How to get ready for earthquakes

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Earthquakes can happen almost anywhere and usually come without warning. Preparing for an earthquake and knowing what to do if one happens near you is important.

Before an earthquake
Making a plan is the best way to get ready for an earthquake:

  • Identify a "meet up" spot for family members in case you are separated and can't reach home after an earthquake.
  • Learn about evacuation procedures for you child's school or day care.
  • Take emergency training on first aid or CPR so you are ready to help other people if they are hurt. Check with your local American Red Cross chapter for training classes.
  • Store emergency supplies in your home, including a first aid kit, canned food (with a manual opener), bottled water, flashlight, battery-operated radio and any essential prescription drugs.
  • Make sure you know how to shut off gas, water and electric supplies at the source in your house.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the house.

During an earthquake
Most people think that during an earthquake you should stand in a doorway. This is only true if the building is an old, unreinforced “adobe-style” house. Otherwise, the U.S. Geological Survey says it’s best to duck, cover and hold! This means that if an earthquake starts, you should find a sturdy piece of furniture, such as a strong table or desk, and crawl underneath it until the earthquake ends. This may protect you from falling ceiling lights or furniture such as book shelves.

After an earthquake
The following tips will help you recover from an earthquake:

  • Immediately put shoes on to protect your feet from broken glass or sharp objects.
  • Grab your fire extinguisher and check for any fires in your house or surrounding neighborhood.
  • Check for gas leaks. If you discover one, immediately shut off the main gas valve.
  • Do not touch downed power lines! If there is any damage to house power lines, shut off electrical circuits in fuse box immediately.

If power is out for a long time, don’t eat any food in your refrigerator that is warmer than 40 degrees (°F) as measured by a food thermometer. Don’t use gas stoves or ovens unless you are certain there are no gas leaks. If you must cook, use an outdoor barbeque. Do not eat or drink anything from containers that were damaged during the earthquake

If you are in an isolated area, call the police and fire department and tell them where you are located. If you are with anyone who is injured, do NOT move them if the injury looks serious. If they are bleeding, use a clean towel and press it on the wound. Cover injured persons with blankets to keep them warm. If you are with frail older adults, even if they are not injured, contact the police and fire departments to let them know so they can be moved to another location if necessary.

Finally, aftershocks are common after an earthquake. You should react to aftershocks, which can be very powerful, the same way you would react to an earthquake: Duck, cover and hold.

American Public Health Association