One of the most frightening and destructive phenomena of nature is a severe earthquake and its terrible after effects.
Earthquakes strike without warning and can happen any time of the day or night.
If an earthquake occurs in a populated area, it can cause deaths and injuries and extensive property damage.
Identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can save lives and significantly reduce injuries and property damage.
Preparing your Home for an Earthquake
► Have a Family Disaster Plan Meeting
► Take a CPR First Aid class
► Check with your Insurance Company about the type of Homeowners Insurance you have. Does it cover Earthquakes?
Go through each room of your home and look for potential hazards. Make a list of how you can fix them and in what order you need to do so.
♦ Consult a professional to suggest ways to make your home more secure, such as bolting the house to the foundation.
♦ Have the chimney checked for safety.
♦ Look around the outside of your home for hazards that might fall during a large earthquake, such as other buildings, trees or power lines.
♦ Strap your water heater to the studs in the wall and bolt it to the floor. You can also have large appliances anchored, such as your refrigerator or stove.
♦ Repair any deep cracks in your foundation, walls, ceilings, or any where you find them. Check with an expert to see if there are signs of structural defects.
♦ Store any flammable products, such as pesticides, weed killers, gasoline (for your portable generator), pain or turpentine, securely on the bottom shelves of closed and security latched cabinets. If possible, store any flammable products in the garage or a shed not attached to the house.
♦ Anchor bookshelves, cabinets or any large piece of furniture to the wall studs.
♦ Secure and brace any chandeliers or other objects hanging from the ceiling.
♦ Use earthquake putty on breakables in your curio cabinets. Place larger and heavier items on lower shelves.
♦ Secure pictures and paintings to the wall.
♦ Secure all television sets securely in place, especially the really big ones.
♦ Install strong latches on all your cabinets, especially in the kitchen and bathroom.
This will prevent the doors from opening and all your dishes and glass wear, or pots and pans from falling out, creating a safety hazard.
This will also keep your food supplies safe.
In the bathroom, all of your medicine cabinet items will stay in place.
If you have shelving above your toilet, always keep the towel lid down. That way nothing will fall into the toilet bowl during an earthquake. (This also solves the age old argument of the toilet seat up or down debate.)
♦ Know where the main connections are for your electricity, gas and water. Know how to turn them off. Once they are turned off, remember that a professional or company representative should turn them back on, and after checking the system for any damage.
Decide Where To Go During an Earthquake.
♦ When the shaking starts, what do you do, and where do you go?
The answer lies in where you are in the home when the shaking starts.
You often hear "Stand in the doorway". This was good in older homes, where doorways were constructed with extra support. In more modern day homes, the structure is not as sturdy. The other problem with the doorway is the door. If the earthquake is a strong one, the door can slam up against you causing injuries.
♦ Your best bet is to go into an inside hallway of your home. You want to be away from any windows that might break, and away from any furniture that might fall on top of you. As you are deciding on your spots, sit on the floor, put your head in your lap and cover your head with your arms. Then have someone look to see what might fall on you. Move or secure any hazards.
♦ You want to find a safe place for every room. In a large earthquake, you will not be able to walk well, and you want to reduce the chance of being injured by something falling on you.
♦ Practice Drop, Cover and Hold On. You may have a sturdy desk or table under which you can hide. If not, sit on the floor by the closest interior wall away from windows.
♦ The main thing to remember is to protect your face and eyes from falling or flying debris.
♦ Have an earthquake drill every month. Practice your Drop, Cover and Hold On.
When the Shaking Starts
The first thing that you will do is take a second to realize the shaking is an earthquake.
♦ If you are inside, go to your closest "safe spot" and wait for the shaking to stop. Look around and see if it is safe to move.
♦ If you are in bed when the shaking starts, pull the covers over your head, curl up into a ball, and protect your face and head with your arms.
♦ If you are outside, Find the nearest spot away from buildings, trees, power lines or anything that may fall on you. Drop to the ground in a curled up position with your arms covering your face and head to protect you from falling debris.
If you are away from home
♦ If you are in your car, Slow Down, and pull over to the nearest "safe spot", staying away from power lines or bridges, overpasses, buildings or trees that may fall on your car. and Turn Off Your Engine. Stay in Your Car until the shaking stops. Protect your face and head.
♦ If you are in a building other than your home, get away from the windows and follow the Drop, Cover and Hold On drill.
You may also hear fire alarms go off. If the building has sprinkler systems, be aware they may be set off.
What to Do After the Shaking Stops
♦ Check for any injuries you or your family members or pets may have.
If the earthquake cause any significant damage, put on some long pants, a long sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes to protect yourself from further danger and injuries.
♦ If anyone is injured, give First Aid. Only call 9-1-1 if there is serious life threatening injury to someone. The system will be very busy, so if you can handle the situation, do so. (see Call 9-1-1).
Check your local news channel or radio station for updates. If you have lost power, use your battery operated radio.
♦ Check to see if there are any small fires. Have your fire extinguishers available. Only if you smell a gas leak or hear a gas leak, turn off the gas. Remember that a professional should turn the gas back on after checking the system.
♦ Inspect your house for any damage that has been caused. If the house is unsafe, get everyone out.
Depending on the size of the earthquake, you may be able to stay somewhere in the area, such as relatives, friends or a hotel. In a large earthquake, listen to your radio for updates. Nothing may be safe, and roads may be out. In this case, you should shelter in place. Make sure to "set up camp" in an open area where nothing will fall on you in further aftershocks.