If you live in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada or Washington, then chances are you will be hit by an earthquake sooner or later. In fact these five states have the highest number of recorded earthquakes and they keep leading the charts. What if the Big One comes, what then? Should we rely on the authorities to save and protect us or is it better to be prepared and know in advance what should we do if disaster strikes? Everyone should know these guidelines that can make the difference between life and death.
If you are indoors, stay there!
Get under a desk or table and hang on to it, or move into a doorway; the next best place is in a hallway or against an inside wall. Stay clear of windows, fireplaces, and heavy furniture or appliances. Get out of the kitchen, which is a dangerous place. Do not run downstairs or rush outside while the building is shaking or while there is danger of falling and hurting yourself or being hit by falling glass or debris.
If you are outside, get into the open! You have to stay away from buildings, power lines, chimneys, and anything else that might fall on you. It is recommended to stay inside the center of an imaginary circle with everything hazardous placed at a safe distance.
If you are driving, stop, but carefully.
Don’t hit the brakes hard but rather slow down and move your car as far out of traffic as possible. Do not stop on or under a bridge or overpass or under trees, light posts, power lines, or signs as these obstacles can drop on your car and you could get trapped or seriously injured. Stay inside your car until the shaking stops as it will provide cover for any light falling objects. When you resume driving watch for cracks or holes in the pavement, fallen rocks, and bumps in the road at bridge approaches as these can influence your driving and you could cause an accident.
If you are in a mountainous area, watch out for falling rocks, landslides, trees, and other debris that could be loosened by quakes. Luckily you can observe the warning signs of a landslide and move away from that area. These signs usually are the following:
- Springs, seeps, or saturated ground in areas that have not typically been wet before.
- New cracks or unusual bulges in the ground and soil moving away from foundations.
- Tilting or cracking of concrete floors and foundations.
- Broken water lines and other underground utilities.
- Leaning trees, retaining walls or fences.
- Offset fence lines and sunken or down-dropped road beds.
- Rapid increase in creek water levels, possibly accompanied by increased turbidity (soil content).
- Sudden decrease in creek water levels though rain is still falling or just recently stopped.
- A faint rumbling sound that increases in volume is noticeable as the landslide nears.
- Unusual sounds, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together, might indicate moving debris.
After the quake stops, check for injuries and apply the necessary first aid or seek help. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in further danger of injury as you might cause them greater harm. Cover them with blankets and seek medical help for serious injuries that you don’t know how to deal with.
If you can, put on a pair of sturdy thick-soled shoes, it will help protect your feet in case you step on broken glass, debris, etc.
As the aftermath of a quake can be even more dangerous that the quake itself, it is mandatory to check for hazards:
- Put out fires in your home or neighborhood immediately to prevent them from spreading. It the water lines are not functioning a spreading fire will become dangerous for the entire community.
- Gas leaks: shut off main gas valve only if you suspect a leak because of broken pipes or odor. Do not use matches, lighters, camp stoves or barbecues, electrical equipment, or appliances until you are sure there are no gas leaks. They may create a spark that could ignite leaking gas and cause an explosion and fire. Use a portable gas detector if you have one when checking for gas leaks on your propriety but also when aiding your neighbors. If you turned off the gas, turn it on only after you have the go from the gas company or even better, let them do it.
- Damaged electrical wiring: shut off power at the control box if there is any danger to house wiring. If there is any damage to the electrical wiring and you don’t spot it in time, the sparks can ignite flammable materials and create a fire.
- Downed or damaged utility lines: do not touch downed power lines or any objects in contact with them. In case you need to do it, use wooden or plastic rods to remove the electric cables.
- Spills: clean up any spilled medicines, drugs, or other harmful materials such as bleach, lye, or gas. These ingredients can make you faint and you can injure yourself when falling or even worse.
- Downed or damaged chimneys: approach with caution and do not use a damaged chimney (it could start a fire or let poisonous gases into your house).
- Fallen items: beware of items tumbling off shelves when you open closet and cupboard doors. They can cause serious head injuries if you don’t pay attention.
- Check food and water supplies.Do not eat or drink anything from open containers near shattered glass. If the power is off, plan meals to use up frozen foods or foods that will spoil quickly.Food in the freezer should be good for at least a couple of days. If the water is off you can drink from water heaters, melted ice cubes, or canned vegetables. Avoid drinking water from swimming pools and spas.
Be prepared for aftershocks. It can take even one day for the aftershock to occur after the main shock and another quake, larger or smaller, may follow.
- Use your telephone only for a medical or fire emergency—in case of an big quake everyone will call their loved ones to make sure they are safe and this could tie up the lines needed for emergency response. If the phone doesn’t work, send someone for help.
- Do not expect firefighters, police, or paramedics to help you immediately. They may not be available.
How TO PREPARE for a quake:
Being prepared for an earthquake is the best way to survive one. Make sure each member of the household knows what to do no matter where they are when a quake occurs:
- Establish a meeting place where you can reunite afterward.
- Find out about earthquake plans developed by your children’s school or day care. If the quake takes place during school hours, you will need to know what to expect when getting your kids from school.
- Transportation may be disrupted, so keep emergency supplies—food, liquids, and comfortable shoes, for example—at work. Also a bike will do wonders if the traffic is jammed due to debris or general public panic.
- Know where your gas, electric, and water main shut offs are and how to turn them off if there is aleak or electrical short. Make sure older members of the family can shut off utilities but the same goes for the younger ones in case they are home alone.
- Locate your nearest fire and police stations and emergency medical facility.
- Talk to your neighbors—you can help one another during and after an earthquake. Having a good relationship with your neighbors is a must. They can help out in case of need or they can look out over your propriety when you’re not home.
- Take Red Cross first aid and CPR training courses as they may come in handy in any situation, not just an earthquake.
Learning how to survive an earthquake should be important for every person that lives in an area that is prone to quakes. This is one of the disasters that happens in seconds and you need to know how to act, and act fast.
Stay Safe and God Bless!
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