With earthquakes, you generally don’t have any warning that one is about to occur. Earthquakes can cause severe damage to buildings, roads, and bridges. They range in strength from a mild earthquake that just causes some startling shaking and rattling to severe earthquakes that can demolish buildings and kill and injure thousands of people, burying them beneath the rubble they leave behind.
I’ve only experienced the mild type so far. It was in Hawaii, years ago. The worst damage it caused was glass jars leaping from store shelves in the local grocery stores and crashing to the floor. The buildings and roads were not actually damaged. If you live along a fault line, you’ll need to take precautions that can help prevent damage to your home.
There are several things you can do to make your home more earthquake proof. One of them is making sure that your home is bolted to the foundation. You may need to hire a contractor to do this for you. There are some that specialize in preparing homes for earthquakes.
Another step you can take is to bolt your heaviest appliances, like your stove, water heater and refrigerator and/or freezer to the floor. Again, if you are not handy around the house for these types of projects, hire an electrician or plumber to do this for you. Other things you can do are:
1. Use safety locks on the inside of cabinets (like the child safety locks you can purchase to prevent children from getting into cupboards).
2. Fasten down TVs, computers, and stereos and fasten shelving to walls. Be aware that heavy hanging plants and light fixtures are likely to fall during an earthquake as well as heavy pictures over your bed.
3. Always have a fire extinguisher available. Fires are very common after an earthquake.
The biggest threat during an earthquake is from things falling on you. During an earthquake, if you can get under a desk or table, do it. If not, get to an interior wall and drop down and cover your head and neck until the earthquake stops. Be sure to turn off your gas and electricity when the shaking stops until you can access the damage.
What to do during an earthquake:
If you’re indoors when the earthquake happens, stay there. Keep clear of windows, heavy appliances and furniture, and fireplaces. Stay out of the kitchen and don’t run outdoors or downstairs while the building is shaking. You may get hit by flying debris or glass. If you’re outside, try to get to an open area away from power lines, buildings, chimneys and anything that can fall on you.
If you’re driving in a car, move your car as far out of traffic as possible and stop. Do not park on or under an over pass or bridge or near trees, signs, light posts or power lines. Stay in your car until the earthquake stops and when you do start driving again, watch out for fallen rocks and other debris, large breaks in the roadway, and bumps in the road as you approach bridges. Due to the damage that an earthquake can do to bridges, it’s best to avoid using them until the damage has been accessed and they are deemed safe to use.
If you are in the mountains, be cautious of landslides and falling trees and rock.
Things to do after an earthquake
You’ll need to wear study shoes to prevent injury from debris and broken glass. It’s also likely that there will be aftershocks.
If there are people who are injured and need medical help but none is available:
- In case of bleeding, apply pressure on the wound and wrap with clean cloth or gauze.
- Administer CPR to a person if they are not breathing.
- Cover injured persons with a blanket to keep them warm. Don’t move a person who is seriously injured unless they are in danger where they are.
- If possible, seek medical help for serious injuries
- Call for help if there is a fire in your home or neighborhood and try to put it out. A fire extinguisher is an essential piece of equipment for earthquake preparation.
- If you suspect broken gas pipes or you smell a gas odor, shut of the main gas valve. If there is any damage to your electrical wiring, shut off your power at the main control box.
- Steer clear of fallen power lines. Do not touch downed power lines or any objects that have come into contact with them.
- Clean up any toxic or harmful substances that may have spilled such as gasoline, kerosene, bleach, lye, medications, drugs, etc.
- If your chimney is damaged, don’t use it, as there is a danger of poisonous gases or fire.
- Open doors and closets and cupboards with caution. Things may tumble off of shelves.
- Don’t eat any food or drink any water from open containers that were anywhere near broken glass.
- If you’ve lost power, eat up the food in your house that will spoil first. If you don’t open the freezer door frequently, the food in your freezer should hold out for a couple of days at least.
- Do not light your gas stove if there’s a possibility of a leak. Use a BBQ or camp stove outdoors only.
- If your water supply has been disrupted, you can drink the water from a water heater, canned vegetables and any melted ice cubes in your freezer. Do not drink water from a spa or swimming pool as there may be too many chemicals in it to be safe.
- If you turned your gas off, do not turn it back on. Have the gas company do it after they’ve determined that there are no gas leaks.
- Until you’re absolutely certain that there are no gas leaks, don’t use lighters, matches, barbeques or camp stoves, or electrical equipment and appliances. You could create a spark that results in a fire or explosion if there is any leaking gas.
- Don’t tie up the telephones if they are working. Use them only in case of a fire or medical emergency. The lines are needed for emergency response.
- Make sure you have emergency food and water stores available as well as first aid supplies. It may be some time before you can do any grocery shopping or get medical attention for injuries.
- In all likelihood, firefighters, paramedics or police will not be available to help you immediately.
Things that you should not do in an earthquake include: