Survive During an Earthquake

What to Do During an Earthquake

By Tom Clarke

Safety is paramount during an earthquake. Maintain your composure so that you can properly instruct your family. Be aware that what you think is the earthquake may only be the foreshock and tremors that precede a larger quake. Minimize your movements and stay in a safe place but be aware that what you pre-determined in your disaster plan to be a “safe place” can change in an instant depending upon the circumstances at that moment. So be ready to mobilize the family at any moment. Stay indoors until all the shaking has stopped completely. When you do decide to exit the structure, be very aware of your footing and the landscape as it may have changed as a result of the earthquake.

If indoors

  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and squat down 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 strongly designed.
  • Stay inside until all shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that the most injuries occur during earthquakes when people panic and move about without forethought going outside only to be struck by falling debris.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • DO NOT use elevators.

If outdoors

  • Stay there.
  • Move only when you have to.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Stay there until all shaking stops. Again, the greatest danger is being outside and in close proximity to buildings, glass and other potential shattering or falling debris.

If 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. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.

If trapped under debris

  • Do not move about or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with your clothing or anything you have.
  • Do not attempt to light any matches.
  • If possible, use your hand or anything in close proximity you can grab as a tool to tap on piping, or other structures so the rescue team can get a fix on your position. If you have a whistle, use it. Try to avoid screaming and shouting as you may inhale dust which could be dangerous.