Be Prepared: Before, During, and After an Earthquake
According to our scientists, knowing how to prepare for and survive a major earthquake will be critical in California sometime in the coming years.
Many people think having bottled water on hand is a good idea. That’s true, as long as you have enough.
Many are certain that standing in a doorway during the shaking is a good idea. That’s false, unless you live in an unreinforced adobe structure; otherwise, you're more likely to be hurt by the door swinging wildly in a doorway or trampled by people trying to hurry outside if you’re in a public place.
How to Prepare
Plan on fending for yourself for at least three days, preferably for a week. Electricity, water, gas and telephones may not be working after an earthquake. The police and fire departments are likely to be tied up.
Stock your emergency supplies. You'll need food and water (a gallon a day per person); a first aid kit; a fire extinguisher suitable for all types of fires; flashlights; a portable radio; extra batteries, blankets, clothes, shoes and money (ATMs may not work); medication; an adjustable or pipe wrench to turn off gas or water, if necessary; baby and pet food; and an alternate cooking source (barbecue or camp stove). This list can also be applied to other disasters, such as floods or wildfires.
Decide in advance how and where your family will reunite if separated during a quake. Do in-home practice drills. You might choose an out-of-the-area friend or relative that family members can call to check on you.
Secure hazards and big appliances. Including water heaters, major appliances and tall, heavy furniture to prevent them from toppling are prudent steps. So, too, are storing hazardous or flammable liquids, heavy objects and breakables on low shelves or in secure cabinets.
Discuss earthquake insurance with your agent. Depending on your financial situation and the value of your home, it may be worthwhile.
What to do During an Earthquake
If you're indoors, stay there. Get under -- and hold onto --a desk or table, or stand against an interior wall. Stay clear of exterior walls, glass, heavy furniture, fireplaces and appliances. The kitchen is a particularly dangerous spot. If you’re in an office building, stay away from windows and outside walls and do not use the elevator.
If you're outside, get into the open. Stay clear of buildings, power lines or anything else that could fall on you.
If you're driving, move the car out of traffic and stop. Avoid parking under or on bridges or overpasses. Try to get clear of trees, light posts, signs and power lines. When you resume driving, watch out for road hazards.
If you're in a mountainous area, beware of the potential for landslides. Likewise, if you're near the ocean, be aware that tsunamis are associated with large earthquakes. Get to high ground.
If you’re in a crowded public place, avoid panicking and do not rush for the exit. Stay low and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms.
What to Do After an Earthquake
Check for fire or fire hazards. If you smell gas, shut off the main gas valve. If there's evidence of damage to electrical wiring, shut off the power at the control box.
If the phone is working, only use it in case of emergency. Likewise, avoid driving if possible to keep the streets clear for emergency vehicles.
Be aware. Items may fall out of cupboards or closets when the door is opened, and also that chimneys can be weakened and fall with a touch. Check for cracks and damage to the roof and foundation of your home.
Listen to the radio for important information and instructions. Remember that aftershocks, sometimes large enough to cause damage in their own right, generally follow large quakes.
If you leave home, leave a message telling friends and family your location.