Earthquakes are unpredictable events. They can cause tsunamis, landslides, fires and lots of damage to property. Earthquakes are caused by the movement of huge bodies of rock deep within the earth’s surface. In the US, California, Alaska, Oregon, Hawaii, Utah, Washington, Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana top the list fro seismic activity. Now, no one knows when the next big one will happen but you can take steps to protect your family during an earthquake. Following earthquake safety steps can help you prepare for it and put your family at lesser risk for injury and loss. It starts with drawing up a preparedness plan. This plan will help your family get ready for an earthquake. And also guide on what to do during and after it.  

How to prepare for an earthquake

Preparing before an earthquake involves learning how to protect your family during an earthquake and preparing your home for one. It also involves assembling an emergency kit for your family, supplies may be difficult to get in the aftermath of an earthquake. This is the best time for you identify the safest place to stay in an earthquake; both indoors and out. If you have an emergency plan, you may to review it to ensure it’ll do in an earthquake situation. If you don’t have one, learn how to create one here.

To plan ahead, you should:

  • Practise how to drop, cover and hold on. If you feel the ground vibrate, drop down to your hands and knees and cover your head and neck with your arms. Staying in this position provides protection for your vital organs. If there’s a table, desk or any sturdy piece of furniture nearby, crawl to it and take cover under it. Hold on to it till the shaking or vibrations stop. Practise this with the members of your family. The picture below, from ready.gov, illustrates the drop, cover and hold on moves for different scenarios.
  • Prepare your home. Reduce the risk for injury during an earthquake at home by securing heavy furniture. A lot of the injury sustained during earthquakes are from falling objects. Check your house for shelves, bookcases, mirrors, wall clocks etcetera that can fall or tip over. Fasten them to them floor or wall. Do not store heavy items on top shelves; move them to lower shelves. Take note of the location of utility shut-off switch (water, gas and power). It may be necessary to turn them off after the earthquake.
  • Create an emergency plan and kit. Your emergency plan should have a communication plan with an out-of-state contact person. Your kit must contain water and non-perishable food to last at least 3 days.
  • Buy earthquake insurance. Check with your insurer to see what their earthquake policy offer.

Staying safe during an earthquake

When the tremors start, do not panic. Rather, drop, cover and hold on. You can take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture nearby. You can also crouch in a corner of the room, one without windows. If you’re outdoors, move away from buildings, power lines and any structures; then drop and cover. If the earthquake starts when you’re bed, lie face down and use a pillow to cover your head and neck. Stay this way until the earth stops shaking. To protect your family during an earthquake, practice all this before the ground starts shaking.

Staying safe after an earthquake

If there’s has been serious damage to your building, carefully exit. Take your emergency bag with you, if it isn’t in a damaged part of the house. Before leaving a building, check for hanging or loose debris that could fall off. Do a headcount to make sure everyone is accounted for. Check yourself for injuries. Older members of the family can help the younger ones check. If you’re in a tsunami risk area, move inland once the shaking stops. Teach every member of your family these tips so that they know what to do.

Things you should not do during or after an earthquake

  • During an earthquake, do not try to go indoors if you’re outside. Find an open place; then drop and cover. Don’t run outside, if you’re inside.
  • During an earthquake, do not stand in or hold on to a doorway.
  • If you get trapped, send a text, hit or knock on a pipe to alert people. Do not shout or call out. This will protect you from inhaling excessive amounts of dust.
  • Do not stay near glass door and windows.