What to Do After an Earthquake
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Caused by the shifting of tectonic plates beneath the earth’s surface, an earthquake is a release of energy that can cause seconds- or minutes-long tremors resulting in the shaking we feel.
Small earthquakes occur hundreds of times a day across the world, but they don’t often cause damage and most times go undetected. The earthquakes we often think of are large, topography-changing 6.0+-magnitude earthquakes that can instantly disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands.
Looking for more information about staying safe after an earthquake? Contact local emergency officials to learn about regional preparedness and check out this earthquake safety information from the Red Cross.
While certain areas of the world are more prone to earthquakes, like on the west coast of the United States, it’s important to recognize that earthquakes can (and will eventually) occur wherever a fault line is present. In fact, more Midwestern states like Oklahoma, are experiencing larger numbers of earthquakes due to fracking.
Are you prepared for an earthquake?
If you live in an earthquake-prone region, take charge. Make sure you’re prepared for an earthquake. Read on to check out our recommendations for staying safe after an earthquake …
After-Earthquake Safety Tips
The threat doesn’t end once the earthquake is over. Aftershocks, landslides and other movement can cause items to shift, fires to start, tsunamis to form, and more. Even a small earthquake can cause pipes to snap and objects to shift.
Safety Measures to Take After an Earthquake
Stay safe after an earthquake with these tips:
- Expect aftershocks.
An aftershock is a mini earthquake following the initial major shock. For the most part, larger earthquakes cause a higher number of strong aftershocks than smaller earthquakes.
Aftershocks can sometimes cause other disasters, like tsunamis if the epicenter of the quake is on the sea or ocean floor. If you live on an island or a coastal area and have experienced an earthquake, consider moving to higher ground to keep safe.
- Check yourself and those around you for injuries.
If you are able, help as much as possible. Do not move injured people unless they will be in danger if they remain where they are.
- Stay away or remove yourself from damaged buildings.
Buildings, especially those that are not designed with earthquake standards in mind, can be susceptible to damage from an earthquake. Structural damage, broken glass and falling materials can pose significant risks to those inside and nearby. If you suspect your building may have sustained damage during an earthquake, evacuate the building and move away from it until authorities can inspect it.
- If your home is unlivable, relocate to a local shelter.
Don’t take the risk. If you feel like your home has become unstable or if you notice structural damage like large cracks in the walls or foundation, seek shelter in a safe location.
- Check your utilities for damage.
Water pipes and gas and electrical lines are all susceptible to damage during an earthquake. Keep an eye out for broken water pipes, downed and live electrical lines and leaking gas lines. Gas leaks often cause fires to break out after an earthquake. Be on the lookout for small fires and extinguish them, if possible. Be vigilant.
- Check your home for structural damage/remember to:
- Never light a fire inside your home
- Turn on the radio for updates
- Evacuate the area if you smell gas or other chemical fumes
- Keep the roads clear for emergency vehicles and only drive your vehicle if necessary
Depending on the size of the earthquake, you may be without electricity, unable to drink the water and unsure of the integrity of gas lines. If the power is out, use a NOAA radio to wait for instructions from local emergency officials. Keep in mind that certain utilities may be unavailable after a natural disaster.
After an earthquake, you should expect:
Items to have shifted during the earthquake. This could mean:
- Books falling from a shelf
- Boxes, cans and bottles shifting in cabinets
- Appliances moving from their place
All these shifts can cause a safety hazard. Exercise caution when moving about your home or opening cabinet or closet doors.
What Should I Keep in My Earthquake Safety Kit?
If you live in an earthquake-prone region, it’s important to be prepared. There is no earthquake season and they strike without warning. Keep these items close and on-hand. They’ll come in handy in the event of a destructive earthquake.
- Protective clothing like sturdy gloves, shoes and outerwear
- An up-to-date first aid kit
- A battery-operated or wind-up radio
- A battery-operated or wind-up flashlight
- Extra batteries
- Bottled water – three gallons per person
- Canned or otherwise preserved food items
- Breathing masks to keep airborne particles out of your lungs
- Prescription medications for you and your family members
This list is just a starting point. If you live with elderly family members, the very young or individuals with disabilities, this list will vary.
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