Earthquakes are among the most devastating natural disasters, but knowing what to do during an earthquake can massively increase your chances of survival. Read on for essential earthquake safety tips and earthquake prep information.
What to Do in an Earthquake?
During earthquakes, the ‘Drop, Cover, and Hold On’ technique is one of the leading methods to stay safe. This method involves three key steps:
- Drop – First, drop to your hands and knees immediately. This will prevent you from falling over and suffering an immediate injury when the shaking begins, and it lets you easily crawl to a safer space.
- Cover – Next, cover up your head and neck with your arms to reduce the risk of any head injury from falling debris. Then try to crawl under a sturdy object, like a strong table or desk, to give your whole body some cover and protection. If you can’t find a table, make your way near an interior wall and stay away from any windows.
- Hold On – Stay on your hands and knees and hold on tightly to something, like a table, while keeping your head protected. Hold on until the shaking stops.
How to Survive an Earthquake?
- If you are indoors at the time of the earthquake, experts recommend staying indoors and using the Drop, Cover and Hold on technique. This also applies if you’re in a high-rise building or a crowded place.
- If you happen to be outside when the earthquake begins, stay out there.
- If you are driving or in a vehicle at the time the shaking begins, stop the vehicle as soon as possible.
- If you’re in a large and crowded space like a sports stadium, remain in your seat and protect your head with the help of your arms or other means available to you.
- If you’re on the beach, remain where you are and follow the Drop, Cover, and Hold On method to the best of your abilities.
- If you’re somewhere where it isn’t possible to drop to the ground, try to at least sit down to reduce the risks of you falling over from the shaking.
Check this video guide by FEMA.
How to Prepare for an Earthquake
- The first step is to know the Drop, Cover, and Hold On method. Learn it and practice it with your family.
- Another big part of earthquake preparedness is making an earthquake emergency response plan.
- Your earthquake preparedness plan should include information on how your family should communicate with one another and reconnect if you get separated.
- Your plan should also consider methods of communication if your cell phone fails.
- You might want a battery-powered radio or invest in a backup battery for your phone, just in case.
- As part of your emergency plan, prepare a supply kit with all you need to survive for a few days, such as canned food, bottled water, a flashlight, blankets, and first aid supplies. This level of earthquake emergency preparedness should make you and your family ready for almost any eventuality.
- You should have a clear earthquake evacuation plan or earthquake disaster plan at work, too.
- Earthquake emergency planning may also involve learning first aid skills like CPR to help family members or other people who may be injured.
- Knowing how to prepare for an earthquake at home also involves being able to turn off your home’s utilities, should you need to do so.
- Make sure you’re aware of any early-warning systems in your state or area. These earthquake protocol systems aren’t always available but can be very valuable and even save lives by helping people prepare for an earthquake just before it begins.
- Examine your home’s structure and make any necessary improvements or reinforcements; how to prepare for earthquakes at home could include fixing any weaknesses in the walls or floors of your property, for example.
- To ensure maximum preparedness for earthquakes, make sure to secure heavy items, like refrigerators or water heaters, in position so that they’re at less risk of falling and causing injuries or damages.
- It might be wise to get home insurance that covers earthquake damages.
- Have a ‘bed-kit’ of supplies under your bed or attached to your bed, so you’re ready to grab it and go if the quake starts while you’re asleep.
- Make sure you’ve got at least a month’s supply of the medications you or your family need.
- It’s also recommended to have digital copies of all of your important documents and records, as well as having a list of any medications you (or family members) need written down in your wallet or stored as a digital note on your phone.
Workplace Earthquake Preparedness
- Business owners need to consider earthquake preparation and create an appropriate earthquake plan for their workers.
- Business owners should provide employees with clear earthquake safety protocols and tell them what to do in case of an earthquake and where to go during an earthquake at the office.
- Preparing for an earthquake at work may also involve having first aid supplies and other essentials on the premises.
How to Stay Safe After an Earthquake
- Remember, aftershocks may come, so you need to move cautiously and be ready for additional shaking and movement.
- Be ready to Drop, Cover, and Hold On at any time. Survey your surroundings and look for safe spaces that you can crawl to or sturdy objects you can use for protection if you need to.
- If you’re in a building that has been damaged, try to get out as quickly and safely as possible and put distance between yourself and the building. Don’t go into any other damaged structures and try to avoid getting too close to any buildings that may collapse or crumble.
- If you’re trapped inside a building try to remain calm and avoid shouting or screaming. Instead, cover your mouth to prevent yourself from inhaling dust and make use of your phone to make a call or physical objects to make noise and attract attention.
- In some areas, especially those near the coast, there may be a risk of tsunamis connected to earthquakes. If you’re in such an area, try to reach the high ground as soon as possible or head as far inland as you can.
- Avoid any contact with floodwater, if possible, as it can contain a range of chemicals, pollutants, waste materials, sewage, and more.
- Check yourself and those around you for any injuries and provide medical help if you’re able. If you are injured or feel ill, call your healthcare provider, try and find someone with medical training nearby, or dial 9-1-1 if it’s an emergency.
Earthquake Safety FAQ
Which States Have the Most Earthquakes?
Earthquakes can occur in any state in the US, but some states are more prone to seismic activity than others. The top three states with the most earthquakes are Alaska, California, and Oklahoma. [Source]
Alaska is the most seismically active state, with more earthquakes than any other state. The state experiences more than 40% of all earthquakes in the US, with an average of more than 35,000 earthquakes each year. Many of these earthquakes are small and go unnoticed, but Alaska also experiences some of the largest earthquakes in the world due to its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire.
California is also a highly seismically active state, as it sits on the boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. This state experiences about 10,000 earthquakes each year, with many of them being small and imperceptible. However, California is also home to some of the most devastating earthquakes in US history, including the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
Oklahoma has experienced a significant increase in earthquake activity in recent years, with a surge in the number of earthquakes linked to oil and gas drilling operations in the state. While Oklahoma historically had very few earthquakes, it is now one of the most seismically active states in the US after Alaska and California.
Other states that experience earthquakes include Hawaii, Nevada, Washington, and Utah. However, the frequency and intensity of earthquakes in these states are generally lower than in Alaska, California, and Oklahoma.
Where Is the Safest Place During an Earthquake?
Open areas clear of any trees and buildings or other structures that could fall are the safest places, usually. If you’re near or in a building, the safest place is inside, near one of the interior walls, away from windows and exterior walls.
How Are Earthquakes Measured?
Earthquakes are measured using a seismometer, an instrument that detects and records the vibrations caused by seismic waves. The magnitude of an earthquake is a measure of the amount of energy released by the earthquake, while the intensity is a measure of the strength of the shaking at a particular location.
However, today the more commonly used scale is the moment magnitude scale, which measures the seismic moment released by an earthquake. The moment magnitude scale is a logarithmic scale similar to the Richter Scale, but it provides a more accurate measurement of the energy released by large earthquakes. [Source]
How Long Does an Earthquake Last?
The length of earthquakes can vary, but most earthquakes will only last for a matter of seconds. The average is between 10 to 30 seconds of the ground actually shaking, but aftershocks and ground movements may still occur for days, weeks, or even months after the initial quake.
How high is the risk of an earthquake where I live?
The “National Seismic Hazard Maps” produced by USGS shows the levels of seismic activity across the US, and they can be used to determine the likelihood of earthquakes of various magnitudes occurring in different regions.