Earthquakes
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QuakeSmart Toolkit

One of the most frightening and destructive phenomena of nature is a severe earthquake and its terrible aftereffects.  An earthquake is a sudden movement of the earth, caused by the abrupt release of strain that has accumulated over a long time.

For hundreds of millions of years, the forces of plate tectonics have shaped the earth, as the huge plates that form the earth’s surface slowly move over, under, and past each other.  Sometimes, the movement is gradual. At other times, the plates are locked together, unable to release the accumulating energy.  When the accumulated energy grows strong enough, the plates break free. If the earthquake occurs in a populated area, it may cause many deaths and injuries and extensive property damage.

The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family, and your property in the event of an earthquake:

  • Repair defective electrical wiring, leaky gas lines, and inflexible utility connections.  Get appropriate professional help.  Do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself.
  • Bolt down and secure to the wall studs your water heater, refrigerator, furnace, and gas appliances.  If recommended by your gas company, have an automatic gas shut-off valve installed that is triggered by strong vibrations.
  • Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves. Fasten shelves, mirrors, and large picture frames to walls. Brace high and top-heavy objects.
  • Store bottled foods, glass, china, and other breakables on low shelves or in cabinets that fasten shut.
  • Anchor overhead lighting fixtures.
  • Be sure the residence is firmly anchored to its foundation.
  • Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks.  Flexible fittings are more resistant to breakage.
  • Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall.
  • Reinforce this information by moving to these places during each drill.
  • Hold earthquake drills with your family members: Drop, cover, and hold on!
If you are: Then you should:
Indoors Take cover under a sturdy desk, table, or bench or against an inside wall, and hold on. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.  Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.  Stay in bed–if you are there when the earthquake strikes–hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall.  In that case, move to the nearest safe place.  Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, load bearing doorway.  Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Most injuries during earthquakes occur when people are hit by falling objects when entering into or exiting from buildings.  Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.  DO NOT use the elevators.
 
Outdoors Stay there. Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
 
In a moving vehicle Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle.  Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires. Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped, watching for road and bridge damage.
 
Trapped under debris Not light a match. Not move about or kick up dust. Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing. Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you.  Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort–shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
 

 

After an earthquake:

  • Be prepared for aftershocks.  These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures.
  • Open cabinets cautiously.  Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.
  • Stay away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or relief organizations.
     

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