Earthquake Preparedness – Do You Know What to Do?

On July 29, 2008 a 5.4 earthquake hit Chino Hills California. It is said by various news stations, that the quake was felt from Tijuana, New Mexico to Nevada. I myself was sitting at my desk completing some work when I noticed that my computer screen was rocking back and forth. At first, I thought it was a very large person walking by, as that tends to shake my cubicle like a leaf. Being born and raised in Oklahoma, this was my very first large California quake, and I didn’t know what to do. You would think that people from the state would know what to do. Unfortunately, this is not the case. As I ran around asking people what to do, I realized that they were just as confused as I was. We ended up running down the stairs and out of the building. No one was injured, but as I was sitting on the grass outside feeling the aftershocks, I wondered to myself, “How much to people really know about earthquake safety?” It is vital to our survival to always be prepared for instances such as these. Below are a few tips, to squelch the myths that you might have, and to help understand the correct safety strategies that may very well save your life.

1. Duck, Cover, and Hold. If you are inside, do not go running out! During an earthquake, the shaking may be enough to bring down power lines, trees, and any other structures outside. Remember to duck under a sturdy piece of furniture such as a desk or a table, cover your head (put your head as close to your knees as you are able), and hold onto the legs of the furniture. Make sure that you are not close to any glass or breakable items.

2. If outside try and find an open area, such as a field or any place that is away from trees and power lines.

3. Before an earthquake, make sure to secure shelves and items. Place glasses and dishes on the bottom shelves, as close to floor as possible. This prevents the items from too much damage, as they will have less of drop.

4. Depending on your location, there may be other natural disasters that occur as a side effect from earthquakes. Be aware that if you live near the ocean, there is a possibility of a Tsunami, and if you live or very close to the mountains, there is the chance of a landslide. In each case, the action is to get out of the area to a safer location. Move your items of worth to higher locations if a Tsunami is threatening.

5. Stay calm! Do not go running down stairs after the earthquake, as the structures of the stairs may be unstable and could collapse under the weight. Do not use elevators, as you could become trapped in them due to aftershocks.

6. If you are in a car, pull over to the side of the road. Make sure that you stay in the car as this is the safest place to be. Pull over in a safe place away from falling debris. Make sure that after the quake, you drive slowly and carefully avoiding any road blocks. Also, make sure to be aware of any emergency vehicles approaching from either direction.

7. After the quake is over, only use the phone in cases of injury or immediate emergency. After the July 29th quake, many people including myself tried to call out to friends and family. So many people calling at once jammed the phone lines and towers. In a bad quake, this could result in many people not being able to reach the 911 emergency services. If you have to get a hold of someone and have a cell phone, text them.

8. Be prepared for aftershocks. Aftershocks are able to cause minimal to as much damage as the original quake. Make sure to listen to a battery powered radio for news reports and instructions on what to do next.

9. Make an emergency earthquake kit. Some supplies should include: battery powered flashlight, a couple of milk jugs full of drinking water, 3 -5 days worth of meals such as 1300XT should be fine, a can opener (non-electric), twenty to fifty dollars, rain gear, a space blanket, a small first aid kit, gloves, and a variety of other things.

10. BE PREPARED! Make sure that your family, friends, and co-workers think about and make a plan on what to do should this or any natural disaster happen. Plan a meeting place and discuss how you will get in contact with each other afterward. Discuss with your HR department about having safety drills every few months. This can also work with family.

I really wish that someone would have told me about these strategies. It would have saved me a lot of panic and confusion. We made many mistakes which I do not intend to make, and I will make sure that I inform my family and co-workers of the facts I have learned. Hopefully, these tips will save your life and make you more aware of how to keep you and your family safe.