Safety Tips During Earthquakes

The most important safety tips during earthquakes are:

  • don’t panic,
  • drop down to your knees,
  • cover your head (with one hand),
  • then either hold on to something sturdy or crawl to a safer space (under a table).

Safety Tips Before Earthquakes

While no one knows exactly when an earthquake is going to happen you can tell if your area has frequent earthquakes or not. If you live in an earthquake-prone area you should do a lot of things to prepare before the earthquake. Even if you live in the area with few or no recent earthquakes there still some things you can do to prepare, just in case.

Prep your house
The first thing you can do is to prepare the physical structure of your house. This is especially important if you live in an older house; it’s a very good idea to have someone inspect the foundation and make sure your house is structurally sound. Although this can be expensive, if you really do have an earthquake, you’re a lot more likely to survive if you have prepared your house well.

The second thing you can do to prepare your house is to go through all of the interiors and look for things that could fall down when there’s heavy shaking and try to stabilize them or reinforce them so that they will withstand an earthquake.

Move your bed away from the window because breaking glass is a real danger during an earthquake. Lie in bed with the lights on and look around the room to see what could fall on you and how likely that could happen during an earthquake. Take care of anything that makes you nervous.

First aid kit
It goes without saying that you should always have a first aid kit in your house; you should know where it is, and you should know how to use whatever you have in your kit. It’s amazing how many people either don’t have a kit or the kit is completely inadequate for even basic injuries.

By now, everybody should have at least one flashlight in their house; but really you need a lot more than just one flashlight. You should have at least one flashlight for every person in your house. Plus they should have easy access to that flashlight, so they can find it even in the dark when the power is off.

In my life, it seems I never need a flashlight except when the power is off. There are few things worse than having to dig around in a drawer looking for a flashlight in the complete dark. So make sure you know where your flashlight is before an emergency happens before an earthquake happens. And make sure you have batteries that work; you can even test them out once in awhile, just to be sure.

Portable Radio
Having a radio is always great for emergencies and especially during an earthquake. This should be a battery-operated radio or possibly even a handheld crank radio. You do not want to have to depend on electricity during or after an earthquake.

I recommend you get a medium expensive weather radio that can use battery power, can plug into the main electricity and maybe has solar power. If it also has a crank you will have a lot of different options so to power your radio and you will always know what’s going on. A portable radio is really the best option when you have an emergency.

It’s a really great option to have a whistle in your pockets, or around your neck all the time in case there is an emergency. And in case you’re being attacked and you don’t have a weapon; you can fight back with a whistle which will draw attention to yourself and that will help protect you. In the case of being trapped by Rubble during an earthquake, having a whistle is far more valuable that Shouting until your voice fails. People can hear whistles far better than voices; dogs can hear whistles, too and rescuers often use dogs to look for people in the rubble.

Fire Extinguisher
A fire extinguisher is a great item to have prepared before an earthquake; make sure that it’s pressurized and that you have a basic idea of how to use a fire extinguisher. There’s just lots of opportunities for fires due to all the shaking and damage that occurs during an earthquake and a fire extinguisher can really save your life.

Copy Important Documents
An earthquake can destroy or make your important documents very difficult to find or get access to. So I strongly recommend that as early as possible, even today, you make a photocopy of all of your important documents: your passports, your visas, your insurance, your birth certificates, and so on.

These copies are not as helpful as having the real documents, but by putting your documents on your cell phone, for example, or put them in cloud storage on the web, this is to make your life so much easier when dealing with disaster recovery.

Along with that, you should take photos or even videos of your current interior and exterior house, so that after an earthquake, you can a visual representation in which you can show “before and after” photos which will help with your insurance claims.

Have a meet-up plan

You need a plan to meet up with family members or close friends after an earthquake. Have an easy way to contact each other and a designated meeting place. Also, arrange to stay with family or friends who live outside the affected area before an earthquake hits.

Learn how to turn off gas, water, and power
The final important thing to do in preparation for an earthquake is learn how to turn off the gas, turn off the water, and turn off the power because earthquakes break a lot of things and you might have a gas leak or a water leak which can further create a lot of damage to your house or apartment. So knowing how to turn those off can save you a lot of trouble.

Safety Tips During Earthquakes: Indoors

Don’t Panic!
I’ve been through a lot of earthquakes. Taiwan has at least one major earthquake every year, probably Category 5, Category 6, or even category 7. And I’ve learned the rule number one of earthquakes is don’t panic. Of course, I don’t mean you should relax; I mean you have to keep a calm and cool head so that you can get yourself into a safe position; get your family into a safe position. The earthquake is going to be a surprise, so you have to act quickly and decisively.

Drop, cover, hold on
There’s a good chance you’re will be at home during an earthquake because you’re going to be asleep for 7 or 8 hours a day, plus you’re going to be cooking showering. So, you will spend one-third to one-half of your day at home and 1/3 or so of your time working inside somewhere. If an earthquake happens while you’re inside, it is recommended that you duck, cover, and hold on.

What that means is that when the ground begins shaking, you drop down to your knees, you cover your head with one arm and with your other arm you hold on to something stable. If your area doesn’t seem safe, you can crawl under a table or seek protection next to something big and strong like a refrigerator or a bed.

What about standing in the door frame?
Everybody used to recommend standing in a door frame during an earthquake, but that’s no longer popular advice. However, I still do that because in the door frame you are less likely to have Things fall on you and you can easily brace yourself in the door frame.

So if you, by habit, to run to the door frame to protect yourself – Don’t Panic! It’s all right, you don’t need to find a better place, as long as it’s an interior door frame. As it turns out, the exterior walls of a building are the ones with the most pressure on them and the ones most likely to collapse. If you don’t like the door frame if you want to hide under a desk or table that might even be better.

Protect yourself
The most important part of earthquake safety is that you must protect yourself, especially your head and vital organs because during an earthquake when everything is shaking, the cabinets are emptying, the Window glass breaking and all kinds of books and trophies are falling from the shelves, you are in for a rough ride.

Stay away from glass
It should be obvious but you need to stay away from glass because it often breaks during an earthquake. Hopefully, you can remember the scene from Die Hard where the hero has to run through broken glass while Barefoot. You don’t want to have that problem during an earthquake.

Don’t rush outside
I don’t know why, but a lot of people think that they need to run outside during the earthquake. But don’t do that! Stay in your house during the earthquake, but once things settle down that might be a good time to get out of the house. Remember the rule is duck, cover and hold on. You don’t want to be panicking and running anywhere.

In Bed

If you are in bed when an earthquake happens, don’t get up, just stay in bed, put a pillow over your head and turn face down. Many people are injured when trying to get out of bed during an earthquake. However, if your bed is near the windows, or under a ceiling fan, you might want to get away from these potential dangers, by ducking, covering and holding on next to the bed.

In an elevator
Never, never, never use an elevator during an earthquake. If you are in an elevator during an earthquake, immediately lie on the floor until the shaking stops. After the earthquake stops, if you have power, stop the elevator at the nearest floor and get off the elevator. Then take the stairs.

Never get into an elevator during an earthquake or shortly after an earthquake because somebody needs to inspect the elevator and make sure it’s safe and sound before is ready for human operation again. Just take the stairs.

Pull plugs from electric devices
It’s an excellent idea to unplug all of your electric devices after an earthquake especially if you feel that there is damage to your house or perhaps you’ve lost power. One of the funny things about losing power is it when it comes back on, every electronic device in the neighborhood tries to start up at the same time and this can crash the Electric System once again. So just unplug everything that’s not essential, that will help all of your electric grid and all of your neighbors as well.

Safety Tips During Earthquakes: Outdoors

There’s always a chance that you’re going to be outdoors during an earthquake and here are a few safety tips you need to survive Outdoors during an earthquake.

Protect your head
The most obvious one is to protect your head and vital organs. Look around and see if you can provide some cover for yourself with a backpack or something sturdy. Cover your head with it and then bend over and protect your vital organs.

Stay away from potential falling objects
This can be especially dangerous in the city where objects can fall off the roof or the ledge of an apartment and crush you. The most dangerous areas during and after an earthquake are near exterior building wall, powerlines and trees, so don’t take cover near them. If you’re hiking somewhere Outdoors, make sure you’re not near any widow-makers (dead tree branches) or anything that you wouldn’t want to camp under. Get out in the open, if possible.

Avoid beaches/check tsunami alerts
Avoid beaches because, after an earthquake, a tsunami can come. In fact, an earthquake in Japan led to a tsunami that killed people many distant countries in Asia. So, it’s a good idea to check the news immediately after an earthquake to see if there is a Tsunami alert and even if you are in another country.

Avoid Mountains
Earthquakes can also damage hills and mountains which that can lead to landslides, mudslides or even Avalanches of snow. You cannot quickly get off of a mountain during an earthquake, but you need to do your best to get to a stable and safe location on that hill or mountain. Then get off the mountain after the earthquake!

In a car

If you experience an earthquake while driving, slow the vehicle down and stop on the side of the road. Keep your seatbelt on and don’t exit from the car. After the earthquake, turn on your radio and listen for relevant information to guide your next move. Quickly get off bridges and away from tall buildings, power lines, tunnels, and overpasses.

In a Public Space

If you are in a store, get away from the windows and any fixtures that may fall over. Duck, Cover and hold on.

If you are in an office or school, hide under a desk and face away from the windows. Duck, Cover and hold on.

If you are in a stadium or theater, bend over in front of your seat, behind the seat in front of you, then cover your head.

In a wheelchair, try to quickly get to shelter. If you can’t lock your wheels, cover your head and hold on to something.

If trapped under rubble

Don’t move, wriggling around may cause injury or bring more rubble down on you. Protect yourself from breathing dust by covering your mouth with a cloth or bandana. Don’t use a lighter as there may be flammable gasses or liquids near you. Avoid screaming for help as it’s not very effective. Instead, blow an emergency whistle or bang on metal objects, especially pipes.

Safety Tips After Earthquakes

An earthquake lasts just a few minutes but the after-effects of an earthquake can take quite a while to play out. These are the things you should do after an earthquake.

Check Injuries
First, check to see if you have any in injuries and also check if the people around you have injuries. If you are injured, get out your first aid kit (which you wisely prepared ahead of time, right?) and start to take care of those injuries. It’s especially important to take care of yourself because the hospitals will be overloaded with the injured and you don’t want to get in line for something that you could take care of yourself.

Put on protective clothing
After checking for injuries, you really need to put on protective clothing. These days, it is very common to go about your life and short pants, a t-shirt, and flip-flops but that’s no way to move about after an earthquake. Because there could be broken glass, broken wood, broken Stone, Broken sidewalks, etc. You need gloves to protect your hands if you’re going to pick up anything broken. You need to cover your skin with durable clothes and possibly wear a dust mask to protect your lungs. So, before you go anywhere or start picking things up first put on enough protective clothing.

Check for Local Damage
Now you’re ready to check for local area damage. Do you have any water leaks? Gas leaks? Are your electric lines okay? Do you have any broken facilities? Walk around your property and see if you have any damage from the inside and the outside. And why not, while you’re at it, be a good neighbor and see if any of your neighbors need assistance.

Contact Others: radio first, then text, then phone
The next step is to focus on is communication and you should use your radio first. It is not recommended that you pick up your cell phone and call people because calling takes a lot of bandwidth and many times during emergency the cell towers will be down. However, texting is almost always the best way to get a message through. You can send a short text message to the important people in your life and ask how they’re doing and tell them how you’re doing. After things calm down a bit, then you can use your voice phone.

Always be prepared for aftershocks. These are smaller earthquakes that happen after the main earthquake. Aftershocks can happen a few minutes after the main earthquake, or they can happen for hours afterward; even a few days later. Just remember, an Aftershock may create more damage than the main earthquake cracked and weakened the structure. You may need to have someone verify the integrity of your house after a significant earthquake, just to have peace of mind.

Consider going to an evacuation site/emergency shelter
If your house or your apartment is severely damaged you may need to go to an evacuation site or an emergency shelter. It is not recommended that you go back into your house to gather up your belongings if your structure seems dangerous. This is a major reason why having photos of everything documented already on your cell phone, or plugged into the net will help you your recovery. And of course, nobody really wants to live in an emergency shelter, so you should aim to stay with family or close friends who live outside the earthquake affected area.

Follow news twitter accounts
After an earthquake, people become really frightened and rumors spread like wildfire and they can give you a lot of bad information and make you unnecessarily afraid. So is recommended that you follow reliable news sources on Twitter or other social media. But even with those sources, you need the news with a grain of salt. Remember that fake news is real.

Use Facebook/Google person finder
A new development is that both Facebook and Google now “person finders” and they will help you to connect up with your loved ones after an earthquake or similar emergency. Use them after you have reached a safe and stable location.

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2 Responses

  1. OxyBlu2018 says:

    From the country where I am from, earthquake has just become part of the norms. But even with the frequency that it occurs, still the fear is always as intense as before.
    No amount of courage could interfere to the fear that I feel the moment it strikes. I have seen the aftermath of some of the biggest earthquakes in the last few decades and they are beyond anyone’s imagination. Thousands of people have perished and hundreds upon hundreds of lives have been affected by its devastation. No one knows when will the next one will strike again. It is important to be calm and unruffled when it strike.

    • Peter Barban says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sure that you and your family will do the smart and safe thing during an earthquake. 

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