and implementing proper earthquake safety precautions is necessary for anyone living in earthquake risk zones so they can minimize shaking up their lives as the ground shakes beneath them.
Taking Earthquake Safety Precautions
There is no effective warning system for earthquakes, which makes preliminary precautions even more critical. At the same time, knowing how to behave when a quake strikes and what to do after the event is just as important to staying safe.
Before an Earthquake
There are many things families and individuals can do to prepare for an earthquake, including:
- Install latches on cupboard doors to prevent them from opening during a quake.
- Use non-skid shelf liners for kitchen and bathroom cupboards, medicine cabinets and closet shelves.
- Store heavy items or glassware in lower cabinets so they do not become dangerous projectiles.
- Update home insurance policies to adequately cover building costs, possession replacement and injury deductibles.
- Secure large appliances such as refrigerators, water heaters, air conditioners and other bulky items with straps, bolts and other stabilizing methods.
- Be sure both old and new buildings meet earthquake construction requirements.
- Do not put heavy artwork, mirrors or shelves over beds.
- Firmly secure bookcases, artwork, mounted televisions and other objects to withstand as much shaking as possible.
- Take clear photos of valuables as a record for insurance purposes.
- Prepare an earthquake emergency kit with non-perishable food, bottled water, copies of important documents (birth certificates, prescriptions, insurance papers, etc.), flashlights, first aid materials, blankets, spare glasses and other essential items and store it where it will be easily accessible in case of a quake.
- Keep cell phones charged and replace emergency kit supplies as necessary to keep them usable.
- Plan alternative commuting routes in case an earthquake damages roads.
- Set up a family meeting location in a safe area.
- Teach all family members basic first aid, how to behave during a quake and what to do after a quake.
During an Earthquake
Earthquakes can last just a few seconds or as long as several minutes, and knowing how to react during the quake can help prevent injuries:
- Immediately seek a safe location such as in a doorway (if you live in an old, adobe house that is not reinforced), beneath a table or desk or along an interior wall away from windows or hazardous objects.
- Cover the back of your head and your eyes to minimize injury from flying debris.
- Do not take elevators during an earthquake.
- If cooking, turn off heating elements immediately.
- If outdoors, stay in open areas away from buildings, power lines, trees and other potential hazards.
- If driving, stop quickly but safely and stay in the vehicle. Do not stop near power lines, bridges, overpasses or other potentially dangerous locations.
- Stay calm and brace yourself to keep your balance, sitting if possible.
After an Earthquake
Quick thinking after an earthquake hits can minimize immediate dangers. Proper earthquake safety precautions after a tremor include:
- Be prepared for aftershocks, which may be stronger than the initial jolt.
- Tend injuries immediately and summon emergency assistance if necessary.
- Check for structural damage but do not enter a building that shows damage or has visible cracks in the walls or foundation.
- Wear shoes at all times to avoid stepping on broken glass.
- Turn off gas, , and water if damage is suspected or if advised to do so by authorities.
- Be cautious opening cabinets, cupboards and closets in case items may be poised to fall.
- Keep phone lines clear for emergency use.
- Be patient: It may take hours or days to restore all services depending on the severity of the quake.
An earthquake can be a terrifying event, but taking proper earthquake safety precautions can help limit that terror through careful planning, organization, and emergency procedures to keep people and homes safe.