Be honest, if you live in the United States and hear the term earthquake, you automatically think of California. That’s where most of us think earthquakes happen. Blockbuster films like 2012 and San Andreas feature catastrophic scenes of crumbling buildings and bridges, and the earth opening up to swallow whatever it can.
But the reality is that earthquakes can strike anywhere and at any time, day or night, any season, any type of weather. And that’s precisely what makes them like some sort of natural disaster boogeyman.
OK, now that we’ve laid out those scary facts and scenarios and made you question the very existence of the earth’s usually stable surface, let’s turn our attention to the good news. No, not a 2012 sequel. The good news is that there are ample ways to prepare for an earthquake so that if that time ever comes, you’ll have put yourself in a good position to survive.
Follow along below as we outline the steps you can take to prepare for an earthquake before one happens, during, and after it’s over.
For many of you, you may never have experienced an earthquake in your life, and may not ever do so, depending on where you live. But for many of you, that likelihood exists, especially if you live somewhere prone to earthquakes. Take the steps now to prepare for that scenario so that if and when the time comes, you have the best shot of coming out of it unscathed.
As the saying goes, ‘prepare for the worst and hope for the best.’
Create a Plan
The first step in earthquake preparedness is to educate yourself on the potential dangers and threats, and then create a plan of action that you can execute if you need to. For those of you with families and children, spend time educating them on earthquakes and what to expect. Often, the fear and anxiety of not knowing what to expect to exceed the actual event, so you’re giving them an advantage by knowing what’s coming.
One of the likely scenarios goes something like this: you’ll be at work, the spouse will be taking one of the little ones to soccer practice, the older brother will be playing video games at home, and the dog will be in the middle of his afternoon siesta. That’s why it’s critical to take everyone’s needs into consideration and create an evacuation plan at home. You should also designate a meet-up spot so that everyone knows exactly where to go and check-in, especially if cell service is down and you don’t have another way to communicate.
Phone Tip: Write down and program important phone numbers in everyone’s cell phone, including police, fire, paramedics and an out-of-state contact such as a family member or friend.
Pet Tip: As mentioned above, don’t forget to consider everyone’s specific needs (including pets – food, water, a leash, etc.) and ensure all family members have their medications and other medical supplies.
The Red Cross offers aSafe and Well website where you can check-in and mark yourself safe. Bookmark this site and make sure your family knows how to use it.
Secure Your Home
You’ve probably watched videos of those horrible earthquake scenes in grocery stores, gas stations and offices where goods are falling everywhere, shelves are toppling over to the ground, and there’s general chaos of flying debris. In preparing for an earthquake, make sure you secure your home to avoid scenes like these.
Ensure that items such as bookshelves, refrigerators, TVs, and items on the walls are properly secured. Place breakable items and glassware on lower shelves.
One of the most dangerous hazards in an earthquake are gas leaks, so make sure you know how to turn off your gas valves and keep the proper wrench handy for that.
Take time to inspect your home for any weak spots or areas that need reinforcing, such as windows, doors, and stairs, and then consider investing the time and money to make the necessary improvements for a safer home.
Assemble Your Earthquake Kit
We’ll get more into the items you should include in your earthquake kit later in the article, but the thing to remember now is that a good survival kit can make all the difference when the time comes.
You can personalize the kit to your wants and needs, but a few items should be mandatory, including enough food and water for at least three days, flashlights, extra batteries, a fire extinguisher, a whistle, and a first aid kit.
Remember food and water for your pets and any medications or other essential medical supplies you or a family member need. And if you haven’t already done so, this is a great time to look into aCPR class and getting the proper training so that you can potentially save a life, not only just in an earthquake but in any other situation as well.
Do you know how to keep up-to-date on the latest information in an earthquake? The best tool to use isNOAA weather radio which delivers information from a nearby National Weather Service office in your area. They’re relatively inexpensive, or you can also download an NOAA weather app to your smartphone.
Practice Makes Perfect
Yes, Allen Iverson, we are in fact talking about practice. The best-laid plans and intentions can be utterly useless if they’re not executed when the time comes. Schedule times throughout the year – perhaps quarterly – to go over the plan with your family and rehearse it. The feeling is that should the need arise, hopefully, that practice and drilling will make the actions more instinctual and easier to pull off.
Earthquake Preparedness During an Earthquake
You’re off to a great start. You’ve prepared your home for an earthquake, assembled a mean earthquake kit, designated your meet-up spot, and mentally prepped for the worst. But what happens when an earthquake actually strikes, and can you prepare for what to do during it? Absolutely.
Note: We’ve all heard that adage to seek shelter under a doorway, but in fact, doorways are no sturdier than other parts of the building, and bothRedCross.org andReady.gov say not to use doorways as protection.
Drop, Cover, Hold On
Well, the ground is shaking and things are breaking. The first thing to learn is the phrase, “Drop, Cover and Hold On.” Whether you’re indoors or out, drop to the ground, cover your head and torso if possible, or better yet, take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture that can protect you from debris, and hold on and move as little as possible until all shaking has stopped.
Stay Safe Indoors and Outdoors
You can prepare your home for an earthquake, but with their unpredictable nature, there’s no guarantee you’ll be home when it strikes, so you need to know what to do whether you’re in a building, outside, or in a car.
Inside: Drop, cover and hold on is your go-to move. Do your best to protect your head, neck, and torso. Know that during an earthquake, the smoke alarms and sprinklers will often go on, even if there’s no fire.
Outside: Try to stay away from buildings, light posts, trees, power lines, and other tall structures. Drop to the ground and cover your head the best you can.
In a Car:Stay there with your seatbelt fastened and safely pull off the road and wait for the shaking to stop. Avoid power lines, and if one falls on the car, do not get out. Instead, stay put and wait for help to arrive. You also want to avoid bridges, tunnels, and overpasses.
What To Do After an Earthquake
In a couple of words – be careful. The danger doesn’t stop after the earthquake, and in fact, potential dangers after an earthquake are many, including things like fires, landslides, tsunamis, downed power lines, gas leaks, and aftershocks. Keep an eye on our blog for info on how to prep for these situations.
First, check yourself for injuries, and then if possible, help others who may be injured. Remember that game plan we created and practiced? Now is the time to put it into action, including checking in with the Red Cross Safe and Well website, contacting loved ones, and meeting at the meet-up spot.
The thing that makes earthquakes so scary is their unpredictability, but if you follow the steps above and take the necessary precautions to prepare for the unpredictable, you’ll be that much closer to a safe and happy family.