Earthquake Safety Tips for Families
It is estimated that there are 500,000 detectable earthquakes in the world each year. Of these, only about 100 a year cause damage, but the fact remains that earthquakes are not uncommon, and it’s wise to prepare for one. Most of these occur along plate boundaries, one such boundary being the Ring of Fire. Along this Ring of Fire lie the U.S. west coast states. But these are certainly not the only states that experience earthquakes. Earthquakes are a possibility no matter where you live, and in certain parts of the country, for example on the east coast, tremors from an earthquake in one state can be felt several states away. As with any natural disaster situation, it’s important to prepare ahead and have a safety plan for yourself and your family if one occurs. Here are some earthquake safety tips for families.
What to do if an earthquake hits
Earthquakes happen suddenly with little to no warning, so it’s important to know in advance what to do if you experience one. According to ready.gov, follow the mantra drop, cover, then hold on. If you are indoors, do not run outside, and if you are outside, do not go indoors. Drop to your hands and knees, and cover your neck and head with your arms. If you are able to safely crawl to a place with more cover you can do so. If in bed, stay there and protect your head and neck with a pillow. If in a vehicle, pull over, ideally in a place far from trees, power lines, buildings, and overpasses and underpasses. If you are in a building, avoid elevators.
After the earthquake ends, be prepared for aftershocks. Get to a safer place quickly if you can. If you are in an area where tsunamis are a possibility, get to higher ground immediately after the shaking stops. Do not go into damaged buildings after an earthquake as they can be unstable. In the event that you do get trapped under rubble, cover your mouth with a piece of cloth to filter out any dust. Get attention in any way you can, by texting for help, banging on debris or pipes, or blowing on a whistle, but not by shouting (to avoid getting dust in mouth and to conserve your voice).
There are things you can do in advance to minimize damage and injuries in the event of an earthquake, especially if you live in a place where earthquakes are a common occurrence. Practice “drop, cover, and hold on” drills with your family, stressing to children that it’s better to protect themselves in a safe place rather than risk injury trying to reach an adult who may be in another room. Ensure that heavy objects in your home such as your TV, bookcases, or dressers are secured to the wall (something you should do anyway if you have small children) and store heavy objects low on shelves or in a secure place. Have an emergency family meetup plan in the event your family becomes separated during a disaster and without communication. Finally, have an emergency supply kit handy, filled with flashlight, batteries, hand powered radio, fire extinguisher, and a whistle, any essential medications, and food and water to last 3 days. Keep one kit in the car as well.
Earthquakes are unique among natural disasters in that they are generally virtually unpredictable, especially when compared to, say, a hurricane, where there are usually days or a week of advance notice. However, new technology allows scientists to predict an earthquake just before it’s about to happen. The city of Los Angeles, for example, recently unveiled a new app called Shake Alert. It will send out an alert for earthquakes greater than 5.0, and warn residents as long as 90 seconds before an earthquake hits. This advance warning can be crucial. You can download the app at the Google Play store or through the App Store. Similar apps exist for other areas, such as Seattle and the Bay Area, as well.
By following these earthquake safety tips for families, as well as taking precautionary measures, you will minimize the risk for injury and damage to your property. As with any disaster plan, make sure to review it periodically, and to practice drills often!