Should your family experience an earthquake, having the proper safety knowledge and knowing how to react will greatly increase your chances of survival.
General tips for surviving an earthquake
Earthquake survival tip #1: The safest place to be during an earthquake
The best place to be during an earthquake is outside in the open, away from anything that might fall over. Second to that is inside a wood structure such as a house. Wood structures are naturally earthquake resistant, since wood can bend and flex with the shaking while maintaining its structural integrity. It is rare for a wood structure to collapse during an earthquake, certainly not without some serious deficiencies in construction.
Earthquake survival tip #2: Stay put
Public health and epidemiological studies show that the greater your movement during the shaking of an earthquake the greater your probability of injury. The safest thing to do is to remain in place, assuming you’re not in a building that might collapse or in a situation where something could fall on you. Many accidents and injuries occur when people are entering or leaving buildings. If you must exit a building, watch out for falling objects from above.
Earthquake survival tip #3: Beware of Tsunami
If you live on the coastline, be prepared to seek higher ground in the event of a tsunami. As soon as the shaking stops, you should begin gathering your family and any necessary belongings, so that you’re ready to evacuate should a tsunami warning be issued. If the shaking was violent and you’re concerned there might be a tsunami, it doesn’t hurt to pack the kids in the car and head somewhere safe to hang out for a while. On a similar note, it’s not always safe to be on the lower side of reservoirs and storage tanks, since they might rupture and spill their contents.
Earthquake survival tip #4: Be alert for aftershocks
In some cases, aftershocks can be almost as strong as the original earthquake, and they can further loosen unstable structures that were damaged during the original quake. Aftershocks can come in as little as a few minutes after the original quake or as long as several days.
Surviving an earthquake in your home
- If inside your house, stay inside. It’s best to move quickly to a safe position in a doorway, hallway, or bathroom. Seek shelter in a corner or under a table. These places tend to offer extra structural reinforcement, holding up ceilings or roofs.
- Keep kids away from televisions, which can fall over and crush them. TV screens, bookshelves, and other heavy objects are a common source of child injury and death during an earthquake.
- Find cover. If you can shield yourself from falling objects under a table, do so. Simply holding a couch cushion over your head can also help.
Surviving an earthquake in your car
- Bring your car to a stop as safely as possible, and try to pull over to the side of the road in an area away from utility wires, buildings, and highway overpasses.
- Set the parking brake and turn off your engine. Remain calm.
- Once the shaking stops, proceed cautiously on your way if it’s possible. Avoid using bridges and other elevated structures that might have been damaged by a significant quake and could be further damaged by an aftershock.
- Do not cross downed power lines. If a power line has fallen across your car, stay in your car and do not get out. Wait to be rescued. If you have a phone, you can dial 911 and let them know of your situation.
When you experience an earthquake while outdoors
- If you’re already outside, stay outside. Ground ruptures are seldom the cause of casualties, so you should be alright.
- Move to an open area to get out from things that could fall on you, such as telephone or electrical poles, trees, or tall buildings or other structures.
- Most ground should be stable during an earthquake, but occasionally, a process called liquefaction occurs, which is when the shaking jostles loose ground particles, making it like a slush of quick sand. It’s unusual for people to be completely swallowed up by this, but if you feel yourself sinking, lie down flat on your back. The greater surface area should allow you to ride the waves.